The dual crises of Covid-19 and climate change require collective and coordinated action. We live in a world which increasingly demands positive engagement and participation. Today's challenges, by their very nature, require us to alter our actions, to change our behaviour to protect those most vulnerable whether they live in our neighborhoods, or on the other side of the world. These challenges cannot be solved individually or in isolation. Tackling them requires us to reach out beyond our own comfort zones to work with the communities and societies in which we live.
“We inhabit an overcrowded planet with shrinking resources, yet we share a common destiny,” said Mawlana Hazar Imam in a speech in Ottawa in 2004. “A weakness or pain in one corner has the tendency, rather rapidly, to transmit itself across the globe. Instability is infectious! But so is hope! It is for you – the leaders of today and tomorrow – to carry that torch of that hope and help share the gift of pluralism.”
In 2017, the ethos of volunteerism, engagement, and citizenship motivated the Canadian Jamat to pledge 1 million hours of voluntary service on the occasion of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee, and to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation. The pledge was built on the foundational idea that as Ismailis we are not only members of a global community, but are also active citizens and members of the nations in which we reside.
Global Ismaili CIVIC Day
Following on from this pledge, Ismaili CIVIC became a global initiative in 2020 and this year saw the first ever Global Ismaili CIVC Day at the end of September 2021. It was a weekend in which Ismaili communities from across the world, from Tanzania to Tajikistan, from Canada to Kenya, and from the UK to the UAE gathered to contribute to the betterment of their communities by engaging in acts of volunteering and service.
The focus of this year’s Global Ismaili CIVIC Day was responding to the Covid-19 and climate crises. Over 30,000 volunteers in 30 countries engaged in over 600 activities, contributing hundreds of thousands of hours of service. To place this in perspective, it would take a single person working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, more than 15 years to contribute the same amount of time.
Across the world, these efforts were made possible in partnership with an extensive array of civil society organisations. The Ismaili community partnered with over 150 new and existing partners including Plant a Tree Australia, the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), International Tree Foundation, Mission Save Bangladesh, United Way, Keep Britain Tidy, Project Mares Circulares, Seastainable, and Liga Para a Protecao de Natureza among many others.
In Pakistan, Ismaili CIVIC pledged to plant one million trees to supplement Pakistan’s Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Initiative, earning accolades from the country’s Federal Minister Malik Amin, who remarked, “Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing the world including Pakistan. However, the Ismaili CIVIC Pakistan tree plantation initiative is, no doubt, of paramount significance that would support the country’s largest-ever afforestation programme.”
In Tanzania, volunteers planted 1,000 trees in Dodoma, supported 18 fish market food vendors in Mwanza, and supported 4,000 school students. Tanzanian Minister of State, Union, and Environment, Selemani Jafo, acknowledging the efforts, remarked that the “environment is the key issue for our country’s development goals, not only to improve the lives of Tanzanians today but for generations to come.”
In India, in response to the ongoing pandemic, Ismaili volunteers organised a blood donation drive at the Fidai Girls Institute in Andheri, India, responding to the urgent shortage of blood banks reported by the government hospitals over the course of the Covid-19 health emergency.
In the UK, 100,000 hours were pledged to the city of London and in the US, the flag was flown at the Capitol to commemorate Ismaili CIVIC. Meanwhile in Canada, Ismaili CIVIC volunteers along with members of Toronto’s police force collected supplies for children, youth, and recently arrived refugees from Afghanistan. The Mayor of Toronto, John Tory, expressed his pleasure at visiting the donation drive and his appreciation for the community’s spirit of generosity.
Through the Jamat’s collective efforts -– and in the face of the challenges posed by Covid-19 – Ismaili CIVIC has developed new and lasting partnerships and received numerous gestures of praise and acknowledgements from governments and opinion-makers around the world.
CIVIC events continue across the year as Ismailis in neighbourhoods, towns, and cities across the world strive to improve the quality of life of their communities. Looking around the world we come to understand that acts of citizenship are not relegated to annual or one-off events but must be sustained as part of everyday life – and in these acts, we find a sense of hope and common belonging.