Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Louis Rodriguez Zapatero shared the "Dialogue of Civilizations" award at the 2007 RUMI Peace and Dialogue award ceremony co-sponsored by the Rumi Forum and the Georgetown University Center for Peace and Security Research in Washington on Monday. Turkey-US Interparliamentary Friendship Group Chairman and AK Party Istanbul deputy Egemen Baðýþ, who accepted the award on behalf of Erdoðan from Washington Archbishop Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, said the alliance of civilizations was a project envisaged by Mevlana centuries ago and stressed he was proud of the tradition of religious tolerance in Turkish history. In his acceptance speech, Baðýþ 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, who received the award on behalf of Prime Minister Zapatero "with pride," gave a brief explanation of the inter-civilizations dialogue endeavor carried out by Turkish and Spanish leaders under the auspices of the United Nations. Ambassador Cabeza also commended the Rumi Forum's unifying vision and wished them further success.
Representative Wayne Gilchrest presented the dedication award given to the President of Georgetown University John DeGioia to Prof. John Borelli on his behalf. 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. In his speech, Prof. Borelli quoted Fethullah Gülen and Pope Jean Paul II, figures both known for their special emphasis on inter-religious dialogue. The award given to Professor John Esposito for his contributions to education was presented by Iraqi Ambassador to Washington Mahmood Al Sumeydei to Associate Director Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University Prof. John Voll.
Professor Sayyid Huseyn Nasr received the "Mevlana Jalaladdin Rum" award from Russian Embassy Undersecretary Igor Matveev. Prof. Nasr expressed his admiration for the respect shown toward the legacy of Mevlana in Turkey.
Other winners of the Rumi Forum's 2007 Peace and Dialogue awards include Director of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University for his contributions to the field of "peace," Director of the Program on Religion and Peacemaking at the US Institute of Peace Dr. David Smock for "dedication to peacemaking," Executive Director of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington Dr. Clark Lobenstine for his contributions to dialogue works, and host and founder of "Speaking of Faith" Krista Tippet for "excellence in media."
In his opening address, New Jersey Representative Congressman Rush Holt stressed that a lack of dialogue was the major reason behind today's global problems. Holt -- who noted that he admired Mevlana's understanding based on love and tolerance -- said those activities contributed a great deal to the US.
After the award ceremony, a Mevlani group from Turkey took the stage to perform a sema show. The event ended with the prayers recited by Cardinal McCarrick and Imam Yahya Hendi. The Rumi Forum was founded by the Turkish-Muslim community in the Washington area in 1999. In his speech at the ceremony, Dr. Hasan Ali Yurtsever, chair of the forum which organized the first Turkish fast-breaking dinner at the US Congress last year, called for unity and the disregard of differences. In a statement the Rumi Forum 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 were given the dialogue awards.