“The right to hope is the most powerful human motivation I know,” said Mawlana Hazar Imam in a speech at Brown University in 1996. In his address, he eloquently described hope as a motivation — a state of mind we can seek to internalise.
The pandemic has presented a plethora of uncharted territories. According to reports released in 2020 by UNICEF, the UN Economic and Social Council, and the International Labour Organization, the global community has faced major challenges over recent months. These include an immense reliance on technology, a lack of basic human interaction, and a derailed economy. However, in such trying times where loss and destruction pervade our lives, we might instead choose to view adversity as opportunity.
This frame of mind is embodied by many members of our global Jamat, who endeavour to find opportunities, and provide increased access to educational opportunities.
“Our community relations continue to be fostered through virtual connections. Programming on national and international levels such as The Ismaili TV, Camp CONNECT, and educational webinars conducted by scholars from all over the world are receiving global viewership,” said Dr Ali Asani, professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Harvard University.
“Evidently, the Jamat is embracing these virtual programmes as opportunities to connect and interact with our brothers and sisters across frontiers.”
The way in which our global Jamat is transforming obstacles into opportunities throughout this pandemic is a testament to our resilience. The value we place on human connection has stemmed from the Imam's emphasis on unity which has consistently propelled the Jamat forward. Thus, these past few months have enabled us to develop a deeper sense of empathy, rooted in our genuine care for the wellbeing of our community.
“Perhaps for the first time in human history, we truly feel our connection to people around the world. Our lives have formed a web of interconnectivity, paving the way for challenges that others face to become our own. These difficult times have raised a global consciousness that we are ecologically, biologically, and psychologically connected, and that our actions have real consequences for this fragile planet we live on,” said Amin Tejpar, a Science Education specialist.
This sense of empathy provides insight into how individuals of varying backgrounds, economic situations, and other factors are being impacted by the pandemic. The knowledge that our fellow brothers and sisters in humanity are enduring immense struggle motivates us to act as a source of comfort and furthermore enhances our willingness to engage in acts of pluralism.
“This year, although we were unable to engage in communal celebrations for Navroz, our spirits were lifted by Navroz Mubarak, a music video released on The Ismaili. The song was composed by global Ismaili artists and involved lyrics in several languages, thus representing the diversity within our community,” expressed Dr Shafique Virani, a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto.
“I can’t think of a more beautiful expression of the strength, vitality, and power of pluralism that has helped carry us through this crisis,”
This enhanced willingness to act as a beacon of support and hope is increasingly being fostered by young people. This pandemic has brought with it a paradigm shift which has overturned every aspect of the lives of our youth, including schooling, practicing one’s faith, and the use of technology. On the other hand, it has also brought opportunity to capitalise on the resources we fortunately have at our fingertips, understand our responsibility to engage in active citizenship, and develop a pluralistic mindset through empathy and service.
As such, although the loss incurred over recent months is deeply felt, we cannot overlook the transformative impact that Covid-19 has had on the perspectives and actions of the global Ismaili youth. We are now, more than ever, unified by our ethical and social mobilisation, which is an important step to achieving a pluralistic mindset: devoting ourselves to, above all, enhancing the quality of lives of others.