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Gandhi-inspired Muslim peace movement the subject of Jay Phillips Center lecture

Mahatma Gandhi, perhaps the world’s most widely known peace activist of the twentieth century, has inspired countless numbers of people.

Prominent Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen from Turkey is among them, and he in turn has inspired millions of Muslims to work for peace in a Gandhi-like spirit.

Jon Pahl, the author of the first critical biography of Gülen in English, will present “Fethullah Gülen’s Gandhi-inspired Muslim Peace Movement” at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 28 in the Centenary Room (room 264) of the Quadrangle Building on the Saint John’s University campus.

Sponsored by the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning in collaboration with the Niagara Foundation of Minnesota and the Turkish American Foundation of Minnesota, this program is free and open to the public.

“Fethullah Gülen was one of Time Magazine’s Top 100 People in the World in 2013, mostly for inspiring the global Hizmet (service) movement, through which Turks built schools (especially science academies) in 130 different countries, organized interreligious events and sponsored a wide range of social enterprises such as newspapers, relief agencies and think tanks,” Pahl said.

“By 2016, however, Gülen was labeled a ‘terrorist’ by the Turkish government. People close to him have since lost their jobs and assets, been imprisoned and/or had to flee the country in a purge that continues,” he added.

In contrast to what Pahl has called the Turkish government’s “big lie” about Gülen, who now lives in exile in Pennsylvania, Pahl’s lecture will focus on “how Gülen ‘s interreligious initiatives foster ‘deep peace,’ in a trajectory that links Gülen back to Gandhi, and down to the Liberian Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee, and beyond.”  

“No other Christian whom I’m aware of has studied the life and work of Fethullah Gülen to extent that Jon Pahl has,” said John Merkle, director of the Jay Phillips Center. “In his masterful biography, Dr. Pahl beautifully and convincingly explains why Gülen and the movement he has inspired are so important to all of us.”

Pahl holds the Peter Paul and Elizabeth Hagan Chair and is professor of the history of Christianity at United Lutheran Seminary in Pennsylvania. He is the author of seven books, including Empire of Sacrifice: The Religious Origins of American Violence and, most recently, Fethullah Gülen: A life of Hizmet — Why a Muslim Scholar in Pennsylvania Matters to the World.

His current research continues to focus on religions, violence, and peace-growing. He has a project underway titled A Coming Religious Peace, telling the largely untold story of the dramatic emergence of religious peace work around the globe, including in the United States.

Widely known as an engaging speaker, Pahl has addressed audiences all over the world, including at major universities such as Cambridge, Oxford, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale. In recent years, he has been particularly active in anti-racist initiatives, leading congregations and communities in repentance, reckoning and reconciliation.

Jon Pahl

Jon Pahl