All branches of IDI have been organizing several intercultural trips to Turkey every year, mostly during the summer months.  These sponsored study tours are designed and organized to strengthen the existing relations with tour participants and build bridges between communities, organizations and cultures.

These series of intercultural trips to Turkey are part of the effort to share the rich cultural heritage of this region with the community we serve. The trip helps discover the historical, cultural and natural beauties of Anatolia, a living example of the harmony of different faiths for centuries. Main purpose of these trips is to create an environment for the participants in which they can experience the beauty of intercultural interaction.

IDI strives to make study tours a success, with participants as tour delegates, in cooperation with participating cities, community and business representatives, families and NGOs.  Participants have the opportunity meet and interact with the different sections of Turkish society acting as our hosts: individuals, business people, cultural & religious representatives, educational institutions and officials in the designated cities.

Below is a bunch of photos from the trips of recent years, click to see more…

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We have had the privilege of doing intercultural study trips with many participants. Remarks from some of the previous attendees are listed below:

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First what impressed me the most of the whole trip is the care with which our guides treated each member of the group 24hrs a day for the whole trip. They were like guardian angels for us. If I have such a positive impression of Turkey, it is because I felt safe and almost “at home” all the time; it was like visiting a foreign country with a relative who is living there, not having to worry about transportation schedules, about finding good places to eat, clean places to sleep; with no worry about getting lost.  Such an environment gave me the opportunity to focus my whole attention on the places / people / organizations that we visited without being distracted by usual traveling worries.   Being a small group traveling together in minibuses helped us to become a family over the 10 days spent together. This family was visiting another family: the Hizmet family. The second item that impressed me was to discover how much developed Hizmet is.  Also I found many similarities between the different “sections” of Hizmet and the correspondent sections of Focolare. It looks like God has inspired similar charismas in both Christianity and Islam.

Louis Girard,
Physician, Focolare Movement

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My wife, Arun, and I want to thank you most sincerely for an amazing experience. We are so glad we participated in this study tour, and are grateful to our guides for theirgenerosity, their attention to every need and your commitment to making this a memorable experience.  Both of our guides were full of good humour and warmth. We are also most moved by the genorosity of the families who took us in their homes and to all others who hosted us

Alok Mukherjee
Chair, Toronto Police Services Board

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The most serious impression my wife and I brought back from Turkey was a perfect certainty about the extraordinary generosity and kindness of every Turk we met. In some ways, our unscheduled trip to the hospital was the most informative and fascinating single excursion of the 10 days. Not that any future organizers should schedule a medical crisis for the group. We also found ourselves admiring the seriousness of cultural and political debate among the people who hosted us and spoke to us at various stops. Whether it was Mustafa Akyol at the writer’s union or the people at Kimse Yok Mu, serious questions were dealt with seriously. There was no shrinking from the idea that what we think and what we say matters, and no avoiding the idea that together Turks are building a society and a future. Finally, we found ourselves grateful for the kind support we received along the way from our guides.

Michael Swan
Associate Editor, Catholic Register

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This study tour of Turkey was a wonderful experience.  It was very well organized; it was busy but had many great recreational moments; it was very informative; it was varied; the courtesy and generosity of our hosts at dinners and at the agencies and institutions that we visited was overwhelming; The diversity of backgrounds of the members of the tour was valuable; and our tour leaders were unfailingly helpful, good humoured, well informed, responsive to needs, generous and kind. It was, we think, one of the richest visits that we have ever had to a nation that was formerly unknown to us.

We felt that we learned a great deal about Turkey and the Hizmet Movement during this tour, but we were also struck by what a complicated society – and nation – Turkey is and what a vast and complex history it has, and so we realized that, although we were learning much, we were able to gain only slight familiarity with the culture, politics, history and challenges that make up the reality of Turkish life today.

John Whyte, PhD
Senior Policy Fellow Saskatchewan Institute of Public Policy, and Professor of Political Science, University of Regina

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Brian Desbien’s Column in Peterborough Examiner (October 1st, 2012) – Text Edition

Brian Desbien’s Column in Peterborough Examiner (October 1st, 2012) – Print Edition

Brian Desbiens
Chair, Board of Directors, Education Quality & Accountability Office

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IDI Toronto’s September 2012 study trip that I was fortunate to be a part of, was one of those experiences that completely transform one’s perception. Most of the ideas I had about Turkey on the day that I arrived, were totally shattered by the reality of what I witnessed during those incredible 10 days. It was so overwhelming that upon arriving back in Canada, I had to read some more about the recent history of Turkey, to understand how such incredible transformations were possible, in such a short period.

