Entries with content relating to ‘Volunteering (Time & Knowledge)’, in chronological order.

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88th Stephen A. Ogden, Jr. ’60 Memorial Lecture on International Affairs and apres lecture conversation with Christina Paxson, Brown University (Providence, USA)

[T]he key to human cooperation and concord has not depended on advances in the technologies of communication, but rather on how human beings go about using — or abusing — their technological tools.

Among the risks of our new communications world is its potential contribution to what I would call the growing “centrifugal forces” in our time — the forces of “fragmentation.” These forces, I believe, can threaten the coherence of democratic societies and the effectiveness of democratic institutions. Yes, the Information Revolution, for individuals and for communities, can be a great liberating influence. But it also carries some important risks.

More information at our fingertips can mean more knowledge and understanding. But it can also mean more fleeting attention-spans, more impulsive judgements, and more dependence on superficial snapshots of events. Communicating more often and more easily can bring people closer together, but it can also tempt us to live more of our lives inside smaller information bubbles, in more intense but often more isolated groupings. We see more people everywhere these days, standing or sitting or walking alone, absorbed in their hand-held screens. But, I wonder whether, in some larger sense, they are really more “in touch?” Greater “connectivity” does not necessarily mean greater “connection.”

Information travels more quickly, in greater quantities these days. But the incalculable multiplication of information can also mean more error, more exaggeration, more misinformation, more disinformation, more propaganda. The world may be right there on our laptops, but the truth about the world may be further and further away. The problem of fragmentation in our world is not a problem of diversity. Diversity itself should be a source of enrichment. The problem comes when diverse elements spin off on their own, when the bonds that connect us across our diversities begin to weaken.

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Address to both Houses of the Parliament of Canada in the House of Commons Chamber (Ottawa, Canada)

When the clashes of modern times have come, they have most often grown out of particular political circumstances, the twists and turns of power relationships and economic ambitions, rather than deep theological divides. Yet sadly, what is highly abnormal in the Islamic world gets mistaken for what is normal. Of course, media perceptions of our world in recent years have often been conveyed through a lens of war. But that is all the more reason to shape global conversation in a more informed direction. I am personally aware of the efforts the Prime Minister has made to achieve this. Thank you, Prime Minister….

Perhaps the most important area of incomprehension, outside the Ummah, is the conflict between Sunni and Shia interpretations of Islam and the consequences for the Sunni and Shia peoples. This powerful tension is sometimes even more profound than conflicts between Muslims and other faiths. It has increased massively in scope and intensity recently, and has been further exacerbated by external interventions. In Pakistan and Malaysia, in Iraq and Syria, in Lebanon and Bahrain, in Yemen and Somalia and Afghanistan it is becoming a disaster. It is important, therefore, for non-Muslims who are dealing with the Ummah to communicate with both Sunni and Shia voices. To be oblivious to this reality would be like ignoring over many centuries that there were differences between Catholics and Protestants, or trying to resolve the civil war in Northern Ireland without engaging both Christian communities. What would have been the consequences if the Protestant-Catholic struggle in Ireland had spread throughout the Christian world, as is happening today between Shia and Sunni Muslims in more than nine countries? It is of the highest priority that these dangerous trends be well understood and resisted, and that the fundamental legitimacy of pluralistic outlooks be honoured in all aspects of our lives together, including matters of faith.

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Urban Land Institute’s Annual Conference Leadership Dinner (Paris, France)

For my comments this evening it was suggested that I share some of the lessons the Aga Khan Development Network has learned from its 50 and more years of work, essentially in the developing countries of East and West Africa, South and Central Asia, and the Middle East. And it seemed that one of the subjects that I might discuss with you this evening, and which bridges our interests of today and perhaps our destinies for tomorrow, is the subject of impact investing.

