The fight against poverty, ignorance and disunity is a shared responsibility among the government, the private sector, civil society and non-governmental organizations. The reason is that the government alone does not have the requisite human and capital resources to sustain this struggle.
It is for this reason that the contributions of civil society and non-governmental organizations are crucial in complementing the government's effort at promoting socio-economic development.
One organization that has been making significant strides in the areas of the fight against poverty, ignorance and disunity in Ghana, is the Ghana-Turkey Cooperation and Development Association (TUDEC).
The organization was established in 2011 to promote education and trade activities between Ghana and Turkey, and to also offer social and humanitarian services such as aid, relief and dialogue activities in Ghana.
TUDEC's contributions can be seen in the areas of inter-cultural education, sponsorship, inter- religious dialogue meetings and aid reliefs to the poor and needy in society.
TUDEC's works are inspired by the philosophy of a prominent Turkish Muslim scholar, opinion leader, poet, prolific teacher and author, Fethullah Gullen. He sees poverty, ignorance and disunity as the main enemies of the human race.
To combat ignorance, he suggests a right to education, irrespective of race, ethnicity, religion or nationality.
The fight against poverty is in two fold. First, Fethullah Gullen proposes the fostering of businesses and creating business opportunities for the poor. Secondly, he suggests that the poor, irrespective of their religion or race, should be supported through aid and relief activities.
To combat disunity, Fethullah Gullen believes that bringing people together to dialogue will promote understanding, respect and tolerance among people.
Inspired by these ideas, participants of Hizmet movement (Hizmet means service), a global transnational civil society movement, described by Gulen himself as “a movement of people united around high human values,” opened thousands of schools, hospitals, universities, aid and relief foundations and dialogue centers in about 160 countries.
TUDEC's contributions in Ghana, especially in the area of promoting inter-religious dialogue has won for it the praise of prominent Ghanaian religious scholars, including the Chairman of the National Peace Council, Most Reverend Professor Emmanuel Asante, and an Islamic scholar, Sheikh Armiyawo Shaibu.
TUDEC sees dialogue as the tool to promote peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians in Ghana.
It therefore collaborates with the National Peace Council, the Office of the National Chief Imam and the Christians organizations in the country to champion inter-faith dialogue.
For instance, last year, TUDEC in collaboration with the National Peace Council (NPC) organized an international dialogue conference at the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC), on the theme: "Love and Tolerance; Peaceful Coexistence in Diversity."
Chaired by the Chairman of the NPC, the Most Rev. Professor Emmanuel Asante, the conference was attended by distinguished individuals from different walks of life, Muslim and Christian clerics, a Minister of State, Rashid Pelpuo, the National Chief Imam of Ghana, Sheikh Osmanu Nuhu Sharubutu, an Islamic scholar, Sheikh Armiyawo Shaibu, the Bishop Anglican, Diocese of Accra, Rt. Rev. Dr. Sylvanus Daniel Tortoise, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra, the Most Reverend Charles Gabriel Palmer- Buckle and Professors from Turkey, Nigeria, and USA.
The conference was inspired by the book of Fethullah Gulen. Speeches at the conference were captured in a book form edited by the Most Rev. Professor Emmanuel Asante and titled: "Love and Tolerance".
The book was launched at a programme chaired by the Commandant of the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC), Maj. Gen. OB Akwa, in Accra in March, this year.
The Chairman of the NPC, Most Rev Prof Asante, said the activities of TUDEC in the areas of inter-faith dialogue and peacebuilding were in line with the objectives of the NPC. Besides, he said, he agrees with the views of Fethullah Gullen on religious tolerance, the essence of inter-faith dialogue and respect for all people.
Most Rev Prof Asante said it was in that light the NPC agreed to collaborate with TUDEC to organize the international dialogue conference. He said the NPC would continue to liaise with TUDEC to organize such inter-faith dialogues to promote religious tolerance and maintain peace in the country.
An Islamic scholar, Sheikh Armiyawo Shaibu, said he was particularly thrilled by TUDEC's effort at getting Muslims and Christians around one table to discuss issues bordering on tolerance and respect for each other's views.
He said Islam encouraged Muslims to live in peace with adherents of other religious faiths. Therefore, he said, TUDEC's effort at promoting inter-faith dialogue was in line with the teachings of Islam and traditions of Prophet Muhammed.
Sheikh Armiyawo said TUDEC's activities in the areas of offering scholarships to needy but brilliant Ghanaian students, irrespective of their religion to study in Ghana, and in Turkey was laudable.
TUDEC has also demonstrated that it is interested in supporting the growth of the Ghanaian economy and creating job opportunities for businesses in the country.
It was in that light that TUDEC organized business trips to Ghana and Turkey as well as business trade fares in Turkey. Such business trips and trade fares offered the opportunity for Ghanaian businessmen and their Turkish counterparts to establish business contacts.
To give the visits a further boost, TUSKON, a business association in Turkey, in collaboration with TUDEC organized a business forum for President John Dramani Mahama and Ghanaian business delegation in Turkey in 2012.
Following such events, several Turkish companies are into the sale of Turkish textiles, construction materials, housing appliances and clothing in Ghana. More Turkish investors have expressed their interest in investing in the real estate, construction and manufacturing sectors in Ghana.
The President of TUDEC, Mr. Yusuf Temizkan, said TUDEC was hopeful that the investors would inject the needed capital to support the Ghana's socio-economic development.
TUDEC is also engaged in different aid and relief organizations like offering scholarships to needy students, provision of boreholes in rural areas and the donation of assorted food items and meat during Eidu-ul-Adha, Eid-ul-Fitr and Christmas festivities.
The organization uses education to promote understanding among various nationals and cultures. This is evident in the Galaxy International School. The school, which was established in 2001, has students from more than 35 nationalities, including Ghana, United States of America, Canada, England, Turkey, China, Nigeria, South Africa and Gabon. About 30 per cent of the students are on scholarship.
The Principal of the Galaxy International School, Mr. Hakan Karaman, said guided by the different nationalities and cultures of the students, the teachers taught the students the universal values of respect, fellow feeling and ethics.
Also, through the inter-cultural festivals that the school organizes every year, the students go to the school with their parents to exhibit their different cultures, such as dressing, food, songs and dancing. Such gatherings promote understanding of the various cultures, and thus enhance tolerance and respect among the various nationals.
The students take the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) and the West Africa Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). It also has a Cambridge Programme, an international programme recognized by international universities.
Last year, Galaxy International School won five Cambridge awards - The Best in Mathematics School of the Year; The Best Science School; The Best English School, and the Best Primary school, all in the primary education category, as well as The Best French School in the secondary category.
So far, the school has won 7 gold, 14 silver, 26 bronze international medals and 30 honorable certificates for its academic performance.
TUDEC has also inspired the setting up of another school called the Fatih College in Tamale in the Northern. The school is offering full scholarships to most of its students who are needy and brilliant. An ultra-modern school campus is also under construction in Tamale.
Source: Musah Yahaya Jafaru
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