Issue 2017 / Special 2017
A Meditation on Persecution
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 songâ€”sung by
the great soul artist Sam Cooke, and covered by many gospel choirs â€“ is
entitled â€śIâ€™m So Glad,â€ť but I remember it as â€śTroubles Donâ€™t Last Always.â€ť Among its key lines, as performed by Rev.
Timothy Wright and the Chicago Interdenominational Mass Choir, is the
â€śWeeping may endure for a night,
keep the faith it will be alright. Troubles don't last always.â€ť
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.
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: â€śWe are pressed on all sides, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but
not destroyedâ€ť (4:8-9).
the people of Hizmet, Fethullah GĂĽlen knows from his own life-story, which I am
writing at present, that those committed to good often face persecution. But
those troubles donâ€™t last. Goodness wins.
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 â€śtoo
Islamic.â€ť But Ramiz kept the faith, and
eventually succeeded to register him three years later with his newborn second
mother, Refia, also knew this truth. She
had the capacity to teach the Qurâ€™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.
his own life, GĂĽlen 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 GĂĽlen 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 GĂĽlen
was eventually exonerated. These troubles have always preceded greater success.
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
the one whom people of Hizmet call Hocaefendi, or honored teacher, put it
himself, quoting Surah Al-Maâ€™ida 5:8 from the Holy Qurâ€™an: â€śLet not the hatred
of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice.â€ť
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Or as the gospel song put it, again: â€śWeeping may
endure for a night, keep the faith it will be alright. Troubles donâ€™t last