More than 16 months ago, India’s President Pranab Mukherjee described Prince Karim Aga Khan as a ‘Nobel Man with a Nobel Mission.’
“India has great admiration for the Aga Khan and his noble mission of providing service to the needy and underprivileged in many parts of the world. His stress on tolerance and service to humanity is a valuable contribution in countering sectarianism and fundamentalism,” Mr Mukherjee said, following his meeting on September 19, 2013.
It was therefore no surprise that the Indian government honoured Aga Khan with ‘Padma Vibhushan,’ the second highest Indian civilian award on India’s 66th Republic Day on January 26, 2015. The Award, rarely given to foreigners (Sir Edmund Hillary was honoured posthumously at the Government House in Auckland on May 22, 2008 (Indian Newslink, June 1, 2008) was India’s endorsement of Aga Khan’s status as a person of eminence and as a philanthropist.
Restricted to a limited number of people for ‘exceptional and distinguished service,’ Padma Vibhushan recognises work of any distinction and is given for distinguished and exceptional achievements and service in all fields of activities and disciplines.
Mr Mukherjee said that the institutions under the ‘Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) have been working closely with various ministries and agencies of the Central and State governments in India in implementing diverse activities.
“These include health, education, rural development, culture and promoting people’s livelihood,” he said and praised AKDN’s restoration project of gardens at the tomb of Humayun in Delhi.
Imam of Ismailis
Born Shah Karim Al Husseini, Aga Khan IV has been the Imam of ‘Nizari Ismailism,’ a denomination within Shia Muslims for the past 58 years. He has his primary residence at Aiglemont Estate in the town of Gouvieux, north of Paris, France.
He is the 49th hereditary Imam and stated to be a direct descendant of Prophet Mohammed through his cousin and son-in-law Ali, the first Imam and his wife Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter.
The population of Ismail Muslims in New Zealand and Australia is small but they have been pursuing the tenets of their belief, the most significant of which is social development and economic progress.
Key NZ partner
‘The Bamyan Ecotourism Programme,’ for instance, is developing sustainable tourism in Bamyan to help preserve and develop the history and culture of the region, provide employment to the local people, improve their living standards and revive the Afghan economy.
Exhibition of Achievements
Indian Newslink will run a series of articles in its ensuing issues to enable our readers to understand and appreciate the small and growing community.
Aga Khan is a world leader by his own right and visits several countries throughout the year meeting heads of state, addressing conferences, launching community and social development projects and initiating new ideas for uplift of the poor.
In 2007, when he completed 50 years of his role as the Imam, his followers created ‘Rays of Lights: Glimpses into the Ismaili Imamat,’ an exhibition of photographs and narrative tablets that spoke of his life, works and passion for people.
After almost eight years of its origin in France (at the final Darbar of Aga Khan) and rounds in various parts of the world, the Exhibition debuted in Auckland at the ASB Show Grounds on February 20 and 21, 2015.
Commerce Minister Paul Goldfield represented the National government at the inaugural ceremony on February 20, saying that the exhibition would raise awareness of Aga Khan and the good work done by the AKDN among the people in this country.
Members of Parliament Phil Goff (Labour), Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, Dr Parmjeet Parmar (National) and Mahesh Bindra (NZ First) were among the guests at the event.
Apart from celebrating 50 years of Aga Khan as Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Imamat, ‘Rays of Light: Glimpses into the Ismaili Imamat’ also contains historic accounts dating back 400 years. Covering about 4000 Square feet, the circular exhibition incorporates more than 200 photographs displaying Aga Khan’s efforts to improve the quality of life of all.
According to Nina Hirji Kheraj, a curator, the exhibition is not just to be looked at; but experienced.
“We hope that visitors will be touched intellectually, emotionally and spiritually by the experience. We also hope that they will leave the exhibition with an increased understanding of the role of the Imam as a spiritual and world leader and with a heightened sense of the value embodied in Islam,” she said.