With less than two months until the Opening Ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Ismaili Muslim community had its first taste of Olympic fever in Ontario.
Thursday afternoon, the Olympic torch made its way through the Don Mills neighbourhood of Toronto, carried by President Mohamed Manji of the Ismaili Council for Canada. The Don Mills community gathered outside the Westin Prince as President Manji, donning the iconic torchbearer's uniform and a proud Canadian smile, ran past flashing cameras through a cheering crowd.
“I am deeply touched by this special honour,” said President Manji. “In today's world, the Olympic ideals to serve peace, friendship and international understanding are more important now than ever before in the history of our world. Hope, humility, tolerance, pluralism, the creation of a peaceful and better world through sport, the spirit of volunteering one's time to help those less fortunate – these are the values of the Olympic Truce and the Olympic Movement, and these are the values that our community lives by, as do all Canadians.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Don Mills community members gathered at the Westin ballrooms to celebrate the milestone. In the spirit of sharing and camaraderie, the Ismaili community partnered with the Flemingdon Food Bank to host the pre-torch event. Attendees were encouraged to bring one or two non-perishable food items to donate towards the cause.
A joint initiative planned by the Ismaili Councils for Canada and Ontario, the partnership with the Flemingdon Food Bank was an opportunity to extend a hand of friendship and make a contribution, together with fellow members of the Don Mills community, as they celebrated this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“Our relationship with the Flemingdon Food Bank was a natural one,” explained Ismaili Council for Ontario Member Alim Somani. “Having worked with them for this year's Ramadan Food Drive, where we were able to collectively raise ten thousand pounds of food, we felt that this was the perfect opportunity to celebrate with the Don Mills community and contribute back, especially at this time of year.”
The Flemingdon Food Drive is one of many community engagement opportunities that have been made possible with the help of the Ismaili community's relationship with the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (VANOC), which goes back several years. The community has hosted VANOC meetings at the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby, while VANOC assisted the community with the Canadian Ismaili Games held in Vancouver in 2008. A number of upcoming pre-Olympic events are also planned and Ismaili volunteers will be actively engaged during the Games.
In September, the Ismaili community and VANOC hosted Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, at the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby for a youth dialogue as part of the Olympic Truce. The Truce is a traditional part of the Olympic Games promoting the Olympic ideals of peace, friendship and international understanding. In the lead up to the Games, the Ismaili community will also be participating in the Spirit of Burnaby Olympic Torch Celebration, and Malik Talib, Vice-President of the Ismaili Council for Canada, along with many other Ismailis, will be participating in the Torch Relay as it crosses the country.
The synergy of values between the VANOC and the Ismaili community has helped to forge a strong and dynamic partnership. With a strong history of voluntarism, and years of involvement in the rich civic life that Canada has to offer, the Ismaili community looks forward to being active contributors to the Olympic Games, as Canada welcomes the world to Vancouver in 2010.