“He is the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. He is a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, through the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law Ali, the first Imam and his wife Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter…Through his words, through his actions, and through the results obtained by the institutions that he has pioneered, he is a beacon of light in much of the world’s conflicting darkness.” — The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, 26th Governor General of Canada
Named honorary companion of the Order of Canada in 2005 by the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, His Highness the Aga Khan will be awarded the inaugural Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship on Wednesday September 21, 2016 at Koerner Hall in Toronto.
The prize is a new public initiative of the Institute of Canadian Citizenship, which was co-founded by Madame Clarkson with her husband John Ralston Saul after she left the office of Governor General in 2005. It will be given annually to an individual who has, through thought and dialogue, encouraged approaches and strategies that strive to remove barriers, change attitudes, and reinforce the principles of tolerance and respect.
A media release published at http://www.6degreesto.com states that “the symbolic importance of this prize has never been greater. In a time of unprecedented movement, displacement and re-settlement by immigrants and refugees, one of the central challenges we face is how we all live together.”
At the award ceremony, His Highness the Aga Khan will receive the prize from the Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson, and will share his wisdom and experiences with the audience on issues confronting the world today. He will then be joined on stage for a conversation with Madame Clarkson.
Remarking on the prize and the selection of the recipient, Adrienne Clarkson says: “Through his words, through his actions, and through the results obtained by the institutions that he has pioneered, he is a beacon of light in much of the world’s conflicting darkness.”
The internationally-acclaimed vocalist and songwriter Rufus Wainwright will perform in honour of the prize recipient.
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE ADRIENNE CLARKSON ON HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN AND HIS ISMAILI FOLLOWERS
“In his own being, His Highness encompasses the world….Through the physical dispersal of their community through the centuries, their spiritual allegiance to the Imam and their adherence to the Shia Imami Ismaili branch of Islam was their greatest strength.”
I. Excerpts from a Citation for His Highness the Aga Khan Delivered by the Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson at Special Convocation, Trinity College, 25 November 2013.
I am deeply honoured to present today His Highness the Aga Khan, the Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims.
It was here at Trinity College in my first year, and actually in the living room at St. Hilda’s College across the street where I was living, when I first saw the picture of the young man aged 20 – also an undergraduate but at Harvard – who had just been named successor to his grandfather, the 48th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. I remember then thinking how extraordinary it was that someone almost my age would be taking on the leadership of 14 million people around the world on several continents, in diverse countries.
In this College the ideal and the beliefs we hold dear are held within the same ethical framework as that of His Highness.
The recipient of this Doctor of Sacred Letters today has two distinct roles in this world: one as spiritual leader which he has inherited as an extraordinary charge and has held now for 56 years, and the other in the world that we all live, in that he has built upon and recreated, involving all of us. He manifests the creative relationship of spiritual values and material concern which is unique in the world today.
He is the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. He is a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, through the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law Ali, the first Imam and his wife Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter. He is the spiritual leader of 14 million Ismailis living all over the world…We are fortunate in Canada to count 100,000 Ismailis who are Canadian citizens. In his own being, His Highness encompasses the world.
Historically, the Ismailis developed a state that concentrated on arts, science and trade centered in Cairo for a number of centuries. But in the 13th century, the Ismailis were dispersed, a diaspora that spread to Persia, Central Asia, Syria, India, and eventually Africa. It is out of this dramatic dispersal and the necessary knowledge of living as a community to whom faith shows itself in works that the far-ranging and extraordinary activities of the present Aga Khan emerge.
Through the physical dispersal of their community through the centuries, their spiritual allegiance to the Imam and their adherence to the Shia Imami Ismaili branch of Islam was their greatest strength. The Ismaili community has developed through centuries an ethos of self-reliance, unity and common identity.
Ismailis have often been uprooted by radical changes in their respective countries, particularly on the Indian subcontinent and in East Africa where new nation states caused the dislocation of Ismaili populations. In 1972 when Idi Amin was president of Uganda, Ismailis and other Asians despite their citizenship and having lived there for several generations were expelled. So, fortunately for us, the Aga Khan took personal steps to find homes for the Ismailis not only in Asia but particularly in Canada and Europe. His personal appeal to Prime Minister Trudeau led to 10 000 Ismailis coming here in 1972. We did not realise as Canadians at the time how important this injection of Ismailis to our national and civic life would be. Who here does not have at least one Ismaili friend now? We have Ismaili students here at Trinity.