As for the Hizmet movement, and the philosophy of Fethullah Gulen, it is such a joy to see an immense group of people with such dedication to improving the well being, not only of Turks, but of all of humankind. As a secular humanist, I started the trip somewhat apprehensive about some of the religious components of the movement. By the end of the trip, I could say to the Imam that kindly received us at the Writers and Journalists Foundation, that apart from the hope of life after death, I could share and participate in all the aims and objectives of the movement.

Martin Silva
Producer, CHIN Radio International

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Before I visited Turkey for the first time in July, 2008, I had no idea what to expect.  What would be its attitude towards commerce, towards art, towards democracy, towards individuals, towards women, towards Westerners in general, towards safety and the rule of law?  After all, these are not convivial times between Turkey’s part of the world and our own so that a first-time visitor could be forgiven for wondering.

Well, I could not have been more pleasantly surprised. Turkey is a winner. Its people could not be more friendly, more hospitable, more inclusive. Its coastline could not be more beautiful, more refreshing, more clean. Its history could not be more important, more inspirational, and more authentic.
After all, what can one say about Cappadocia or Ephesus or so many other of Earth’s definitional landmarks that has not been said before?

So, my advice can be summed up in one word, two letters: go. Go to Turkey. It’s comprehensively spectacular. You’ll love it.

Dr. Gary Polonsky
President Emeritus, UOIT

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Here are but a few of the elements we loved the best:

Your open-heartedness, care and unfailing attention, your knowledge of your fascinating country and the completely tailored approach you took. I know that each person felt seen and appreciated with their particular interests addressed. We loved how much we saw and the varied experiences we had – the exquisite Hagia Sophia in Istanbul; the haunting ferry chimneys in Cappadocia; the fallen grandeur of Ephesus – we could fill pages with vivid memories of seeing and feeling history in the very moment. Meeting and sharing a meal with the families of Turkey was an opportunity that very few people experience. It added an unexpected personal dimension. We are so appreciative of the open-hearted generosity of all who shared with us.

The richness of the meetings! Police chiefs and mayors, university professors and child care workers, tv stations and think tanks, transit authorities. It was a window into a deeper Turkish reality. And the group! We feel completely privileged to have shared these experiences with such a lovely group of people. If we had hand-picked travelling companions, we couldn’t have put together such a rich, varied and fun group.

We have made friends for life. Thank you for making all that possible.

Lee-Anne McAlear / Jim Harris
Program Director, Schulich School of Business / Author and Consultant

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In my 24 years with the RCMP, I have had the opportunity to travel to various countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. However, none have been as rewarding and enriching as my trip to Turkey with the IDI in the summer of 2009.

Having an opportunity to view, first hand, the numerous illuminated manuscripts described by Orhan Pamuk, the eminent Turkish Nobel Prize recipient for literature, he describes in his book “My name is Red” which can be viewed at the Topkapi Palace and the Mevlana Museum in Konya or to walk in the footsteps of Galip as he wanders the streets of Istanbul searching for his wife Ruya in his novel “The Black Book” was incredible. Turkey is indeed a wondrous country with an incredible history, fabulous culture and architecture, terrific food, friendly and welcoming people to say nothing of the great opportunity to see how Turkish Muslims live their faith on a daily basis.

The trip was the more enjoyable, thanks to the incredible insights given by our tour director Kerim Khan and his wife Seniha as well as the great travel companions. Having traveled to numerous countries, I can greatly appreciate all the work that went into preparing and co-ordinating the trip.

The IDI and their counterpart in Turkey, BAKIAD, did a fantastic job. By far the best and most rewarding part of the trip was the dinners we had with local families. Their hospitality was incredible. I found these hosts to be not only welcoming but very open, frank and willing to discuss a myriad of topics from their faith, to education, to the economy and relations with other countries and cultures.

This trip has certainly opened my eyes and made me realize how similar our fears and aspirations are. It has given me a much better understanding of Islam and the need for continued Dialogue between our faiths to make this world we all live in a better place. The only negative comment I can make is that the ten days we spent in Turkey was far too short a time. I am looking forward to returning to Turkey in the spring of 2011, this time for a whole month. To the members of IDI, many thanks for this wondrous opportunity.

Sgt. Daniel Ste-Marie
Immigration and Passport/Special Investigations Section (IPSIS) – RCMP

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The planning and execution of the trip was exceptional and variation of activities and experiences was interesting as Lee-Anne said provided a deeper understanding of Turkey and Turkish Culture. The group also was a lot of fun and you deserve credit for assembling such a varied group. Thanks also to everyone else who made the trip so much fun. I learned a lot from everyone who participated.

Adam Giambrone
Former Chair of TTC

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I want to thank everyone for making the trip such a great and memorable experience. We missed all of the heat and humidity while we were in Turkey so the weather Gods were certainly with us. I am sitting in an Albanian restaurant in Peterborough promoting Turkey as a must place to visit. I am looking forward to going back one day myself.

