MANCHESTER — With violence and unrest upending much of the Muslim world, a small gathering in Manchester was doing what it could to maintain the stability of Turkey and further friendly relations with the United States.
The Turkish Cultural Center New Hampshire hosted its second Annual Friendship Dinner and Award Ceremony at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Manchester, an event that drew several political, religious and business leaders from the state.
"We are just trying to build a good relationship between different communities, different ethnic backgrounds," said Eyup Sener, a journalist with a New York-based Turkish-American newspaper and the president of the New Hampshire organization.
Guests included New Hampshire House Speaker Terie Norelli; Bill Shaheen, the husband of U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen; and Grace Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, the auxiliary bishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Joseph McQuaid, president of the Union Leader Corp., received the organization's media award. Kate Baker, who runs the Network for Educational Opportunity, received the organization's education award.
The Turkish community in New Hampshire is not large, members said. Nor is it like many immigrant groups, who come to the United States to escape political oppression or economic hardship.
Sener said New Hampshire Turks are professionals who move to America for career reasons. They quickly become U.S. citizens; they live throughout the state; they consciously try to assimilate.
But the Cultural Center does teach the Turkish language to children, and it provides opportunities to come together for religious feasts and social events.
It also sponsors cultural exchanges. For example, state Rep. Lenette Peterson, R-Merrimack, has accompanied them to Turkey, twice.
"All you hear about is radical Muslim groups," Peterson said. "I had no clue what to expect. They were the nicest people: friendly, kind."
She said Turkey is a strong ally of the United States, yet it does not have free trade status, something she doesn't understand. "We have free trade with countries that don't like us," she said.