Join us on January 13th at 2pm for a Family centered learning event on Bullying. Jay Dee "the Balloon Guy", a Greenville favorite, uses his balloon artistry skills to promote socio-emotional competency. He teaches us "the best way to respond to bullying" in a fun and engaging way. Through his lesson, children are empowered to maintain emotional control and respond in confidence, recognizing the full humanity of the other person.
JD was born and raised in Montana and has been a resident of the Upstate since 2001. He has been performing Balloon art since 1999. JD is no ordinary balloon artist, his pieces are complex and easily distinguishable from the rest, at times conveying messages to children. JD is also a TED Talk participant, a Junior Achievement Volunteer and a Landmark Forum graduate. He is a true Entrepreneur. He is from the Fountain Inn area and He and his wife, Jenna, have three children.
Our nation is once again faced with another tragic mass shooting in the great city of Orlando. We, as the Atlantic Institute, strongly condemn this ghastly massacre in Orlando. We are offering our deepest condolences to the victim’s families. We owe a debt of gratitude to the law enforcement and first responders for everything they have done during this horrible incident and what they do every day.
New York, November 14, 2015 – I strongly condemn the brutal terrorist attacks across Paris, France in the evening of Friday, November 13, that resulted in the deaths and dismemberment of hundreds of innocent people.
Every terrorist activity, no matter where they occur, is a blow to the peace and tranquility of humanity everywhere. These revolting acts of terrorism are attacks not only against people of France but against universal human values that we all share and against human solidarity.
On this occasion I reiterate my categorical condemnation of all forms of terror regardless of its perpetrators or their stated purposes. No terrorist activity can ever be condoned on any grounds.
I send my deep condolences to the victims’ families, loved ones and the people of France.
I pray that God leads all humanity to a world of peace and tranquility. I invite everyone to join me in this prayer and act in solidarity against all forms of terrorism and in the effort to establish peace around the world.
For more information about this statement, please visit Alliance for Shared Values website.
Muslims, we have to critically review our understanding of Islam
Le Monde, 13 December 2015, Page 13
Words fall short to truly express my deep sadness and revolt in the face of the carnage perpetrated by terrorist groups such as the so-called ISIS. I share a profound frustration with a billion and a half Muslims around the world at the fact that such groups commit terror while dressing up their perverted ideologies as religion. We Muslims have a special responsibility to not only join hands with fellow human beings to save our world from the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism, but also to help repair the tarnished image of our faith.
It is easy to proclaim a certain identity in the abstract with words and symbols. The sincerity of such claims, however, can only be measured by comparing our actions with core values of our self-proclaimed identities. The true test for belief is not slogans or dressing up in a certain way; the true test of our beliefs is in living up to core principles shared by all major world faiths such as upholding the sanctity of life and respecting the dignity of all humans.
We must categorically condemn the ideology that terrorists propagate and instead promote a pluralistic mindset with clarity and confidence. After all, before our ethnic, national or religious identity comes our common humanity, which suffers a setback each time a barbaric act is committed. French citizens who lost their lives in Paris, Shiite Muslim Lebanese citizens who lost their lives in Beirut a day earlier and scores of Sunni Muslims in Iraq who lost their lives in the hands of the same terrorists are first and foremost human beings. Our civilization will not progress until we treat the suffering of humans regardless of their religious or ethnic identity as equally tragic in our empathy and respond with the same determination.
Muslims must also reject and avoid conspiracy theories, which have so far only helped us avoid facing our social problems. Instead, we must tackle the real questions: do our communities provide recruitment ground for groups with totalitarian mindsets due to unrecognized authoritarianism within ourselves, domestic physical abuse, neglect of youth, lack of balanced education? Did our failure to establish basic human rights and freedoms, supremacy of the rule of law, and pluralist mindsets in our communities lead those who are struggling to seek alternative paths?
The recent tragedy in Paris is yet another reminder for both theologians and ordinary Muslims to strongly reject and condemn barbaric acts perpetrated in the name of our religion. However, at this juncture, rejection and condemnation are not enough; terrorist recruitment within Muslim communities must be fought and countered by an effective collaboration of state authorities, religious leaders and civil society actors. We must organize community-wide efforts to address all factors that aid terrorist recruitment.
We need to work with our community to set up the necessary framework for identifying at-risk youth, preventing them from seeking self-destructive paths, assisting families with counseling and other support services. We must promote a proactive, positive government engagement so that engaged Muslim citizens can sit at the table where counterterrorism measures are planned and share their ideas. Our youth should be taught ways of expressing support and dissent within democratic means. Incorporation of democratic values into school curricula early on is crucial for inculcating a culture of democracy in young minds.
In the aftermath of such tragedies, historically strong reactions have surfaced. Anti-Muslim and anti-religious sentiment as well as governments' security-driven treatment of their Muslim citizens would be counter-productive. The Muslim citizens of Europe want to live in peace and tranquility. Despite the negative climate, they should strive to engage more with their local and national governments to help work toward more inclusive policies that better integrate their community into the larger society.
