Diverse cultures, various faith communities – Muslims, Christians, Jews and others – came together for an annual tradition. It was at the annual Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) Walk/Run in Houston on Saturday. The Foundation’s Walk/Run events are being held in eleven major US cities with the purpose of breaking the cycle of poverty in some of the poorest regions of the world.
Recognizing the suffering in Paris which happened the day before, several local leaders took the opportunity to remind nearly 5,000 walkers present that acts of compassion always overcomes acts of violence – fitting for an event that does just that every year.
The Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (of which AKF is a part), is His Highness the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of around 15 million Ismaili Muslims, and also a resident of France. An advocate of tolerance and pluralism – the Aga Khan and his network symbolizes the notion of compassion on a day-to-day basis. The Network’s underlying impulse is the ethic of compassion for the vulnerable in society, but violent acts of few radicals overshadow the peace that many embody every day.
“The violence in humanity and injustice is a daily phenomenon across the world,” said Neil Bush, Chairman of Points of Light and son of former President George H.W. Bush, as he recalled Martin Luther King’s words that darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that; and hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.
“There is darkness across the globe, and the Aga Khan Foundation and foundations alike bring light – they bring love, they bring hope, they bring the vital resources, not just the financial resources…but they also call all of us to serve,” Bush said. “My Father President George Herbert Walker Bush said that any successful life must include service to others.”
Consul General of France in Houston, Sujiro Seam, is a regular supporter at the AKF Walk. This year, he addressed the public about France.
“Don’t be misled by misinformation, don’t listen to rumors,” Seam said, “France is still a strong country.”
While France is mourning the victims and the lives lost, France is taking every step necessary to address the situation. “We are overwhelmed by the marks of sympathy and expression of support we received from our American friends,” he said, “I can tell you my flag might be flying at half-mast, but France stands tall.”
Aleem Walji, CEO of AKF USA, shared a personal story about his wife who ran the Boston Marathon two years ago. “She did it because she wanted to make a statement as a Muslim woman that we stand with the people of Boston and the United States against bigotry, violence and darkness,” he said.
“AKF is inspired by the Islamic ethic of social responsibility and social justice,” Walji said, as he called for everyone to join together and create bridges of hope. “While instability in the world is infectious, so too is hope.”
Dr. William Flores, President of University of Houston-Downtown, further emphasized the need to balance darkness with light, hate with love, and terrorism with peace.
“These are polar opposites but important,” Dr. Flores said, as he explained the causes of conflict, war and terrorism are intolerance, lack of education, suffering, hunger and poverty. “And that’s what the Aga Khan Foundation does – it brings water, food, education, schools – the work that it does is part of that balance.”
Committed to breaking the cycle of poverty, the Aga Khan Foundation makes long term investments, builds reliable institutions and cultivates an active civil society to improve the quality of life for all, regardless of gender, origin or religion. With 200 projects in 30 countries, the Foundation’s work impacts millions of people each year by creating locally driven opportunities – for girls in Afghanistan to attend school, farmers in Mali to feed their families, and mothers in India to lead healthy lives, to name a few.
As the Aga Khan has said, “There are those who enter the world in such poverty that they are deprived of both the means and the motivation to improve their lot. Unless these unfortunates can be touched with the spark which ignites the spirit of individual enterprise and determination, they will only sink back into renewed apathy, degradation and despair. It is for us, who are more fortunate, to provide that spark.”
AKF is part of the Aga Khan Development Network, one of the world’s leading development agencies that empowers communities and individuals, often in disadvantaged circumstances, improve living conditions and grow opportunities. The Network takes a holistic approach to improving the quality of life and its overall mandates include the environment, health, education, architecture, culture, microfinance, rural development, disaster reduction, promotion of private-sector enterprise and the revitalization of historic cities.
Humanitarian agencies and organizations are the cornerstones of a thriving community. These sectors exist across the world to fight the causes of conflict, but are often unheard of when noise pollutes the global media space.
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Source : http://blog.chron.com/thehumanreligion/2015/11/compassion-overcomes-violence-aga-khan-foundation-walk-after-paris-attacks/