Christians and Jews in this country share in the Abrahamic tradition of Islam and we have much to learn from Quranic teachings. From the way in which the sacred and secular are knit together, and how it places a value on maintaining equilibrium between the spiritual well-being of an individual and the quality of their daily life. One thing that we who have been in Canada a little longer, notice about Ismailis is their devotion to community wherever they are and their willingness to give their time to volunteer activities. It springs from the Ismaili belief in man’s dignity and the idea that we are all human and that we must behave as though we are common members of that humanity. Therefore lending their skills, sharing their spare time, giving money, giving ideas to help relieve hardship, pain or ignorance is part of the DNA of the social consciousness of the Ismaili Muslim community.
In this place which all of us here who call ourselves Trinity graduates so treasure, it is deeply moving and appropriate for us to welcome as an honorary graduate a man who is perhaps the only person in the world to whom everyone listens. The Aga Khan remains an outstanding bulwark against ignorance, partisanship, and selfishness. He is honoured by civilisations that need not clash out of ignorance but can and must work together to fulfill God’s promise that we his people are one.
“He not only celebrates diversity, he also honours the differences between people that can paradoxically give them their greatest bond….With the Aga Khan and what he represents, we are a better country.”
II. Excerpts from an introduction by The Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson at the LaFontaine-Baldwin Symposium, Toronto, Canada, on 15 October 2010.
He [the Aga Khan] embodies the values that we Canadians most cherish, and the actions that have created the country that we are. He not only celebrates diversity, he also honours the differences between people that can paradoxically give them their greatest bond. He has two roles in this world; one which he has inherited as an extraordinary charge, and the other that he has built upon and recreated, that now involves all of us. He manifests the creative relationship of spiritual values and material concern, which is unique in the world today, and is a model for all of us.
Ismaili tradition means that their Imam leads in the interpretation of matters of faith and the relationship of that faith to the conditions in the world in which we are living, the world in which we find ourselves. It is grounded in the ethics of Islam in which economic, social and cultural all come together to determine the quality of life for human beings. As the Aga Khan often says, “we have been created as one by a single Creator.”
Since 1957, projects have been initiated and always supported by the communities served no matter how diverse. They are aimed towards becoming self-sustaining, and frequently involve partnerships outside the Ismailis. Anyone who knows Ismailis in Canada, knows that they are the first to volunteer and give of themselves to causes which involve the common good. This is within their tradition and is admired by everyone in Canada. Through the Aga Khan Development Network, enormous work has been done because as His Highness has said, “development is sustainable, only if the beneficiaries become, in a gradual manner, the masters of the process.”
The Aga Khan Health Network has 168 centres in countries like Pakistan, India, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. The Aga Khan Development Network is inclusive of the enormously different cultural traditions in all the countries and areas in which it all operates. And if you think about them, they’re so varied, that they are the very definition of diversity and plurality itself. In all these works, the Aga Khan seeks to create bridges, between the developed and the developing world. This is done with a very conscious sense of the dignity of all human beings. The consciousness that we are all human and nobody is more human than any other and the right of all human beings to the best that life has to offer in this world in culture, in health, in education, in participation.
I was very pleased that the Aga Khan accepted to be an honorary companion of the Order of Canada while I was Governor General in 2005 and during my last year in Ottawa I assisted as he put the spade in the ground for the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat on Sussex Drive which is now open and is a beautiful architectural example on that very prominent roadway in Ottawa. Recently I was at the Foundation ceremony here in Toronto where ground was turned for the new Ismaili Centre and for the Museum for Islamic art which will grace a wonderful place just beside the Don Valley Parkway. In 2009, he was made an honorary citizen of Canada. Last week the Global Centre for Pluralism which is a partnership between the Aga Khan Development Network and the Government of Canada had its first meeting. I am delighted to be on that Board and to chair the Executive Committee to help forward His Highness’ vision with the partnership of Canada about plurality and diversity, making us all stronger. Canada should be very proud that he has chosen us as the centre for this work, which he holds very dear to his heart. On behalf of all Canadians, I thank him for this.
We could have no finer citizen and we could have no finer bearer of the motto of the Order of Canada: “they desire a better country.” With the Aga Khan and what he represents, we are a better country.
Date posted: September 19, 2016.