First Steps Toward Dialogue and Reconciliation

Gülen initiated his vast civilizational dialogue project by gathering people together who represented different intellectual and living styles in Turkey. Many of these people were associated with various intellectual and social groups who had fought each other physically, in the true sense of the word, throughout 1960s and 1970s, and who later clashed ideologically and socially in the 1980s. Gülen started to invite these people to various meetings in the 1990s, and provided them with an opportunity to come together. At these meetings, many of these people met each other for the first time. People who had once drawn guns on each other, and people who had directed their political youth groups toward the demise of the other, had an opportunity to come together, to eat at the same table, and to exchange pleasantries. The first of these gatherings were little more than polite meetings. Undoubtedly, however, all who were involved felt a sense of excitement as they laid the new intellectual, philosophical, and social foundations of togetherness. Soon, this wave of excitement resulted in the momentous "Abant Meetings" that first started in 1998.[1] A cadre of scientists from different fields of study came together to develop a new scientific and intellectual plan of action for the future. These people came from a variety of cultural, ideological, and political backgrounds, and they all came together in one great intellectual effort: to form a mutual living space in Turkey. The initiative that began with Gülen and his team developed into a platform that incorporated people of science, thought, law, and politics who since then are directing the policies of the platform. Gülen is not actively involved in these meetings, but remains the honorary president of the Journalists and Writers Foundation, which has organizes and finances this platform and its meetings. The search for dialogue and reconciliation was institutionalized on the initiative of these intellectuals and thus gained a significant character.

Footnote[1] The first Abant Meeting took place on March 23, 1998, and the main theme was "Islam and Secularism." The themes of the subsequent meetings were "Religion, State, and Society (1999)," "Democratic Law State (2000)," "Pluralism and Societal Reconciliation (2001)," "Globalization (2002)," "War and Democracy (2003)," "Islam, Secularism, and Democracy: Turkish Experience (2004)," "Culture, Identity, and Religion during the Process of Turkish Membership to the EU (2004)," "New Quests in Education (2005)," "The Republic, Cultural Pluralism, and Europe (2006)," "Global Politics and the Future of the Middle East (2006)," "Turkish–Egyptian Talks: Islam, the West, and Modernization (2007)," and "Alevism in Historical, Cultural, Folkloric, and Current Dimensions (2007)."
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