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Dr. Keshavjee receives Gandhi-King-Ikeda Award for Peace

Suzanne Sen
May 2016
Dr. Keshavjee receives Gandhi-King-Ikeda Award for Peace

Dr. Mohamed Keshavjee, an Indo-Canadian lawyer, mediator, and author, was honored on April 5, 2016 with the Gandhi-King-Ikeda Award for Peace at the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel atMorehouse College in Atlanta, for his work on international cross-cultural mediation, peace building,and conflict resolution. Dr. Keshavjee’s keynote add-ress on “Transformative Mediation: Gandhi, King,Mandela” was part of Morehouse College’s College of Ministers and Laity Program.

Dr. Keshavjee is a second-generation South African, a descendant of Jeevan Keshavjee, the firstIsmaili Muslim to migrate from India to South Africain 1894. Dr. Keshavjee left South Africa in 1962 to live in Kenya and practice law. He spent three decades in France working with the Aga Khan DevelopmentNetwork to improve the quality of life of people in some of the poorest areas of the world. Dr. Keshavjee isa member of the Board of Governors of the London-based Institute of Ismaili Studies.

Dr. Keshavjee spoke at multiple events in Atlanta on April 4-5, on topics such as pluralism and identity, Positive Peace, and Cosmopolitan Ethics. In an interview on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s On Second Thought on April 4, he shared the healing role of mediation in resolving conflicts in family disputes as an alternativeto litigation where the concept of forgiveness and “making whole” is lacking. 

The award ceremony on April 5 was attended by Consul General of India Nagesh Singh; Dr. Bakat Fazal, President of the Aga Khan Council; Chairman Charlotte Nash of Gwinnett County; Melvin Everson, Executive Director of the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity; representatives of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center and Collection, interfaith leaders, civil society leaders, and hundreds of Georgians.

Lawrence Carter, Dean of the International Chapel, in introducing “Dr. K” began by introducing the activities of the Ismailis in Georgia and the world. Their bridge-building resonates with MLK’s dream, he said, and their cultural, educational, and service projects promote peace and civil society. He then detailed Dr. K’s compassionate wide-reaching work in me-diating to protect the vulnerable, such as abductedchildren. Dr. K is on the steering committee of thenew International Institute for the Study of Compassion in the UK. Dean Carter also compared Gandhi’s100 volumes and Ikeda’s 200 books to Dr. K’s volum-inous writings, and concluded that his activism is informed by deep intellectual reflection.

Dr. K’s address began by recognizing the Aga Khan Development Network which bridges Eastand West, traditional and modern, poor South and rich North, developing global training programs inmediation to help victims of power, imperialism,and apartheid. 

On MLK’s 48th death anniversary, Dr. K focused on issues of poverty, the “depletion of the moral ozone layer,” and the creakiness of the criminal justicesystem throughout the world. Alternative dispute resolution needs a new direction, he said, a spiritual element. Both oppressed and oppressor are stressed and must change negative to positive. Africa’s Ubuntu or human kindness is essential. He related his family’s relationship with Gandhi and his regard forTagore, “another great Indian” from whose poem“Where the Mind Is without Fear” he took the title of his book, Into That Heaven. Mandela’srespect for all and forgiveness have “shaped the 20th century,” he said. Gandhi, Mandela, and King wereall from privileged backgrounds but decided to stand and fight nonviolently for their ideals.

He concluded by citing the 2015 Parliament of World Religion’s Declaration on Hate Speech, Violence, and War. The possibility of an era of peace seemedto have passed into an era of domestic, gender, sexual, and religious violence, along with much hate speech, he said, but hope lies in the interfaith movementand nonviolent protest.

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