Date posted: June 24, 2013
DR. ALI BAYRAM
We had no idea in our world, what it was like abroad. All we used to know was our village, town or our province at best. The saying “Destination Antep, food molasses!” fittingly portrays our case, indeed.
It was in 1990s. We were on our way to visit Fethullah Gulen Hodja Efendi [a title used for Mr. Gulen by his sympathizers, meaning esteemed teacher] in Izmir. When we arrived at his place we saw him with some friends around. He gathered us in a small hall and said: “Listen my friends. Let us embrace the Turkic countries newly liberated from Russian rule and stand by them through education. If we don’t, others will do and new troubles will emerge. Then we’ll never be able to go there again. So, we should hurry. Send one friend to such and such capitals and get them discover job opportunities for tradesmen and back educational initiatives as much as they can.” So, from then on, while some were leaving for these places, one by one, and new volunteers were signing up after each departure, demands were voiced for new destinations, on the other hand.
In one of his sermons, Gulen said, “My friends, please hurry and do not slack off. God assigned acceptance for this nation on earth. You will find acceptance wherever you go.”
So, those friends tasked to discover schooling opportunities made their way into the capital cities Gulen named. Today, in amazement, we are witnessing the point these initiatives, which initially started with only few locations namely Baku, Tashkent, Almaty, Samarkand, Ashgabat and Bishkek, have reached in 20 years.
In early years, our friends were frequently bringing the people they made acquaintance with from these countries to Turkey. Even back then, Turkey could progress its schooling activities, which, although low in numbers, were enjoying quite exemplary conditions. These initiatives would be the first encounter and merging of Turkish people with Russians and Central Asians after the Cold War. Our friends, under Gulen’s guidance, thus made strong contacts with both the locals and officials in a very short period of time.
From then on, the schools were launched and a series of visits to Turkey started, by inspiring confidence and finding acceptance. Businessmen and tradesmen one after another departed to settle in those countries, and ultimately formed bridges of friendship.
From the very first day, as if he foresaw today, Gulen would motivate those feeling overwhelmed and weary of this challenging mission and say: “The torch ignited today is going to light up the entire world in the very near future.” In response to his words, each individual would double his/her efforts and sponsors would increase their funds several fold thinking that their contributions didn’t cover the work done.
And today, what a wonderful scene it is that thousands of students from 140 countries are coming to Turkey and sharing the same language and culture, which is achieved in such a short period of time. That even the largest stadiums overflow with people indicates how deeply the phenomenon is adopted in the consciences. Both people’s appreciation of the Turkish Olympiads and their race in sponsorship are great blessings from God.
It was an unforgettable moment when the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent his regards to their countries via these volunteers of world peace. No matter how exhausted he had been feeling for days and after a 3-hour speech to millions earlier the same day, he attended the event without overlooking it and expressed his appreciation of these activities in admiration.
To be able to applaud even better and more successful services in the future will win our nation a new voice and breath. A thousand thanks to those involved, organizers and our warm-hearted and selfless people nationwide who contributed to all these.