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Welcome to an honoured visitor - 2008-11-24

Monday, 2008, November 24
Calgary Herald

Spiritual leader works tirelessly for his sect and all peoples

The Muslim's spiritual leader Aga Khan greets people at the airport Sunday evening after his arrival in Calgary.

The Aga Khan's visit to Calgary today marks a significant event for the city's small but influential Ismaili community. For the first time in 16 years, they will have the chance to meet and worship with their spiritual leader.

The Aga Khan is visiting as part of a 16-month celebration in honour of his 50th anniversary as imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims.

He has much to celebrate, as this 71-year-old is no ordinary man. Not only does he advocate on behalf of this minority sect among the world's 15 million Shia Muslims, this charismatic leader stands as a living example of someone dedicated to working on behalf of all of humanity, regardless of race, religion or creed.

His tireless aid work includes establishing the Aga Khan Foundation, today the world's second largest philanthropic foundation in international development.

He also founded and heads the Aga Khan Development Network --the world's largest non-governmental development agency. It focuses on economic and educational development and has established more than 300

schools and advanced educational pro-grams for thousands of students in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Kenya, Uganda and other African nations. New schools are in progress or planned for Afghanistan, Syria and the Congo.

Of Canada's 75,000 Ismailis, some 10,000 live in Calgary. Today's event is expected to attract 15,000 people, as followers from across the Prairie provinces convene here for the chance to meet and pray with their spiritual leader.

The Aga Khan has always had special admiration for Canada. It is he who is deserving of praise. We welcome him to Calgary on his Golden Jubilee and congratulate his efforts to bring down barriers of religious, racial and ethnic divisions.

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