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Community Champion

Azim Khamisa, the Tariq Khamisa Foundation

“Azim is a living example of how goodwill can lead, eventually, to peace: He found it in his heart to forgive the person who murdered his son. After extending this extraordinary act of forgiveness, Azim began a journey to promote the power of compassion, forgiveness, and restorative justice.”

“Sustained goodwill creates friendship. Sustained friendship creates trust. Sustained trust creates empathy. Sustained empathy creates compassion. Sustained compassion creates peace,” states Azim Khamisa, articulating his Peace Formula.

Azim is a living example of how goodwill can lead, eventually, to peace: He found it in his heart to forgive the person who murdered his son.

After extending this extraordinary act of forgiveness, Azim began a journey to promote the power of compassion, forgiveness, and restorative justice. He established the Tariq Khamisa Foundation after his 20-year-old son, Tariq, was shot by 14-year-old Tony Hicks in 1995. Azim explains that through the foundation, “I emphasize the importance of accountability, of empathy, of compassion, of forgiveness, of peacemaking and peace-building as cornerstones of becoming a committed nonviolent leader.”

Tony’s grandfather, Ples Felix, quickly joined Azim in his efforts. “The one thing we can both do is make sure other young souls do not end up dead like Tariq, or in prison like Tony,” Ples vows. The two men have given over 1,000 presentations worldwide, mostly in schools. Granted parole in 2018, Tony himself is now an active representative for the foundation.

Azim has received over 150,000 letters from young people who have heard him speak. “What that tells me is not only are these principles teachable, our kids are hungry for them. Most of our kids are not going to grow up and become scientists and astronauts and doctors, but they are going to be parents. I believe it’s important to teach strong ethical, moral, and spiritual values. That will help them navigate their lives,” he asserts.

Azim’s spirituality has been fundamental for the principles that he teaches. A Sufi Muslim, meditation is an essential part of his practice. Shortly after Tariq’s death, it was through meditation that a “spark of clarity” arose, prompting Azim to forge the path of forgiveness and to encourage others through their own challenges. He explains, “Every saint has suffered the dark night of the soul, yet in every dark night of the soul, there is a spark of clarity. And that spark of clarity for me was that I saw there were victims at both ends of the gun. That clarity later helped me forgive my son’s killer, understanding the real culprit was the societal forces that force many young men and women to fall through the cracks.”

In addressing those societal forces, Azim found his divine purpose: “I think once you are on your spiritual purpose, you have a perpetual tailwind and the road rises to meet you. I believe when you are on your spiritual purpose, God is your partner, and with a partner like that, what is not possible?”

Ples observes that Azim’s spiritual resilience has not only propelled him through his work promoting nonviolence, but also allows him to connect with individuals from all backgrounds, faiths, and creeds. “Azim is a Muslim brother, and he has and continues to develop wonderful relationships with folks all over the religious spectrum,” he notes. “I’ve watched Azim continue to grow and develop and evolve. He continues to grow and evolve because he’s hungry for knowledge, and he’s thirsty for the spiritual growth that comes from that interaction with other very spiritual folks … those very, very rewarding, wonderful interactions.”

Through the crucial work of the foundation, Azim is able to give his message of hope in honor of Tariq, who wrote about the importance of “living by giving.” It also provides an avenue for him to be continually connected to his son: “Every time I speak with students, before I go onstage, I’ll ask him, ‘Tariq, are you ready? We need to go talk to students.’ So he speaks through me, and I think we have this frequency that we both vibrate at that I can call on him, and he is as close to me as my own breath.”

To learn more about Azim Khamisa and the Tariq Khamisa Foundation, please visit azimkhamisa.com and tkf.org.

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