Peace Islands Institute NJ branch had its Annual Ramadan Dinner on August 9, 2012 at the Hyatt Hotel in Morristown NJ. Over 200 guests and many dignitaries broke fast together on this very special night.
Theme of the night was “Contributions of Fasting to Peace-building in Society.”
The night started off with a brief welcome by Rev. Robert Browning who invited Dr. Levent Koc to the stage. Dr. Koc has recently left PII to work at NETA Scholar, another Turkish American organization.
Dr. Levent Koc took the stage giving his farewell speech. He ended his speech by introducing and inviting the new Director of the Peace Islands Institute NJ branch Mr. Ercan Tozan. Mr. Tozan presented him a plaque by the PII for his relentless dedication and efforts fathering the organization since 2003.
Mr. Ercan Tozan said;
“First of all, I would like to thank to Dr. Koc for his service to PII, New Jersey and I wish him the best with his new journey. Since 2004, He has done wonderful job and I am deeply honored to know him as a friend and a colleague. He has made a lot of friends from all walks of life in New Jersey.
I am proud to welcome you to PII’s Annual Ramadan Dinner. I am also proud that I am honored to welcome you all on behalf of Peace Islands Institute, the Turkish Community and the Host Committee and applauding you for your support to unity, education welfare and progress. Your commitment encourages us once again to continue the important work that Peace Islands Institute has taken upon itself as a mission.
Intercultural and interfaith dialogue globally is becoming a very promising way for solving our problems. Although we hoped every year would bring peace and harmony to our world, we are witnessing more violence and unresolved conflicts. We believe that it is our supreme duty to devote our resources to the increasing the dialogue thereby spread of peace and love in the world.
I am grateful in this evening to be in the presence of such distinguished individuals from various communities and walks of life”
Speakers below all shared their own perspectives on the topic “Contributions of Fasting to Peace-building in Society”
Imam W. Deen Shareef -Masjid Waarith ud Deen,
“Fasting & Worship in Ramadan – Intended to Awaken, Cleanup & Resurrect the Neglected Essence of Human Life created in us by God. Not simply for us as individuals but more importantly for us as community/society. Revitalization or Resurrection is not as important for individuals who live & die as it is for community life that lives & dies. So society’s Origin & Advancement is measured by a Standard Established by God.
God created the Universe on a certain natural pattern. It is on this pattern that God created the human being to function in this creation.
In the Qur’an, God calls this original, natural disposition or human constitution “FITRA” – Returning to this is what Fasting & Worship in Ramadan is intended to accomplish. A return to the goodness, beauty & excellence inherent in each human being How? – Through the re-gaining of a principle in Al-Islam called “TAQWA”
TAQWA – A Love for Obeying/Pleasing God and a Fear of Disobeying/Displeasing Him. Reconstituting a sacred respect, consciousness and regard for G-d and everything created by God for which a sacred regard/respect is to be held…esp. other human beings
The more Society “Regards” & sustains a “Sacred Respect” for this Original Pattern of Beauty & Excellence inherent in its Original Creation the more it will prosper & thrive.
Ramadan, The Qur’an, Life of Muhammad (SAS) is intended to impart a spirit and an understanding that Language & Power are intertwined to provide fundamental dimensions of human agency (a social order) & social transformation that constructs experiences, organizes social practices, researches, develops and promotes culture i.e.; ed., government bus, labor, housing, re-creating life on the original pattern created by God so people experience a new spirit & opening into fields of possibilities offered by a great human community!
Rabbi Avi Friedman- Summit Jewish Community Center
“In Judaism, we fast for three basic reasons: to remember or mourn a past tragedy; to ask that current or future tragedy be averted; or to atone for our sins. It is this third type of fast that is most widely practiced in the Jewish community. Each year on Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – Jews around the world fast from sundown to sundown. Although not every Jew makes it the entire time, it is one of the most widely observed Jewish holy days of the year.
For those of us who decide to stick it out until sundown on September 26th this year, we know that a warm meal will be waiting for us and we will end up eating more food in that one meal than we would have eaten during the twenty five hours of the fast. I imagine that for many who fast during the day during Ramadan, you have the same kind of experience once evening arrives.
Sadly, right here in this great country – never mind Africa or the Middle East – there are millions of people who will go to bed hungry tonight – a rumble in their tummy, maybe a headache, maybe their throats will be a little dry. Over 50 million Americans – a disproportionate number of who are women and children – suffer from hunger or live on the edge of hunger”
Rev. Dr. John deVelder -R.W.J. University Hospital, Director of Pastoral Care
“Unfortunately, Protestant Christians do not fast very often. During the Reformation, Protestant leaders attempted to reform the church by giving up several practices of the Roman Catholic Church, among them was fasting. Now Protestants are re-claiming some of the good aspects of fasting. For example, I fasted and prayed in order to prepare for the talk at the Iftar dinner. I found that I experienced many benefits from fasting. My whole body became engaged in my prayers for Peace. I experienced a deeper intimacy with God in my prayers when fasting. I believe that fasting can not only cause me to experience peace but fasting can help peace to be experienced all over the world when others join in the fast. Just as Mahatma Gandhi said, "When you fast, the light will illuminate you and spread it on earth." This is a beautiful vision that people all over the world might join together in fasting and praying for Peace.”
