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Images courtesy of Livin’ the Bigg Life and Hawkinson Photography

Pacifica Institute Utah, a TurkishAmerican bridge-building and interfaith organization, invited Dr. James C. Harrington of the University of Texas and Founder of the Texas Civil Rights Project, to speak about service, free speech, and his book on Fethullah Gulen.  He is a law professor adept at communicating with all sorts (which means, of course, that we could all understand him whether or not we had legal backgrounds), and wrote a book about Fethullah Gulen and the Hizmet (or selfless service) movement in Turkey; he said that as a Catholic, he was pleasantly surprised at how much he had in common with Imam Gulen, and how much is shared between the ideals of Christianity and Islam.  Dr. Harrington is intelligent, charming, and humorous; he is also giving of his time and very personable.  After his wonderful presentation, which included quite a bit about how we can apply principles of selfless service in our American neighborhoods, Pacifica gave us all another wonderful dinner, and Dr. Harrington took some time to visit with me.  For someone whose hobby is rooting out despotism on every level, it was cool to speak with him as a regular guy.  A gentleman from the Salt Lake Examiner, Shad Engkilterra, wrote about Dr. Harrington’s presentation here and here.

Coskun Kariparduc, President of Pacifica Utah, also invited me to share some sculptures from the 99 Names project; I picked some that I felt supported Dr. Harrington’s presentation:  Guardian, Victorious, Shaper of Beauty, Giver of All, and Opener.  Thankfully, everyone agreed they seemed to fit.  After dinner, and much to our surprise, both Dr. Harrington and I were presented with awards of recognition for our work–he for his book and ongoing civil rights efforts, and me for the 99 Names project; the awards were ebru from a famous Turkish artist, and they were presented by friends Josie Stone and Elaine Emme of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable.  My niece enjoyed the presentation, the food, and the company, and I enjoyed having my niece help clean up!  It was truly a wonderful evening.

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