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Impressions from Winter Camps

For over a week, I have been with my soulmates in different cities of the country. These were the unions that I wished would never end. Conferences, chats, questions, answers, objections, contributions, and the discussions and deliberations we had while eating, drinking tea and coffee, and during short trips. All were very beautiful.

These programs that we have been continuing for 23 years during this season of the year. These gatherings that we call “Winter Camps,” which we hold in hotels for about a week with families and children, reinforce the feeling of “belonging” above all. They help to establish unforgettable friendships among us. Both our children and we make new friends. Our knowledge base is enriched. The old and new thoughts we hear from different mouths take us to different grounds in terms of mindset and behavior. We find answers to many questions that gnaw at our minds. We learn many new things. It’s a complete reset, so to speak. Humans are social beings. These camps add a lot to the participants in terms of that sociability.

What did I see in this year’s camps? A lot. I will only emphasize two points. First, to express it in folk terms, I saw that the new generation is coming up strong. I saw the numerical abundance of our children, who are the guarantee of our future, from primary school to high school level. So much so that almost everywhere I went, the number of our children exceeded that of the parents. When I expressed my surprise to someone, they said, “Isn’t that normal? If there were 400 parents here, and each family had two children, that would automatically make 800 children.” They were right.

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The programs designed for those children, whether in terms of the language used in speeches, the materials used during the week-long education process, or the language, culture, and emotional common ground of those who conversed with them, were very pleasing to me. Nearly everything we said “should be like this” in the camps we held years ago has now become a reality. Because neither the human resources nor the material context existed for our children at that age back then. But now, the generation of our children has taken charge and is guiding the next. This is a very valuable and important development. It is crucially important in the acquisition of personality, and the formation and protection of religious identity.

The second point is the questions asked after conversations, the contributions made, and the criticisms. Firstly, the questions were not abstract. They were all asked with the concern, “What should we do, how should we do it so that we do not hang our heads in shame when it’s time to give an account to God?” in the social life our people encounter. Moreover, these questions were an indicator of the extent to which they entered into the socio-cultural and socio-economic life. From calculating the zakat of a savings sitting aside as money or stocks, to performing Friday prayers at work, to systemic and structural problems related to the community, to the difference between modernity and modernism, to theta healing, it was a very wide spectrum. I was very happy to encounter such a scene. I considered it an indicator that transcends the inability to preserve religious sensitivity in our society, the inability to integrate into that society, and being confined to the ground where every community lives in its own neighborhood.

Were there no deficiencies? Of course, there were, there are, and there will be. Perfection is exclusive to God. Let me mention one right away; the fact that all the speakers who conversed and gave conferences on certain subjects were men was a deficiency. A female participant clearly expressed this to me. I thought about it, and she was right. It was by no means a feminist critique, as some might immediately label. I have no doubt that a girl I know from childhood – who has been working in the field for years – could explain the topic I talked about in that hall better than me. Surveys conducted with participants will concretely reveal what these deficiencies are. I believe that these deficiencies will be overcome in the camps to be held in the coming years with well-intentioned efforts.

To gather a community varying between 200 and 800 men, women, and children under one roof for a week, to provide three meals a day, to organize programs aimed at spiritual satisfaction, to arrange different programs for babies and children according to their age levels, and to follow all these minute by minute is really a tough job. I congratulate and thank everyone who has voluntarily taken on this difficulty. It is great that you exist, and I am with you. Be well and prosper.

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Dr. Ahmet Kurucan is a an author and scholar focusing on Islamic Studies and Law.

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