Rev. Andrew Butler-Ecumenical Officer, Episcopal Diocese of Newark
“I believe our overindulgent culture needs to be educated on the merits of fasting and I hope that my Muslim friends will be more open to sharing the benefits of this practice. I often wonder about the danger of taking disciplines out of their context but in some cases it may be helpful. In my town of Montclair, I believe there are more Yoga studios than there are places of worship. I may be wrong but not far off. Much as yoga has been adopted by non Buddhists, I am thinking we need to start fasting clubs. Wait! We have them. There are called churches and synagogues. Unfortunately, the gospel of health and wealth has taken a prominent place in protestant Christianity. The attitude that if we are living faithful lives, we will be rewarded by God with good health and if we pray hard enough any of us could drive around in a Bentley (I hope the Bentley owners won’t take this personally). I hope to work to reclaim the discipline of fasting as a spiritual practice before it continues to grow as a mere health practice. I am also reminded by the prophet Isaiah, chapter 58:6–7: that fasting has more to do with just the abstinence from physical pleasures.”
The night ended with some remarks by;
Asm. Upendra Chivikula
It is a wonderful evening; talking about the contributions of fasting to peace-building and a wonderful feast.
Today when I look around I see people from all walks of life and from different faiths, that come together to break bread together, share a meal and commonalities.
We heard, watched and talked about what has taken place last Sunday at Milwaukee, the senseless killings. The pastor talked about guns and violence.
We are talking here building islands of peace. If only we eliminate the prejudice and hatred, we will have "peace"
What you are doing here today is wonderful that bringing people together promoting better understanding between different cultures and faiths.
Thank you for having me here.
I am always trying to participate in Peace Islands Programs and it is wonderful to be here together with you.
Sheriff Michael Saudino, Bergen County
When I was first elected last year one of my first visits was from Levent and then Interfaith Dialog Center. And I got to know Levent throughout a year and half now. I learned so much from him, truly a gentleman, scholar and intellect.
I always end with this whether it is Korean community, Jewish community or Muslim Community, remember that we are all God's Children. Thank you.
Major Gerald Lewis, NJ State Police
I am extremely humbled to be here with you this evening. I have the best job in the NJ State Police. I am in charge of Office of Community Affairs. I can tell you a little bit about my last two weeks. I have done three Ramadan Dinners, an Agudath Event on Wednesday night with 90,000 orthodox Jewish rabbis and Jewish community.
What I tend to look at, I look at the similarities. And I look at how similar we are. We all want a great education, we want to live in a great environment, we want the quality of life.
When I went to meet with Dr. Levent down to Academy St several years ago. we have a wonderful meeting. It was a beginning of a great partnership between the Turkish Islamic Community and the NJ State Police. He is a welcome guest to NJ State Police, he is a friend as whole of you.
I just want to acknowledge Mr Younes and Dr Levent Koc and all the other people that partnered with the Law Enforcement. We will continue to partner with you, we will continue to assist and we will continue to support you.
Tom Masters, NJ Homeland Security
“I was born in Korea, I was abandoned as a child, an orphan. I was hungry day to night, searching around garbage cans for food when I was picked up by American Gls and placed in an orphanage. When, I was asked to make a presentation tonight I forgot about those days, this is what the Peace Islands Institute does, they remind us of how life may have been for someone. Through your assistance, through your sacrifice and the giving of all of you here today could help someone like me who was orphaned who had absolutely nothing, be successful in Law Enforcement and American Society. Thank God, All of you, Dr Koc, for all of your contributions in the five years that we’ve known each other and my success for Mr. Tozan to follow in his footsteps.”
Senator Nia Gill
She was moved by tonight’s dialogue, she spoke about how she came and grew up in Montclair. “I think its very important with respect to the Peace Islands, because when you come to the table of power, and as the Native Americans said; “you come to the table of power for seven generations, you come for your neighbors, you come for your family, you come for your nation, you come for children” and what this night has reconfirmed is that when you come to the table of power, you must come for enlightenment, you must come for peace, and you must come to in empower all and for that I thank you, dearly
Katherine Rohrer, Vice Provost, Princeton University
“This has been a very remarkable event for me. What a marvelous opportunity for us all to be together in a room with people with such different backgrounds, different faiths, different generations.” She ended by asking everyone to join for prayer.
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