Sheffield charity wants more people to get involved with dialogue - everyone is welcome

A Sheffield charity, which uses dialogue to build bridges with communities, wants more people to join in with their mission for peace and integration.

Friday, 30th August 2019, 15:30 pm
Updated Friday, 13th September 2019, 11:36 am
(L-R) Mehmet Acar, Esra Acar and Nursah Selamet - some of the board members of Sheffield's Dialogue Society

The Dialogue Society operates nation-wide and attempts to connect communities through discussion.

The regional branch in Sheffield, based on Birch Road in Attercliffe, serves communities throughout South Yorkshire and is open to anyone regardless of faith or religion.

The aim is to build social cohesion in society and they believe ‘through true dialogue, we can end hate crime’.

Mehmet Acar, branch manager and one of the board members, reiterated that you don’t have to be religious to go to their events - nor are they targeted towards one particular group.

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He said: “We accept and appreciate that we are a minority.

“Dialogue Society is about building bridges, both outside and within the community.

“We organise events in order to build bridges between various communities and people from various backgrounds.

“Everyone is welcome.”

Although mainly Turkish Muslims attend, Jewish and Methodist Christians are also regular visitors.

A team of seven board members oversee activities and events for Sheffield’s Dialogue Society.

The charity holds many different events, many of which are advertised to the public via Eventbrite.

An Iftar dinner - the meal eaten during Ramadan where Muslims break their fast at sunset - was held at the community building earlier in the year, which attracted 140 attendees, including the Lord Mayor of Sheffield and local Sheffielders.

Another Iftar was held at Sheffield’s Town Hall.

As well as dinner and breakfast celebrations, Dialogue Society also hosts seminars.

Seminars are based on different topics and key speakers may also give presentations - previous discussions have focused on contributions of Islam to society, and human rights.

Through these events, the charity is hoping to provide mixed integration to the community, while raising awareness about Turkish Muslim culture.

Established in London in 1999, Dialogue Society was founded by British Muslims of a Turkish background, who were inspired by the teachings of Muslim scholar and peace advocate, Fethullah Gülen.

Dialogue Society stands for democracy, human rights, the non-instrumentalisation of religion in politics, equality and freedom of speech.

Board members of the Sheffield branch believe that raising awareness of Turkish Muslim culture has become more important following the worsening of Turkey’s democratic situation in recent years.

As the Turkish government’s attempt to oppress anyone in support of the Gülenist movement got more serious, they all left the country three years ago.

All educational institutions were shut down and any individuals found to be involved with the Gulenist movement were put in jail - some of whom remain there today.

The 20 families who attend events and activities at Dialogue Society have also left Turkey within the last two years.

Their collective experiences of their time in Turkey suggest why human rights, peace and democracy form basic values within their own community.

They are ‘thankful’ to the locals for being friendly and open to their community, so want to show that they can bring something back to society and encourage more people to get involved.

Mehmet said: “It is an opportunity to meet new people. To let people introduce themselves and vice versa.

“We want to try to maintain relationships with people - to keep in touch.

“We want to bring peace to the community and support integration.”

The charity has now developed good links with Sheffield Interfaith, Sheffield Amnesty International, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue and Sheffield College.

They are keen for other organisations and individuals to also get involved.

Mental health, for example, is still a taboo subject for the Turkish Muslim community.

Although there is some awareness, board members have expressed that there is not enough, and would welcome a speaker to offer more knowledge in the field.

With the conflict experienced in Turkey itself, to the difficulties of settling in the UK, more support is needed, especially for children.

For some, they do not acknowledge mental health. For others, they acknowledge it but do not know how to address the issue.

It is not a topic that is readily taught, as opposed to other courses on offer through Summit education society - Dialogue Society’s sister organisation.

Different activities are held every Saturday aimed at connecting society and promoting cultural awareness through language and art.

There are also literacy and numeracy classes for children.

Dialogue Society will be hosting ‘Who is the Dialogue Society?’ on October 24, from 7pm to 10pm.

The free event will be held at the community building on Birch Road and give people the opportunity to find out what the charity is about, their aims and their goals.

To register for ‘Who is the Dialogue Society?’, see: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/who-is-the-dialogue-society-tickets-72170420671