DATE: 2004.06.18
CATEGORY: National general news

Failed democracies greatest global threat, Aga Khan tells students

TORONTO (CP) _ The biggest global threat is not failed states but failed democracies, the Aga Khan told a graduating class at the University of Toronto on Friday afternoon.

The 49th hereditary spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims appealed to the class of teaching grads at Convocation Hall to instil in students the virtues of pluralism, meritocracy and civil society _ three pillars on which successful democracies are built.

``True regime change occurs when liberty is guaranteed by a people free to create or support institutions of their own choosing,'' he said. ``True regime change occurs when that strength and that freedom are defined by the depth, breadth and quality of education shared across the story in question.''

The Aga Khan addressed the convocation after receiving an honorary doctor of laws degree recognizing his contributions to community service, higher education and philanthropy.

The Aga Khan called Canada an exemplary world leader in democracy. He underlined, however, that while there are many opportunities for partnership between Canada and the developing world, such as the twinning of institutions, there is still much more potential for change.

He urged the graduates to ``reflect deeply on the needs of their world today,'' and to ``seize opportunities for sharing your knowledge with future generations here in Canada.''

Dozens of Ismaili followers waited outside the hall with flowers for the Imam.

Fanny Mariji was with her five-year-old daughter Inaara, who was ready to hand the Aga Khan a red rose.

``He's our spiritual leader, he himself is God,'' she said. ``His vision is 25 years ahead of our time.''

(Toronto Star)