Exclusive photo essay: Aga Khan presides over ceremony to honour individuals dedicated to pluralism – the ideal of living together peacefully and respectfully

2017 Global Pluralism Award Winners: Leyner Asprilla (Colombia),  Alice Nderitu (Kenya) and Daniel Webb (Australia)

(special to Barakah and Simerg)

Having photographed His Highness the Aga Khan several times over the past decades, among the many icons and heroes of our world, the Ismaili spiritual leader always struck me as an affable gentleman with his charismatically warm demeanour. This year alone, I attended two of his events, including the opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa on May 16.​

JMCarisse_gcpAwardCeremony_Aga Khan-1
The Pluralism Award ceremony took place in the grand hall of the beautiful Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat which is located a few hundred metres from the Headquarters of the Global Centre for Pluralism. Photo: Copyright © Jean-Marc Carisse.

The award ceremony this past week, on November 15, at the beautiful Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat on Sussex Drive in Ottawa was distinctively different. It was the first time that I have attended an event during which the Aga Khan, rather than being a recipient of an honour or an award, was at the centre of giving out prizes to 3 outstanding individuals for their role in enhancing the ideal of pluralism. The ceremony also recognized 7 others with special certificates. His Highness presented the awards with the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

JMCarisse_gcpAwardCeremony_Aga Khan-2The Secretary General of the Global Centre for Pluralism, John McNee, gives opening remarks at the Pluralism Award ceremony. Seated on stage (from left) are the three award winners on the front row and behind them the seven honourable mentions; His Highness the Aga Khan; and the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin. The Pluralism Award trophies can be seen on the table at the centre of stage. Photo: Copyright © Jean-Marc Carisse.

JMCarisse_gcpAwardCeremony_Aga Khan-17Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Beverly Mclaughlin, speaks during the opening of the Global Pluralism Award Ceremony. Photo: Copyright © Jean-Marc Carisse.

His Highness the Aga Khan warmly congratulates Leyner Palacios Asprilla of Colombia as he receives the Pluralism Award for bringing peace to his community in the municipality of Bojayá. Asprilla has also given voice to 11,000 members of his community that struggled through the long Colombian conflict. Photo: Copyright © Jean-Marc Carisse.

It is worthy to note that in almost  every speech that His Highness has made this century – this year marks his Diamond Jubilee – the subject of pluralism has never failed to escape his vision for a better and more harmonious world. He has referred to it as being part of the cosmopolitan ethic, and as an Imam and a global citizen that he is, the Aga Khan represents the very best of that ethic through the mission that he has undertaken to serve humanity at large.

JMCarisse_gcpAwardCeremony_Aga Khan-8Alice Wairimu Nderitu of Kenya proudly and joyfully raises the Pluralism Award as His Highness the Aga Khan and  Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin applaud. Nderitu was recognised for mediating and brokering peace in multiple ethnic conflicts throughout Africa, as well as working to promote pluralism at all levels of conflict prevention by empowering diverse voices and including historically excluded groups in the mediation process. Photo: Copyright © Jean-Marc Carisse.

JMCarisse_gcpAwardCeremony_Aga Khan-4newHis Highness the Aga Khan smiles during the award acceptance speech delivered by Kenya’s Alice Nderitu.  Photo: Copyright © Jean-Marc Carisse.

Daniel Webb, Director of Legal Advocacy for the Human Rights Law Centre, received the Global Pluralism Award in recognition for his efforts to protect the rights of asylum seekers in Australia, through advocacy and media campaigns. Photo: Copyright © Jean-Marc Carisse.

In the award ceremony, three iconic moments that stood out for me were as follows: Watching Alice Wairimu Nderitu of Kenya proudly and joyfully lifting the Pluralism Award high above her head as she received the trophy from the Aga Khan and  Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin; noticing the special warmth in the Aga Khan’s touch as he congratulated Leyner Palacios Asprilla of Colombia; and the impassioned plea by Daniel Webb of Australia to end the sufferings of boat refugees arriving in Australia who have been put into detention centres in Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.

rc Carisse 2017 1.jpgRouba Mhaissen, founder of Sawa for Development and Aid, is presented with an Honourable Mention. Sawa provides multi-faceted relief for Syrian refugees in Lebanon and the UK. In addition to traditional humanitarian relief, Sawa incorporates education and livelihood programming to help refugees become financially independent. Photo: Copyright © Jean-Marc Carisse.

rc Carisse 2017 with trophiesBeAnotherLab, represented by Daanish Masood, receives an Honourable Mention. A multinational collective of artists, scientists, researchers, anthropologists and practitioners, BeAnotherLab uses Virtual Reality technology to help reduce implicit bias and promote empathy across differences. Photo: Copyright © Jean-Marc Carisse.

