Gandhi King Ikeda Award for Peace Ceremony
The Gandhi King Ikeda Award for Peace was created by the Martin Luther King, Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College with the hope that by examining the lives of these great figures, viewers will find these lofty ideals and principles within the grasp of their own daily existence. For it is within the mundane realm of daily living that Mohandas K. Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Daisaku Ikeda have sought to forge an existence filled with dignity, freedom and happiness for all people.
The award ceremony took place in the evening of Thursday, April 9, 2015 at the MLK Int'l Chapel Crown Nave. The recipient of this prestigious award was Mr. Fethullah Gulen due to his "interfaith and cross-cultural dialogue about science, democracy and spirituality and opposition to violence and the misuses of religion as political ideology [which] made [him] the humanizing face of Islam." As the Reverend Dean Lawrence Carter, Sr. stated, Mr. Gulen was honored for:
- Being among the first world teachers in the tradition of Islam to publicly condemn the terrorist attack on 9/11 and call for global peace;
- For consistently speaking against suicidal terrorist attacks as not reflecting the spirituality of Jihad;
- For affirming the intrinsic dignity and equal moral worth of all people;
- For his beliefs and actions that the universe clearly sustains cooperative diversity;
- For teaching that the highest education is that which does not merely give information, but makes everyone's life in harmony with all existence.
The award was received on Mr. Gulen's behalf by Dr. Y. Alp Aslandogan, president of the Alliance for Shared Values.
The ceremony was also created as an Interfaith Assembly inviting multiple faith-related communities together in a call for nonviolent peacemaking and denouncing violence in the name of peace. It was a celebration of compassion where various religions and interfaith communities were represented. The evening began with a call to assembly featuring the SGI-USA Ikeda Youth Ensemble Taiko Drums and featured many influential speakers including Isaiah Ghafoor, a Soka Gakkai Nichiren Buddhist, Rabbi Bradley Levenberg of Temple Sinai Atlanta, Dr. Mustafa Sahin, Director of Academic Affairs Atlantic Institute, the Reverend Dr. Lawrence Edward Carter Sr. Morehouse College, Ms. Azizah Kahera Chief Operations Officer of Azizah Magazine and Mr. Casey Jones, Morehouse College Class of 2015 and Director of Interfaith Engagement and Educational Programs at Morehouse.
The keynote speaker at the ceremony was Dr. Scott Alexander of the Catholic Theological Union delivering a speech about Civil Rights, the Hizmet Movement and the Liberative Power of Education. Dr. Alexander spoke eloquently about the importance of education and the freedom that accompanies learning, all the while making sure to include the interfaith community in both his greetings and throughout the duration of his speech. He highlighted the advances of the Civil Rights Movement and touched on political strife in the United States today that still stems from racism. He honored a grieving mother, Mrs. Judy Scott whose own son's life was torn from her due to the structural racism in America. Dr. Alexander acclaimed Mrs. Scott's forgiveness for her son's death, teaching us that faith delves deeper in the heart than hatred and the the power of education sets can us free.
Dr. Alexander then began to discuss the Hizmet Movement and how it places the importance of education as a primary goal. He says of Hizmet:
I define Hizmet (Turkish for “service”) as a global spiritual renewal and social reform movement, rooted in traditional Islamic spirituality, observance, and teachings, but appealing to people of diverse faiths and backgrounds who share its universal values. These values center around the importance of family, education, and personal responsibility for the welfare of others--all within a context of a life lived in loving submission (islam) to God. Such values are oriented towards dialogue and cooperation--both within and across societies and cultures--for the purpose of pursuing greater justice and thus greater peace in the human family.
Dr. Alexander continues throughout the rest of his speech by highlighting the meaningful life-mission of Hizmet volunteers which is to serve the community, look into the good of others, practice tolerance, spread education, and exemplify "teaching by example." His personal narrative in closing expresses a spiritual and emotional journey to South Africa where Hizmet volunteers demonstrate Mr. Gulen's ambitions by leaving their homes and making sacrifices to teach young students who come from a different culture, religion and ethnicity.
After Dr. Scott Alexander's address, faculty of Morehouse College revealed the beautiful life-like portraits of Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, Mr. Fethullah Gulen, the Reverend Dr. Warren H. Stewart Sr. and the Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Hill. The evening concluded with a resonating reading of the Charter for Peace by Ms. Azizah Kahera and Mr. Casey Jones.