As you know, a wide spectrum of investors has been increasingly involved in “impact investing,” using a diverse array of assets, employing highly disciplined due diligence and accounting analyses, and pursuing a balanced mix of financial, social, economic and environmental goals. It has been exciting to see the volume of such investments growing substantially in recent years, with growth expected to reach around 500 billion U.S. dollars in the next ten years.

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‘Prospecting the Past, Inspiring the Future’, Preface to ‘The Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme: Strategies for Urban Regeneration’ edited by Philip Jodidio (Aiglemont)

My effort to defend the value of culture, through the Aga Khan Development Network, and specifically through its dedicated agency, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, focuses its activities in four main areas: the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme; the Aga Khan Award for Architecture; the Aga Khan Music Initiative; and Museum Projects.

These activities, which are themselves subdivided into a number of subsidiary programmes in many countries, obey four key principles. Firstly, they seek to increase the beneficiaries’ independence, to involve local communities, and to secure the support of public and private partners. Secondly, they are carried out in poor environments where there are considerable centrifugal, sometimes even conflicting, forces at play. Thirdly, they are designed to have maximum beneficial impact on the economies of the populations involved and their quality of life in the broadest sense of the term. Finally, they are planned in the long term, over a period of up to twenty-five years, enabling them to become self-sufficient both financially as well as in terms of human resources.

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Golden Jubilee Closing Message (Aiglemont)

Because our institutions are growing very quickly, it is my hope and prayer that, 10 or 15 years from now, the Jamat’s capacity in most of the countries where it is living, will be very significant indeed, and that is what the Shia Ismaili Tariqah of Islam should achieve in the world.

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Vancouver Sun Interview, Don Cayo (Vancouver, Canada)

So the risk of failure [of democracy] is that these parts of the world will remain fragile, ill-governed, with weak economies. Internal stresses will become external stresses. They will start gaining a global dimension. … [R]isk management in foreign affairs seems to me to be one of the really necessary attitudes towards global affairs today…. An important thing is looking forward across time, rather than being in a reactive mode. The reactive mode is a tremendous liability. Being in an anticipatory mode changes the whole nature of things, and the longer you have to change things, the better chance you have of making it work….

[We’re also] worried about another form of poverty, which is lack of access. We’re beginning to sense the lack of access in society for the ultra-poor is one of the things that defines poverty from one generation to the next. People simply don’t have access to the social support systems that a normal individual would have. Therefore it’s not only material poverty, it’s actually quality of life poverty, and that is a dramatic situation.

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Paroquias de Portugal Interview, António Marujo and Faranaz Keshavjee, ‘The West should accept that Islam does not separate the world and faith’ (Lisbon, Portugal)

Does daily life carry the same importance as eternal life?

In Islam, they are the same thing. One cannot separate faith from the world. [Emphasis added.]

This is one of the greatest difficulties that the non-Muslim world has, because the Judaic Christian societies developed with that notion of separation. For the Muslims, that separation is not possible. We are expected to live our faith every day, in every hour. One of the difficulties that we are facing in the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds, is the articulation of the difference in values in a comprehensive form. However, this does not mean that we are in conflict. They are just different values.

I would like the non-Muslim societies to accept the values of Islam. If Islam says that we do not separate the world from faith, the Western world should accept that. I would go further and say: it is a wonderful way to live! It is an extraordinary blessing to be able to live our faith everyday! Making ethic the way in which you live your daily life, and not only in occasions such as death, a marriage or a birth.

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Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Lisbon, Portugal) ·· incomplete

[T]he agreement that was signed during this visit [to Portugal], concerning collaboration in the diplomatic field, is a very, very important agreement.

For an institution of faith to enter into a formal, diplomatic relationship is extremely important in the sense that that agreement has to function within the faiths of both communities.

