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Aga Khan wins Global Citizenship prize at 6 Degrees

Read the article as it originally appeared in the Toronto Star

The Aga Khan — spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims worldwide and renowned for his leadership of a global network of organizations working in education and development — will be presented with the first annual Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship on Wednesday in Toronto.

Clarkson, Canada’s former governor general, said that when picking a recipient for the new award in her name she was looking for an international figure who models the qualities of a good citizen and who makes the lives of others better.

In an interview with the Star, she highlighted the need to welcome newcomers from other countries, with the displacement and resettlement of millions now a pressing issue around the world.

“Basically we have a situation in the world now where we are seeing movement, and we have to take the traits of good citizenship wherever we go,” Clarkson said.

She noted that Ismaili Muslims have their own experiences of diplacement — many were expelled from East Africa in the early ’70s.

“The Aga Khan has taught all the people of Ismaili belief that wherever you go, you become a citizen of that country. Not only do you belong to your own group, but you reach out to a new society in which you are found.”

That approach, Clarkson said, is the basis of Canadian citizenship and can serve as an example for people around the globe.

She praised in particular the work of the Aga Khan in the area of education.

Clarkson said the award is intended to be based on the recipient’s lifetime of work, not just contributions in the past year.

The Aga Khan chairs the Aga Khan Development Network — a group of organizations that do a range of development work in more than two dozen countries around the world, with a staff of more than 80,000 people.

The Aga Khan Museum opened in Toronto two years ago, with a mission to promote an understanding of contributions made by Muslim societies and to encourage tolerance.

The winner of the initial award was chosen by Clarkson and the board of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (of which she’s a co-founder) — the charity presenting Toronto’s 6 Degrees Citizen Space series, where this is the closing event.

After he receives his award — a medal designed by Ottawa-based sculptor Anna Williams — at the ceremony at the Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall on Wednesday evening, the Aga Khan will join Clarkson to discuss global issues in front of the crowd. Rufus Wainwright is slated to perform at the event.

Tickets are sold out, but the event will be streamed online. Next year’s prize will be awarded in September 2017.