By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The Dialogue Institute of Oklahoma City will host its 12th annual Friendship Dinner and Award Ceremony on Tuesday, May 10 at the downtown Skirvin Hilton Hotel. The event recognizes the achievements of those who have contributed their time, energy, expertise and financial resources in giving back to the Oklahoma City community.
This year the Dialogue Institute will recognize University of Oklahoma President, David Boren with the 2016 Leadership Award and The Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches with the Interfaith Dialogue Award.
The event chair for 2016 is Oklahoma City Thunder player Enes Kanter.
“The Dialogue Institute aims to promote mutual understanding and respect among people of different faiths. This event embodies that idea by recognizing people from all cultures and belief systems who bring the message of coexistence and tolerance to the community,” said Ersin Demirci, Executive director, Dialogue Institute of Oklahoma.
“President Boren and the Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee represent the mission of the institute and we are honored to recognize them both,” Demirci said. “I am also proud to have an international ambassador like Enes Kanter helping spread these ideals.”
“As a proud member of the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Oklahoma City community, I am honored to chair an event that brings people from diverse backgrounds and faiths together for a dialogue in a positive atmosphere, promoting a community where every person is treated with dignity,” said Kanter. “As Oklahoma City continues to grow, I want to focus on what we share in common rather than our differences.”
This year’s keynote speaker is Sonya Romero, an elementary school teacher from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her story recently went viral after being told on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Most of Romero’s students live in poverty and she lovingly teaches them, but also makes sure they are fed and have clean clothes. She recently took in two former students as fosters. Watch her story here.
According to CNN reporter, Tamara Wilson. Romero believes that educators are key to developing the lives of our youth.
“Being a teacher is being an advocate, being an agent for their change and to help them in any way that they need,” says Romero. “It means really caring about these kids so they can give back and we can keep that cycle going.”
Established in 2002 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Dialogue institute members and participants are inspired by the pioneering dialogue initiatives of the Turkish Muslim scholar, writer and educator Fethullah Gulen.
Dialogue Institute of Oklahoma City promotes mutual understanding, respect and cooperation among people of diverse faiths and cultures in Central Oklahoma area by creating opportunities for direct communication and meaningful shared experiences.
”Our organization committee organized a fabulous night that will bring people from different faiths and cultures together and look for solutions to problems affecting our state and world,” said Demirci.
Friendship Dinner tickets are $100 a person. For more information, visit www.dialogueok.org.