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Gulf News Interview, Ashfaq Ahmed, ‘Aga Khan: The architect of universal good’ (Dubai, United Arab Emirates) ·· incomplete

Do you think the world is heading towards a “clash of capturing natural resources”? … I think we are seeing a concentration of wealth in a number of countries. There is a search for new resources to exploit for national or strategic purposes. The situation can be changed by making a move towards using nuclear power, as it has the potential to change the global economic scenario. (1) …

Any message for the community? The spirit of Islam is to share knowledge and I always tell the community not to think in material terms. Think in terms of knowledge and think what you can offer our institutions in various parts of the world. Raise our performance in healthcare, education, financial services and in civil society. Many minorities from the Middle East countries are living in the West. Just think how wonderful it would be if young women and men return to their respective countries to strengthen institutions and do voluntary work for their countries.

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Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Atlanta, Georgia, USA) ·· incomplete

I think that there probably isn’t an area of human endeavour in which we do not have today a Murid who is exceptional in his or her own field.

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State Banquet (Antananarivo, Madagascar)

Our duty is to try to free people from poverty. And to me, poverty means being without shelter, without protection, without access to healthcare, education, or credit, and without hope of ever controlling one’s own destiny. This means condemning one’s children and grandchildren to unacceptable living conditions. A voluntarist and innovative strategy is needed in order to break this chain of despair and total imprisonment.

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Aga Khan Academy, Kampala, Foundation Stone Ceremony (Kampala, Uganda)

Let me extend, at the very start, my heartfelt thanks to the person who made this beautiful site available for the building of a new Aga Khan Academy. He is Amirali Karmali [and we] are most deeply grateful to Amirali and his family for their extraordinary generosity. I know I speak for everyone here in describing this gift as a truly inspiring one….

Together [the 18 Aga Khan Academies] will constitute an inter-related community of learning exchanging students and teachers, sharing ideas and insights. And they will also share a variety of environmental experiences. Some, like the first Academy at Mombasa, will be in ocean-side settings, other will be placed in high mountain environments, still others will be built in desert terrains or forested areas or, as in Kampala, at the side of a beautiful lake. As our students and teachers experience these remarkable surroundings, I hope they will develop what I would call a sense of “environmental pluralism” to accompany the appreciation for cultural pluralism which we will also hope will be one of the programme’s hallmarks….

The final point I would emphasise today, above all else, is our uncompromising commitment to quality, in every aspect of the Academy experience. Our hallmark will be quality students, quality instructors, quality facilities — an unwavering devotion to world-class standards. Let the day be long past when some could excuse mediocrity by saying that it was “good enough for Africa”.

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L’Express Interview, Eric Chol and Christian Makarian, ‘The ethic of Islam rests on generosity’ (Paris, France)

[Google translation] It is necessary to constantly consider the relationship between the Ummah and the knowledge society. One realises that countries that have succeeded in reconciling both develop most quickly. On the other hand, those that reject or limit access to the knowledge society get left behind. My concept of Islam is a faith for all time, not backward looking.

In the Qur’an it is written that one must seek education to know Allah better, and share knowledge for the betterment of society. That is to say that in Islam, the links between faith and knowledge are very strong and we are constantly encouraged to learn. This is an extraordinary message for humanity.

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Acceptance Address – Carnegie Medal for Philanthropy (Edinburgh, Scotland)

The achievements of the AKDN would not be possible without the tireless contributions of the global community of Ismailis that I lead, residing in Central and Southern Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and North America. Our volunteers and contributors also include many thousands of others from multiple cultures and faiths around the world. They are united with us in our mission to help build capacity and dignity for individuals, to enable them to take control of their own development.

These volunteers include those who contribute to the governance of the 200 entities of the AKDN in more than 30 countries, many others who support co-operatives, craft guilds, village organisations and women’s groups, and still others who work closely with the vast array of grassroots civil society organisations that form the bedrock of our activities.

