Father Alexei Smith served as an elected member of the Council of Priests of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for six years, and currently is a member of the Spirituality Commission of the Archdiocese. He served as president of the Interreligious Council of Southern California for five years. In 2007, he awarded the prestigious Religious Leadership Award of the Valley Interfaith Council.
Giving reference to the Pope Francis, Father Alexei speaks of “authentic Islam” to be one which abhors violence and is open to dialogue. “And this is precisely what I see in the Hizmet Movement and certainly in my readings of the teachings of Fethullah Gülen.”
“…one of the things I really appreciate about the movement, is the amount of service you do, not only to your fellow Muslims but to all of us, and the whole aspect, then, of inter religious dialogue and certainly education and learning.”
Father Alexei makes mention of Fethullah Gulen’s approach to the word ‘tolerance’; “He [Fethullah Gulen] talks about, ‘let your heart be as tolerant as the wide open ocean’. And that indicates to me an openness, an openness to allowing the other to enrich you as you enrich them.”
As a “great advocate of inter-religious learning”, Fr. Alexei makes reference to Miroslav Volf in describing interfaith dialogue as an ‘embrace’. He says, “What do you do when you embrace someone? You open your arms to put your arms around that person and opening your arms, you’re making room in yourself for the other person. And that is what we all need to do.”
In reflection his impression about the Hizmet Movement Fr Alexei comments, “I think that Hizmet, amongst the Islamic organizations, movements and such, seems to epitomize that triad of service, dialogue and education.”
In expressing his regret for any attempts to curtail Hizmet Movement’s activities, Fr. Alexei notes, “…because I look upon them, I look upon Mr. Gulen, I look upon the whole movement’s efforts as a shiny beacon in the Islamic world, a beacon of hope for the future.”