Our Imam has often stressed the need for embracing pluralism as a key value for peace and development. In a speech delivered in 2004, at the Leadership and Diversity Conference in Gatineau, Canada, he said, “I deeply believe that our collective conscience must accept that pluralism is no less important than human rights for ensuring peace, successful democracy and a better quality of life.” He expressed his optimism that much constructive work can be done to achieve this goal.
The Ismaili Council for the Southeastern USA, in partnership with the Rotary Club of Gwinnett County, commemorated the International Day of Peace with a Peace and Unity event on 21 September 2021, with over 150 attendees representing local government, civil society, community, and faith leaders.
The International Day of Peace is observed globally every Autumn. It was established in 1981 by the United Nations General Assembly with the goal of strengthening the ideals of peace.
Wayne Ellison, President of the Rotary Club of Gwinnett County, delivered the opening remarks, and Dr Dionne Wright Poulton, Chief Diversity Officer at Care New England Health System served as the master of ceremonies. Members of the local Hindu community opened with a peace prayer, while the Honorable Mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms delivered the keynote address virtually, stressing the need for equity, and highlighting that peace is indeed possible in a southern city.
Mayor Bottoms commended the Ismaili Council for the Southeastern USA for building peace and understanding in communities, as part of its wider work in civic participation. Dr Mahmoud Eboo, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) Diplomatic Representative to Canada, also served as a distinguished speaker. Dr Eboo shared the work of the Ismaili Imamat, the AKDN, and its partners in creating an enabling environment to foster tolerance, openness and understanding, and to improve the quality of life for all regardless of faith, gender, or background.
The event closed with an interactive and engaging “call to action” exercise and discussion led by Dr Wright Poulton, followed by a recitation from the Qur’an by an Ismaili CIVIC volunteer.
More recently, on 12 October 2021, the Ismaili Council signed a letter of agreement with the American Red Cross of Georgia, which provides a broad framework for cooperation between the American Red Cross and the Ismaili Council to provide blood donations within the state of Georgia during these challenging times of need.
The agreement was signed by Salima Jaffer, President of the Ismaili Council for the Southeastern USA, and Deirdre Dixon, Chief Executive Officer, American Red Cross of Georgia.
The initiative is in line with Hazar Imam’s emphasis on strengthening civil society, and improving healthcare systems in all parts of the world.
“Civic and faith-based organisations are long standing partners in our Red Cross mission to collect and supply enough blood products for hospital patients in need,” said Ms Dixon. “We’re especially proud to add the Ismaili Council to this list of good neighbors in Georgia and thank them for their commitment to communicating both the need for blood and the space to hold blood drives in their places of worship.”
Kashif Tajani, Chairman of the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board for the Southeast USA is responsible for the operations of future blood drives hosted by the Ismaili Council through Ismaili CIVIC. “Our community is looking forward to continuing our collaboration with the American Red Cross, applying our ethics to assist Georgians by collecting much-needed blood at our Jamatkhanas,” he said.
Alongside global efforts this year of recovering better from the pandemic for an equitable and sustainable world, the Ismaili Council and community in Georgia hope to continue their work in promoting pluralism and health in order to achieve a peaceful and united world, with improved quality of human life for all.