Khalil Shariff explained the exhibit showcases the values of the Aga Khan organization.
the Gauntlet

Building bridges through art

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Tearing down the walls that block development and promoting the development of poverty-stricken countries is the main theme of the Nickle Arts Museum exhibit, Bridges that Unite running until Tue., Apr. 13. The exhibit focuses on how Canada has partnered with the Aga Khan Development Network, providing evidence of Canada's work over the last 25 years in underdeveloped countries. The title Bridges that Unite comes from the idea that the world must build bridges of communication between developed and underdeveloped countries.

The Aga Khan Foundation of Canada is a cell of AKDN, an international development organization that focuses on underdeveloped regions of the world. AKFC has worked to improve the lives of the poor in marginalized communities in Asia and Africa.

"The organization was named after the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims," stated Aga Khan CEO Khalil Shariff. "Aga Khan works to support high-impact initiatives in the world. We work as a family to create a link between Canada and the developing world and we actually build real bridges as well."

The exhibit begins with a showcase of values that the AKFC has chosen to promote in the developing world. It focuses on the Canadian values of pluralism, democracy and a vibrant civil society. Shariff explained pluralism is the capacity to manage differences in a country and use them to better a society. Canada's vibrant landscape outside of government expresses the energy of its citizens to improve the world.

"These are important assets Canada can share with the world," he said. "Our aspiration for the exhibit is to bring to attention of students and the public that Canada has been doing work in the Third World. The exhibit uncovers the bridges that do unite Canada and the developing world."

The second focus of the exhibit shows how the AKDN provides help to countries at a community level. The major community developments AKDN implemented are the Circle of Chairs and Flipchart. A community gathers together and outlines what they want to accomplish, then AKDN provides help where needed.

"In communities, it is important to give a hand up and not a hand out," said Aga Khan Canada employee Laurie Peters.

Shariff explained work at the community level was an important section of Aga Khan's work.

"The Circle of Chairs and Flipchart is a symbol for bringing communities together to address their own problems," he said. "Communities need to feel they are in charge of their path. We help communities to solve their problems, [we don't] solve the problems for them."

The exhibit also features the individual stories and major projects AKDN has completed around the world. Projects include the restoration of the Royal Gardens in Kabul, Afghanistan and the creation of a 30-hectare Azhar Park in the historic district of Cairo. These projects promote urban renewal in some of the world's most congested cities. AKDN is also embarking on a project to build three universities in Asia.

Shariff noted the exhibit is important for teaching students about the work Canada is involved in.

"The government of Canada has provided millions of dollars and major collaboration over the last 25 years," explained Shariff.

Shariff explained that interaction with the exhibit is important, noting that there are numerous computers and movies designed for people to interact with--as well as displays posing questions designed to prompt discussion.

"I want Canadians to be inspired to be an agent of change," said Shariff. "There are many ways for Canadians to explore their own ways of helping international development. I want young people to understand what international development is. It is not just handing out food. It looks like a big circle of chairs, [like] universities in Asia and university graduates in underdeveloped countries."




Aga Khan: 50 years of Imamat

His Highness, Prince Karim Aga Khan completes 50 years as the Imam of Shia Ismaili Muslim community.

Congratulations for leading the community to create a better world through interaction with all of Godís creation.

During the 50 Golden years of Imamat, his highness has dutifully followed Quríaan, Prophet Muhammad and Hazrat Ali.

Hazrat Ali taught one to maintain a balance between spirituality and the world. We are born to live on this earth as well as be ready for the life hereafter. His highness Aga Khan has led his community to be successful in business not only for themselves, but through their service for the human kind. The Aga Khan Development is one of the most honored human service organizations dedicated to helping the downtrodden lift themselves on to a level playing field.

Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) described a good deed as an act which benefits others, such as planting a tree that serves generations of wayfarers with fruit and the shade. The world is a better place today because of a good legacy bequeathed to humanity by people of all faiths that came before us. We owe it to coming generations to leave the world a little better than we found it, to usher an era of justice and peace.

Aga Khan indeed has led his community to precisely do that through the net work of schools, hospitals and other institutions to serve humanity.

God addresses the mankind in Quríaan, Al-Hujurat, Surah 49:13: "O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. The noblest of you, in sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Allah Knows and is Aware."The Aga Khan has initiated one of the first institutions in the world committed to developing understanding between peoples of different faiths and traditions. Alhamdu Lillah, Praise the lord for his wisdom in initiating the Pluralism Center in Canada, a beacon of light for generations to come.

Prince Karim Aga Khan completes 50 years as the Imam of Shia Ismaili Muslim community. We are pleased to congratulate the Imam for leading a vibrant community that is seeking to create a better world through interaction and co-existence. The pluralism center indeed aspires to promote goodwill amongst people of different affiliations, regardless of their faith, gender, race, nationality, culture or any other uniqueness blessed by the creator.

The Golden Jubilee celebrations are carried on a grand scale in San Antonio, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta with a massive religious gathering of Ismaili Muslims. The event, called the Golden Jubilee, will bring nearly 100,000 followers of Aga Khan in four venues shown below starting second week of April, 2008. He will also meet Governors and top officials of four states during his visit.May God bestow him with a long life to do more good to the humankind. Amen.

Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker, Writer and a Moderator. He is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television network discussing Pluralism, politics, Islam, Religion, Terrorism, India and civic issues. His comments, news analysis, opinions and columns can be found on the Websites and Blogs listed at his personal website He can be reached at mailto:MikeGhouse@gmail.comor (214) 325-1916