It is also important for us Muslims to critically review our understanding and practice of Islam, in the light of the conditions and requirements of our age and the clarifications provided by our collective historic experiences. This does not mean a rupture from the cumulative Islamic tradition but rather, an intelligent questioning so we can confirm the true teachings of the Qur'an and the Prophetic tradition that our Muslim predecessors attempted to reveal.
We must proactively marginalize de-contextualized reading of our religious sources that have been employed in the service of perverted ideologies. Muslim thinkers and intellectuals should encourage a holistic approach and reconsider jurisprudential verdicts of the Middle Ages that were issued under perpetual conflict where religious affiliation often coincided with political affiliation. Having core beliefs should be distinguished from dogmatism. It is possible, indeed absolutely necessary, to revive the spirit of freedom of thought that gave birth to a renaissance of Islam while staying true to the ethos of the religion. Only in such an atmosphere can Muslims effectively combat incivility and violent extremism.
In the aftermath of the recent events I witness, with chagrin, the revival of the thesis of the clash of civilizations. I do not know whether those who first put out such a hypothesis did so out of vision or desire. What is certain is that today, the revival of this rhetoric simply serves the recruitment efforts of the terrorist networks. I want to state clearly that what we are witnessing is not a clash of civilizations but rather the clash of our common civilization as humanity with barbarity.
Our responsibility as Muslim citizens is to be part of the solution despite our grievances. If we want to defend the life and civil liberties of Muslims around the world, and the peace and tranquility of every human regardless of their faith, we must act now to tackle the violent extremism problem in all its dimensions: political, economic, social and religious. By setting virtuous examples through our lives, by discrediting and marginalizing the extremist interpretations of religious sources, by staying vigilant toward their impact on our youth, and by incorporating democratic values early in education, we can counter violence and terrorism as well as totalitarian ideologies that lead to them.
You may have read or learned of the disparaging and misleading USA Today headline, “Turkish Sect Funded Congress Travel,” and subsequent article referencing the “Gulen or Hizmet (service) movement” in last weekend’s edition. We believe, by association, it attempts to negatively reflect on the Atlantic Institute and the hundreds of other community-based, non-profit organizations in America and elsewhere.
These organizations, like the Atlantic Institute, refer to themselves as “Gulen inspired” and are civic organizations. The organizations are not “a religious group” or “sect” as implied in the article. Contrary to the claims of the article, the organizations are non-profit 501 (c) 3 entities registered to the IRS.The organizations are formed to promote a peaceful co-existence of different international ‘walks of life’ regardless of ethnicity, faith, color, or culture, and nurture mutual understanding, acceptance and appreciation of each person’s point of view and perspective.
The USA Today article fails to mention Fethullah Gulen’s decades-long commitment to education, community service and interfaith harmony.
There have been some serious violent crimes committed against humanity by the radical group known as ISIS. Atlantic Institute condemns these atrocious acts and our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Iraq. The human race is still in desperate need of understanding the non-violent messages set by Rumi, Ghandi, and MLK. We can not give up this hope of peace for our global community. As Nursi once said over a century ago, this is the age of civic solutions to our problems rather than using force or violence as a means. We believe that Mr. Fethullah Gulen is an alining example of this and we are proud to be inspired by these people who encourages us to be better believers and citizens wherever we live. We strive to contribute to the betterment of our communities regardless of differences in faith, race and color.
Please see below for a message from Mr. Fethullah Gulen.
Fethullah Gulen Statement on ISIS
New York, August 22, 2014 – I deplore the brutal atrocities being committed by the ISIS terrorist group hiding behind a false religious rhetoric
The following is a statement released by the Alliance for Shared Values in which Atlantic Institute is a proud to support.
New York, December 14, 2014
The raids on Turkey's top selling newspaper Zaman and prominent TV organization STV are profoundly disturbing to all of us who value democracy, tolerance and the role of a free press in safeguarding both. Journalists who report about suppression of human rights are not enemies of the state; rather they are documenting the actions of those who undermine the safeguards of a democratic Turkey.
By FETHULLAH GULEN
Aug. 27, 2015 7:32 p.m. ET
As the group that calls itself Islamic State, known as ISIS, continues to produce carnage in the Middle East, Muslims must confront the totalitarian ideology that animates it and other terrorist groups. Every terrorist act carried out in the name of Islam profoundly affects all Muslims, alienating them from fellow citizens and deepening the misperceptions about their faith's ethos.
Dear Friends of Atlantic Institute,
We hope that this message reaches you well and without any devastation from the heavy rains and flooding that occurred over the weekend. It is heartbreaking to see images of the recent destruction in our state. With so many of our neighbors affected by this storm, we want to reach out to make sure you, your homes, and your families are safe.
The devastating effect that this storm has had on so many in South Carolina is a harsh reminder of how we all need to come together as a community to help those in need. \ With that in mind, our Foundation and its volunteers want to lend a hand to help those of you who have been impacted by the flooding.