The visit by His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV marks his diamond jubilee as 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.
Event organizer Tasneem Rahim says her faith community’s celebration has brought out about 20,000 to welcome him to the city on his first visit to Calgary in a decade.
He’s very committed to improving the quality of life of millions around the world
Rahim has met him before, and found he moved her and others to do community service.
“He’s a very gentle, kind man, a very gracious man,” she told the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday.
“You know, when he speaks, he speaks a lot about ethics and values, and applying those ethics and values in our daily lives.”
The Aga Khan arrived in Calgary on Monday after trips to B.C. and Ottawa, where he was photographed with Prime Minister Trudeau.
Former prime minister Stephen Harper awarded him honorary citizenship, a rare designation awarded only to the likes of Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai. The 81-year-old is known for his philanthropy and charitable works.
“He’s very committed to improving the quality of life of millions around the world, and this is a great way to commemorate that,” Rahim said.
‘Ready to celebrate’
In Calgary, the Ismaili Muslim community has five Jamatkhanas, which are places of worship and community meetings. Those centres contribute to good works, such as the Women in Need Society, the Calgary Drop-In Centre and city parks. They also host a popular Stampede breakfast each year.
This four-day visit is a big moment for the busy community, Rahim said.
“I am excited, I am ready to celebrate. It’s an exciting time,” she said.