Armand La Barge
Retired Chief of Police, York Region

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I definitely enjoyed the trip as we all learned a lot about Turkey’s culture and history but was most impressed by the people’s dynamism and search for a better society for us all. I would like to thank the Intercultural Dialogue Institute and your wise, tireless leadership for making it all possible.

Joe Pantalone
Former Deputy Mayor of City of Toronto

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In many ways this was the best trip we have ever taken. The generosity and hospitality of the Turkish organizers and hosts made us feel welcomed and very, very well taken care of. The beauty and diversity of the country makes it difficult to get a real sense of the people and history in only a week, but this trip is organized in such a way as to give the maximum exposure to Turkey’s many national treasures. We really had a great time. The best aspect of this trip is the access you have to the Turkish people, from all walks of life, and their patience and willingness to share and explain their culture. This trip is a marvellous opportunity to glimpse a country and its people in a way no average tourist tour could.

Tanya Byrant & Juan Miranda
Ottawa

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The best aspect of this trip is the access you have to the Turkish people, from all walks of life, and their patience and willingness to share and explain their culture.

Our trip to Turkey was an amazing experience. Our hosts welcomed us into their communities and homes with open arms and they took great pride in introducing us to all aspects of their culture, including their history, their faith-and their food! During the trip, I gained an even greater respect for the Islamic faith, and especially its role in Turkish culture. I came away with the assurance that true Islam promotes peace among all faiths and cultures-and that the key is Dialogue among friends.

We never feared for our safety. Yes, we stayed at first-class hotels and were led by a Turkish-speaking guide, but it was more than that. The warmth in the actions and words of all the people that we met assured us that we were always among friends.

Paul Sales
The United Church of Canada

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Over the course of my visit to Turkey I enjoyed not only the amazing historic and natural sites of interest but also the warmth of hospitality at dinners and receptions in  the homes of our hosts.  These people introduced us to their families and served up amazing meals.  From the opening day of learning about Istanbul and the beauties of the Turkish coastline all the way through all the other interesting places and ending in Ankara the trip was a fascinating experience.  There were so many happy memories for me but perhaps my favourite was being able to see Konya and learn first-hand about the distinctive religious and cultural traditions which originated in Turkey.  Izmir was also a treat as I come from Canada’s Atlantic Provinces and it was great to enjoy another coastal experience.

Let me also express my appreciation for our guides who gave generously of their time and enthusiasm.  Their assistance helped make the trip the great experience it was.

Hugh Melon
Professor, University of Western Ontario

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As I reflect on our time together I feel as though I was with my own family….such a union I find is unprecedented and it was very unique experience.  I felt very comfortable in every situation, including the traffic jams :-), this allowed for impromptu town hall meetings, longer bonding periods, nap time, jokes, enjoying the view and admiration of the culture of people selling items down the middle roadway and so on…….nothing can replace these found memories.

My expectations were superseded and this vacation was my best by far and will remain as such.  I must say that all the hosts families and businessmen we met were super friendly, welcoming and warm. All made us feel at home and this included your beautiful family, they are such a blessing.

Keith and I are still in awe of the entire experience from start to finish. The warmth, friendliness, acceptance, hospality, love and admiration of all with whom we encountered were second to none…….didn’t want let the moments go, but now that we are back to reality, we have the rest of our lives to be thankful and are very blessed to have been a part of this life’s history on our journey in the classroom of life.

Donnet Rox Burgh

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We want to express our heartfelt thanks for your patience, humour and guidance during this month’s study trip.  We had a simply wonderful time, well exceeding our expectations.  Though we certainly enjoyed the sightseeing and the food, and loved discovering Turkey for the first time, we particularly appreciated the opportunity to visit so many persons and institutions.

Reid Locklin
Professor, University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto

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Before our recent trip, Turkey was not included on the list of places we had planned to visit. What a mistake! During our tour, we visited many historic sites and experienced the natural beauty of the country and its people. From the boat tour on the Bosphorus to the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul; from the Underground city in Cappadocia to the Whirling Dervishes performance in Konya; and let’s not forget the ruins of Ephesus – all are experiences we will never forget. It was inspiring to experience the unique culture and history of Turkey – a culture that has managed to escape the Western influence and a history that rivals few countries. And the food! Every meal we had in Turkey was absolutely delicious and abundant – fresh fruits and vegetables just picked from the garden is something we don’t experience often. But our most lasting impression will be the people. The warmth and generosity of the families as they opened their homes to us will not soon be forgotten. To sit with families in their own home, share a meal, and chat over tea provided many personal and memorable experiences that we will cherish. Many thanks – we can’t wait for our next visit to Turkey!

Glenn Luther
Biometrician, Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Environment & Conservation

Joan Luther
Research Scientist, Natural Resources Canada

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