One immediately feels welcome when entering Sabri Agachan's home. Take your shoes off and put on the slippers offered; accept tea in delicate glasses and an offer of food. The house is spotless, almost Spartan; hospitality and cleanliness are blessings to the Muslim home, Agachan will tell you.
At 28, Agachan is the Mississippi representative for the Institute of Interfaith Dialog. Originally from Turkey, Agachan came to Jackson three years ago to pursue a doctorate in chemistry from Jackson State. A small-boned, precise young man with an easy laugh, he explained that the Institute is one of many related organizations working to create world peace by uniting communities so that spiritual expression can exist free of dogmatism, oppression and fear. "This organization was established to bring peace, tolerance and understanding into the community," Agachan said.
The Institute's roots lie in the vision of Turkish scholar and activist Fethullah Gülen, known for his humanitarian work. "Religion shouldn't be used for political purposes," Agachan said. People stop trusting leaders when their actions and claims of religiosity don't coincide. He believes that people who benefit from war—like arms manufacturers and oil barons—artificially create conflicts for their own profit and camouflage their actions with religion. There is a misconception that the Qur'an promotes killing and suicide, but killing in the name of God or killing innocents is a deep sin for a devote Muslim, and the prophet Mohammed condemned suicide under any circumstances.
"If you kill one person, you are killing all of humanity," Agachan said. "(The) Qur'an teaches us peaceful things."
People also need to see a faith's tenets in action. The Institute brought the Sufi Whirling Dervishes (Sufis are a type of Muslim) to Jackson last year, and hosts interfaith dinners that feature religious and cultural speakers. They also sponsor trips to Turkey where visitors become immersed in the Muslim world.
In the words of the 13th-century Sufi poet Rumi, "Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged." Rumi is a major influence for Turkish Muslims, said Agachan, as his poetry reveals the tolerant and peaceful nature of most Muslim people.
Agachan wanted to make sure that I included his wishes for a Merry Christmas to all Jacksonians. "Do you believe world peace is possible in our lifetime?" I asked him. His response said it all: "Yes—for sure."
For more information about the Institute of Interfaith Dialog, go to their site at http://www.interfaithdialog.org
Sabri is a good, good guy, and a great voice for peace and ecumenism in the Jackson area. We're so lucky to have him here!
- Tom Head
I agree. People do not get any better than Sabri. I am happy to call him a friend. His actions, desires and goals all come from the heart.