Perspectives

  • Issue 2017 / Special 2017



    A Meditation on Persecution

    Jon Pahl

    Among the many gospel hymns and spirituals that have
    provided strength for a suffering people over the decades, one has stayed with
    me in recent weeks.  That song—sung by
    the great soul artist Sam Cooke, and covered by many gospel choirs – is
    entitled “I’m So Glad,” but I remember it as “Troubles Don’t Last Always.”  Among its key lines, as performed by Rev.
    Timothy Wright and the Chicago Interdenominational Mass Choir, is the
    following:

    Weeping may endure for a night,
    keep the faith it will be alright. Troubles don't last always.”

                      Since
    July 15, 2016, following a failed coup whose origins are still unknown while
    many signs indicate it may have been orchestrated by the Turkish government,
    people associated with the global Hizmet movement have been targeted for
    persecution. This persecution, however, is not new; it has been going on for
    decades.  The rationales have constantly shifted.
    The failed coup is just the latest excuse. 

    Christians
    like me, who follow the example of Jesus, know that goodness is always targeted
    by those committed to corruption.  The
    Apostle Paul, in his 2nd Letter to the Church at Corinth, wrote of the
    early Christian community: “We are pressed on all sides, but not crushed;
    perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but
    not destroyed” (4:8-9).

                      Among
    the people of Hizmet, Fethullah Gülen knows from his own life-story, which I am
    writing at present, that those committed to good often face persecution. But
    those troubles don’t last.  Goodness wins.

                      Gülen’s
    father, Ramiz, knew this truth.  He
    wanted to name his eldest son Muhammed Fethullah, after the Prophet (peace be
    upon him), but the registrar of the secular government thought the name “too
    Islamic.”  But Ramiz kept the faith, and
    eventually succeeded to register him three years later with his newborn second
    son.

                      Gülen’s
    mother, Refia, also knew this truth.  She
    had the capacity to teach the Qur’an to other women, but at the time such
    public teaching was illegal in Turkey. But she kept the faith, and women in the
    villages of Korucuk and Alvar, and the city of Erzurum, eventually gained a deeper
    knowledge of their religious traditions.

                      In
    his own life, Gülen has faced repeated troubles and oppressions. When he served
    in the military (1961-63), not all commanders found his faith admirable.  At least one made it so difficult for Gülen that
    his health failed, requiring a leave of absence.  During his second appointment as an imam, in
    Edirne, when his reputation as a preacher began to grow and crowds came to hear
    him, he drew the interest of the police. On one occasion, he received a death
    threat. On another, he was arrested and detained. That case went to trial, but Gülen
    was eventually exonerated. These troubles have always preceded greater success.

                      It
    is, of course, impossible to predict the future. The most recent persecutions have
    destroyed livelihoods and lives. Our collective voices should oppose and resist
    the authoritarian actions of the Turkish government.  We must organize to protect the innocent and
    to shelter them from ongoing harm, insofar as possible. But persecutions cannot
    destroy the good, the true, and the beautiful. Such eternal realities are
    beyond the reach of the corrupt and violent, just as they are also beyond their
    understanding. 

                      As
    the one whom people of Hizmet call Hocaefendi, or honored teacher, put it
    himself, quoting Surah Al-Ma’ida 5:8 from the Holy Qur’an: “Let not the hatred
    of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice.” 






































    Or as the gospel song put it, again: “Weeping may
    endure for a night, keep the faith it will be alright. Troubles don’t last
    always.”
        

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