On February 29, participants of the legislative dinner in Denver – Colorado experienced an unmatched intercultural – interfaith dialogue gathering. Organized by Multicultural Mosaic Foundation (MMF) that promotes the ideal of “Harmony through Dialogue”, the host of the event was Emmy Award winning freelance journalist, talk show host and documentary filmmaker Tamara Banks. The highlights of the event included calligraphy (hat) art demonstration by famous Turkish artist Aydin Çayır and three folk songs performed by Jesse Manno and Zahara Mclellan. The songs gave messages of friendship and reconciliation, emphasizing the importance of a peaceful co-existence for a brighter feature. The first of the songs, named “Sarı Gelin” was in Armenian and Turkish languages, which commemorated the love of a Turkish man for an Armenian lady in Eastern Turkey during Ottoman era. The second song was in Greek and Turkish languages. The participants, of around 100 people, consisting of Colorado state legislators, officials and community leaders, sang along with the performers and enjoyed the warmth of the night.
The President of MMF Ismail Akbulut’s speech emphasized love, peace, modesty, cooperation and the art of living with others as well as how Turkey’s close collaboration with the United States is crucial to the democratization in the Middle East and for both countries. US-Turkish partnership strengthens as Turkey’s experience in democratization makes it a prominent actor in the region. According to Mr. Akbulut, despite all the polarization in the world, gatherings such as the Denver dinner show that we the people have the potential of peace and they are of great value to refreshing our hopes for the future.
The event featured Rabbi Reuven Firestone as the keynote speaker. Rabbi Firestone is professor of medieval Judaism and Islam at Hebrew Union College and founder and co-director of the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement in Los Angeles. He talked about the problem of misinformation about the others’ faiths, and how collected wrong conclusions can turn into prejudices and demonization. He added that God, on the other hand, created human kind with compassion, love and mercy. It can be expected that hatred out of such demonization would not be acceptable to God, and it is important for the believers to act together against such enmity. Dr. Firestone suggested that we should respect human dignity and promote tolerance for all. Accordingly, we have more commonality than differences, and we can function together by relying on our faiths’ universal divine messages that promote peace.
The closing remarks were made by Attorney General John Suthers, Colorado State Representatives John Kefalas, and Su Ryden, and West America Turkic Council President Ozkur Yildiz. John Suthers mentioned the Turkey’s being at the crossroads for centuries and thanked MMF for promoting Turkish-American relations and peace. Representative John Kefalas, being a Greek-American and Christian, honored and appreciated the work of MMF and highlighted the importance of amplifying the message of Rabbi Firestone in our lives, and do doing what we can to promote understanding in parallel with MMF’s mission. Representative Su Ryden talked about how inspiring her experience in Turkey was last summer during Ramadan, when she travelled with MMF volunteers while they were fasting. Representative Ryden mentioned that she felt so refreshed and inspired by the talk of peace and love, and the devotion and hard work of the volunteers as well as the their desire for democracy.