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Acceptance Address – Die Quadriga 2005 Prize in Recognition of the Work of the Aga Khan Development Network (Berlin, Germany)

I am fortunate to lead an international community with a strong social conscience. Bridging North and South, East and West, the Ismailis have a long tradition of philanthropy, self-reliance and voluntary service. Wherever they live, they faithfully abide by the Qur’anic ethic of a common humanity and the dignity of man. They willingly pool knowledge and resources with all those who share our social ethic to help improve the quality of life of less fortunate men, women and children.

This is the impulse that drives the Aga Khan Development Network, the AKDN. To understand this dimension of the religious office I hold, one must appreciate that Islam encompasses both the spiritual and the secular. This unity underpins an unrelenting effort towards an equitable order, where the vulnerable are helped to regain the dignity of self-fulfilment.

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Public Address (Al Khwabi, Syria)

It is thus clearly evident that peace in the decades ahead can only be achieved when the pluralist nature of human society is understood, valued and built upon to construct a better future. In Islam, the pluralism of human society is well recognised, and the ethics of its multiple interpretations require that this diversity be accorded respect. The shahada — La-illaha-Illallah-Muhammadur-Rasullilah — binds a thousand million people who, over the centuries, have come to live in different cultures, speak different languages, live in different political contexts, and who differentiate in some interpretations of their faith….

Any differences must be resolved through tolerance, through understanding, through compassion, through dialogue, through forgiveness, through generosity, all of which represent the ethics of Islam.

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2000 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Karachi, Pakistan)

The Institute of Islamic Civilisations in London will give expression to our University’s Islamic character, in an international context. Its programmes are quite distinctive. IIC will create an index of published works on Islamic civilisations in various languages, write abstracts and translate them into the major scholarly languages, and distribute the abstracts globally on the World Wide Web. This unique facility, which would enable many experts around the world to access each other’s work for the first time.

The second activity involves the engagement of scholars and thinkers in thematic research on issues that affect contemporary societies that have escaped systematic attention in Muslim environments. Participants trained in both traditional and contemporary intellectual traditions, would take part in a given project through periods of residence at IIC and over the Internet, and results will be made available on the World Wide Web.

An education programme on Islamic civilisations would be the third area of activity. It would develop materials and curricula for the various units of AKU, other institutions in Aga Khan Development Network, and a broad range of institutions from schools to higher education, in Muslim and other societies. IIC would also organise short courses and seminars around themes, or for specialised groups such as diplomats, journalists, and businessmen. A more formal post graduate programme designed to engender a critical humanistic approach to the study of Islamic civilisations will follow.

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Conference on Indigenous Philanthropy (Islamabad, Pakistan)

The Qur’an, the Hadith, the sayings of Hazrat Ali, and many scholarly sources make numerous references to the forms and purposes of philanthropy. Human dignity — restoring it, and sustaining it — is a central theme. Enabling individuals to recover and maintain their dignity as befitting their status as Allah’s greatest creation, is one of the main reasons for charitable action. There is dignity in the individual’s ability to manage his or her destiny. That being the case, the best of charity, in Islamic terms, can go beyond material support alone…. This means that multi-year support for institutions that enable individuals to achieve dignity by becoming self-sustainable, holds a special place amongst the many forms of charity in the eyes of Islam.

There is another precept found in the Qur’an and Islamic philosophical texts of great significance that is particularly relevant in this context. It is the emphasis on the responsibilities placed upon those charged with the management of philanthropic gifts and the institutions supported by them. The duty of responsible stewardship is very clear, a concept that can be equated to the notions of trust and trusteeship in today’s international legal terminology. The obligation to maintain the highest level of integrity in the management of donated resources, and of the institutions benefiting from them, is grounded in our faith.

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Address to the XIIIth International Meeting of Peoples and Religions, Special Session ‘Africa’s Rebirth’ (Lisbon, Portugal) ·· incomplete

A shared social ethic, underwritten by Africa’s faiths, can help resolve many of the problems afflicting Africa today…. I am unaware of a single situation where the faiths of Africa have sat down and asked themselves what policies and strategies are in place to offer long-term availability of health and education.

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