The Rumi Forum, in cooperation with the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University hosted the RUMI Peace and Dialogue Awards Ceremony and Dinner on March 12, 2007 at Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill (Washington, DC).
The ceremony was attended by the members of Congress, ambassadors, religious leaders, many prominent civic leaders from various organizations, churches, universities and associations. The mistress of ceremonies was Bridget Bell Webber (novelist, author of Mcleary’s Mulligan, 2004 finalist of USA Book News Best Books Award and 2004 Book of the Year Award finalist, ForeWord Magazine).
The dinner started with brief remarks of Representative Rush Holt (D – NJ). Congressman Holt stressed that a lack of dialogue was the major reason behind today’s global problems, and noted that he admired Mawlana’s understanding based on love and tolerance and said Rumi Forum’s activities contributed a great deal to the US.
The dinner was followed by the award ceremony. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Prime Minister of Spain; Dr. John J. DeGioia, President of Georgetown University; Dr. John Esposito, Director of The Prince Alwaleed Bin Jalal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University; Dr. David Smock, Vice President of the Center for Mediation and Conflict Resolution, USIP, Dr. Marc Gopin, Director of Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution Center at George Mason University; Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr of George Washington University; Rev. Dr. Clark Lobenstine, Executive Director of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington and journalist and radio broadcaster Krista Tippett (American Public Media) were the recipients of the awards given in nine different areas.
The award ceremony began with Rumi Forum President Dr. H. Ali Yurtsever’s speech in which he stated Rumi Forum’s mission and its contributions to the promotion of peace and tolerance in the contemporary society. Dr. Yurtsever called for unity and the disregard of differences and noted the primary goal of the “alliance of civilizations” was to form a platform for a collective political will and action against prejudices, polarizations and misunderstandings between the civilizations and for this reason the two prime ministers of Turkey and Spain were given the dialogue awards.
Prime Ministers Erdogan and Zapatero received the Dialogue among Civilizations Award, the Forum’s most prestigious honor. The award is named after the United Nations’ Declaration of 2001 as the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations. In 2005 Secretary General Kofi Annan launched an initiative called Alliance of Civilizations. The theme interfaith dialogue was significantly taken into action by Turkish scholar Fethullah Gulen, the Honorary President of the Rumi Forum, as a proper course of action in the face of the Clash of Civilizations, a controversial theory that people’s cultural/religious identity will be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Louis Rodriguez Zapatero shared the Dialogue of Civilizations award. The Forum cited both Prime Ministers’ efforts to create a civilizational dialogue as a chance for people of different cultures and traditions to get to know each other better.
Turkey-US Interparliamentary Friendship Group Chairman and AK Party Member of Parliament from Istanbul Egemen Bagis accepted the award on behalf of Erdoğan from Washington Archbishop Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. MP Bagis said the alliance of civilizations was a project envisaged by Mawlana Jalaladdin Rumi long before the contemporary initiatives and stressed he was proud of the tradition of religious tolerance in Turkish history. In his acceptance speech, MP Bagis recalled that Turkey had been a place of refuge for those who fled religious persecution in their home countries.
Spain’s ambassador to the United States, Carlos Westendorp y Cabeza, receiving the award on behalf of Prime Minister Zapatero explained the inter-civilizations dialogue carried out by Turkish and Spanish leaders under the auspices of the United Nations. Ambassador Cabeza also commended the Rumi Forum’s unifying vision.
U.S. Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest (R-MD) presented the Commitment Award to Prof. John Borelli on behalf of the President of Georgetown University John DeGioia. Describing Rumi Forum’s activities as “crucial,” Gilchrest said the Forum was an expansion of the idea that we all were the children of one Creator. Dr. Borelli, special assistant to the president of Georgetown University for Interreligious Initiatives, quoted Fethullah Gulen and the late Pope Jean Paul II, figures both known for their special emphasis on inter-religious dialogue.
The Forum’s Education Service Award was given to Professor John Esposito. Iraqi Ambassador to Washington Mahmood Al Sumeydei presented it to Associate Director Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University Prof. John Voll on Esposito’s behalf.
Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr received the “Mawlana Jalaladdin Rumi Award from Russian Embassy Undersecretary Igor Matveev. Prof. Nasr expressed his admiration for the respect shown toward the legacy of Mawlana in Turkey.
Other winners of the Rumi Forum’s 2007 Peace and Dialogue awards included Professor Dr. Marc Gopin, Director of the Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University for his contributions to the field of “peace”; Dr. Clark Lobenstine, Executive Director of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington for Commitment to Interfaith Service; and host and founder of “Speaking of Faith” Krista Tippet for “Excellence in Media.”