Azim Khamisa met Mata Amritanandamayi Devi November 18 in California to discuss his life work. Hailed by dignitaries such as the Dalai Llama, Bill Clinton, Janet Reno, Marianne Williamson, and Thich Nhat Hanh, Azim is an internationally renowned speaker and award-winning author. Following the murder of his only son Tariq in 1995 through a senseless, gang-related incident, Azim chose the path of forgiveness and compassion rather than revenge
On January 21, 1995, Tariq Khamisa, age 20, while delivering pizza in San Diego, CA, was shot and killed by a 14-year-old gang member, Tony Hicks. Tariq was a charismatic, good-looking, a college student with a beautiful girlfriend who he planned to marry. Initially, Azim said that it took all his willpower to climb out of bed, but then realized that the tragedy was about “victims at both ends of the gun,” one being his son and the other a 14-year-old gang member who was a victim of society. So he felt, as he describes in the interview, that he needed to take his share of the responsibility for the bullet that took his son’s life and so began his road to forgiveness.
From Murder to Forgiveness
Azim first forgave the family of Tony Hicks and formed a friendship with Tony’s grandfather and guardian, Ples Felix. Then on October of 1995, Azim founded The Tariq Khamisa Foundation (TKF), in honor of his son, to “stop kids from killing kids,” and Ples joined him in his dedication to end youth violence. They began to give talks to schools, teaching elementary, middle, and high school students about the realities of gangs, violence, revenge, and the importance of making the right choices in life. The foundation’s entire curriculum is based on six key messages:
- Violence is real and hurts us all.
- Your actions have consequences.
- You can make good and non violent choices.
- You can work towards forgiveness as opposed to seeking revenge.
- Everyone, including you, deserves to be loved and treated well.
- From conflict, love and unity are possible.
What began as a dream of a heartbroken father, according to the TKF.org website, has grown into an organization of 13 full-time staff members and close to 30 AmeriCorps volunteers offering violence prevention curriculum and mentoring services to over 20,000 students annually. Eight million kids in 13 years since the foundation began have been taught the core values of Integrity, Compassionate Confrontation, and Forgiveness, changing the lives of young people by empowering them to make positive choices to break the cycle of violence.
Forgiveness in Action
Five years after the tragedy of losing his son, Azim met Tony Hicks and looked into his eyes for a very long time, recalling in the CBS interview, and didn’t see a murderer. He saw a soul much like himself. He and Tony became friends and Azim even guaranteed Tony would have a job at the Foundation when he gets out of jail. He is up for parole in 2018.
Azim transformed his grief into a powerful commitment to change and change is urgently needed in a society where children kill children, he says.
Breaking the cycle of youth violence by Empowering Kids, Saving Lives, and Teaching Peace.
A World Free of Youth Violence.
For more information, contact:
The Tariq Khamisa Foundation
7490 Opportunity Road Suite 202
San Diego, CA 92111