During the 1960s, Turkish society suffered from social ills such as poverty, lack of equal opportunity, and political polarization that often turned into armed conflict. Against this backdrop, Muslim scholar and intellectual Fethullah Gülen, together with a group of friends, started educational initiatives aimed at protecting youth from violence and self-destructive addictions, empowering them with quality education for career opportunities and providing an environment for them to learn and live their faithfully in the modern world by embracing science, democracy and the diversity of their society. What later became the Hizmet movement started out as a group of volunteer participants who shared the vision of these educational activities including student housing, scholarships, dormitories, and college preparatory courses.
Over time, this initial community turned into a social movement shaped by concepts such as respecting the dignity of every human, accepting everyone as they are, serving humanity, and finding long-term solutions to social problems through education — concepts rooted in Islamic tradition and universal human values.
While the movement focused on education initially, participants soon organized dialogue and intellectual meetings as well as social responsibility projects aimed at reducing tension and prejudice among segments of society with different religious or ethnic identities, political views or ideologies and at nurturing a culture of living together in peace.
Beginning in the 2000s, humanitarian relief projects came to the forefront, and movement participants rushed to help victims of many natural disasters in Turkey and around the world. In some places, participants did not stop with disaster relief and began permanent projects such as medical clinics, schools, water wells, and courses for training qualified personnel.
Through education projects, the movement expanded beyond Turkey’s borders. The movement’s inclusive attitude allowed for the participation of people with different ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds, leading to a more diverse population of participants.
At the same time, Hizmet participants have interacted culturally with the people and countries where they were active. This naturally led to the formation of local expressions of the movement with different cultural textures, values, attitudes, and working methods. Movement participants view this differentiation as richness within the framework of their core values.
Hizmet volunteers pursue their goals both through the formal activities of foundations, institutions, and organizations they established and through informal organizations such as spiritual gatherings and social activities.
It is essential that the formal organizations and institutions are run by their boards according to the laws of the country of residence, within the transparency and accountability norms of their society, consistent with the core values of the Hizmet movement and in harmony with the broader movement.
Frequent communication, discussion, and the sharing of best practices help maintain this consistency.