Another singularly remarkable moment during the evening came when the former Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Joe Clark, took to the stage to present his remarks as head of a six person jury team that selected winners out of more than 200 nominations. Turning spontaneously to where they were seated, Clark told them that they had demonstrated that welcoming diversity had positive outcomes for all – peace, reconciliation and a better life.

JMCarisse_gcpAwardCeremony_Aga Khan-15The Rt. Hon. Joe Clark, former Prime Minister of Canada, speaking directly to the winners and honorary mentions of the Global Centre for Pluralism Award during his closing remarks. Clark served as Chair of Award’s Jury. Photo: Copyright © Jean Marc Carisse.

JMCarisse_gcpAwardCeremony_Aga Khan-13A close-up from another angle as the Rt. Hon. Joe Clark, former Prime Minister of Canada, speaks to the winners and honorary mentions of the Global Centre for Pluralism Award during his closing remarks. Clark served as Chair of Award’s Jury. Photo: Jean Marc Carisse, Copyright.

JMCarisse_gcpAwardCeremony_Aga Khan-18The Aga Khan and Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin with winners and honourable mentions of the inaugural Global Pluralism Award. Photo: Copyright © Jean-Marc Carisse.

JMCarisse_gcpAwardCeremony_Aga Khan-9His Highness the Aga Khan is accompanied by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and former Governor General, the Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson, at the the conclusion of the Global Pluralism Award ceremony. Photo: Copyright © Jean-Marc Carisse.

JMCarisse_gcpAwardCeremony_Aga Khan-12Attendees engage with Leyner Palacios Asprilla of Colombia following the award ceremony. Photo: Copyright © Jean-Marc Carisse.

JMCarisse_gcpAwardCeremony_Aga Khan-11newNaheed Nenshi, Calgary’s recently re-elected mayor for a 3rd consecutive term, seen taking a selfie at the Award ceremony. Nenshi served as a member of the jury that selected winners and honourable mentions for the Global Pluralism Award. Photo: Copyright © Jean-Marc Carisse.

On a final personal note, I might add that on the world stage, as well as his frequent presence and events here in Ottawa, twenty-two of my photos of world leaders were selected to grace the pages of the recently published book FOREIGN VOICES IN THE HOUSE (Dundurn) by J. Patrick Boyer. One of my photos shows the Aga Khan listening to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as they walk in the Hall of Honour. I’ve always observed that the Aga Khan’s “mandate” appealed to most political parties. 
Of interest, this book will be launched at our CARISSE STUDIO CAFE & PHOTO GALLERY, 274 Elgin St, Ottawa, on Tuesday, November 28, 5-7pm. 

Date posted: November 18, 2017.
Last updated: November 19, 2017, 09:20 EST.

Copyright © Jean-Marc Carisse. Images and material on this page may not be reproduced without prior written permission of Jean-Marc Carisse.


Photo: Malik Merchant

Award winning photographer, Jean-Marc Carisse, is pictured at the Global Pluralism Award ceremony with Canada’s former Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Joe Clark. Carisse has photographed many political, cultural and social scenes in Ottawa and around the world for fifty years. He was official photographer for the Prime Minister’s Office for many years serving Prime Ministers Trudeau, Turner and Chrétien, as well as serving Official Opposition Leaders Pierre Trudeau, John Turner, Jean Chretien, Bill Graham, Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. He’s also photographed consecutive Prime Ministers from P. Trudeau to J. Trudeau, U.S. Presidents from Ford to Obama and dozens of world leaders.  Many of his photographs have appeared on the covers and pages of history and political books (including his own coffee table book “Privileged Access w/ Trudeau, Turner & Chrétien” by Warwick Publ. 2000), magazines including Time, Paris Match and Maclean’s, as well as documentaries and biographies.​ His website is http://www.carissephoto.com.

Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com.

Note: This blog, Barakah, is a special project of http://www.Simerg.com and has been undertaken to celebrate 60 years or the Diamond Jubilee of  His Highness the Aga Khan.



  1. There is always hope, a kind of silver lining in the midst of the dark cloud, so let us not write off this ideal of pluralism.


  2. Thank you Mr. Malik for sharing the brilliant photo essay of Mr. Jean-Marc Carisse. Our Imam has mentioned that the path to peaceful existence for mankind is through pluralism. The jury has spoken by selecting 3 winners and 7 honourable mentions for the first Global Pluralism Award, and it was wonderful to see Mawlana Hazar Imam presiding over the prize ceremony with Canada’s Supreme Court Chief Justice.


  3. Dear Malik,
    Seeing His Highness the Aga Khan with Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin, Rt. Hon. Joe Clark, Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clark, Naheed Nenshi and all the winners of the Pluralism Award including our own Alice Nderitu of Kenya gives us hope of peace, pluralism and a strong civil society backed by strong institutions. This will enable us to collaborate and give of our time and knowledge for a better world. We need this at this time when being divisive is the norm. Thank you Jean-Marc Carisse for the photos and text. Good tidings.


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