Cochrane initiative inspires East-West hope through beauty

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, January 12, 2017

East and West embrace in artistic response to development needs in northern Pakistan. Top: Shahab Moeini, left, reads from Rumi in the original Farsi language, while Dr. Arthur Clark shares English translation. Bottom: Barkat Ali performs traditional mystical music of northern Pakistan on the rubab.
Photos by Warren Harbeck

Thanks to Meryl Streep for providing a timely introduction to this week’s column. At Sunday evening’s 2017 Golden Globes, the winner of the Cecil B. deMille Lifetime Achievement Award spoke most positively about “all the nicest people” being Canadian.

Yup, North met South in the famous actress’s Golden Globes moment.

But just the previous evening, East met West in a golden event of global awareness held before a sold-out house at Calgary’s Cardel Theatre.

Organized by the Cochrane team of Michael and Judie Bopp through the International Centre for Development Learning, the evening of music, poetry and story brought artists from South and Central Asia together with some amazing Canadian artists around the theme, East Meets West.

The purpose of the evening was to raise funds for the Himat Initiative, a humanitarian outreach to a region of northern Pakistan devastated by repeated natural disasters. Two presentations, in particular, really caught my camera’s attention.

Originally from that region, the renowned performer of traditional Sufi ecstatic and ghazal music, Barkat Ali, mesmerized the audience with his playing of the rubab, a lute-like stringed instrument. “Barkat is viewed as one of the finest musicians of his generation” in northern Pakistan, Michael says.

Reading from the 14th century mystical poet Rumi in the original Farsi language was strategic planning specialist Shahab Moeini. Offering an English translation was Dr. Arthur Clark, founder of the Calgary Centre for Global Community.

Rumi’s wisdom seemed especially appropriate for an evening of community-building. Out beyond a world so polarized into camps of who’s right and who’s wrong “there is a field. I’ll meet you there,” he says in his poem, “A Great Wagon.”

The Cardel Theatre was just such a field, as East and West embraced in an evening of beauty, and the globally concerned audience responded richly in the spirit of our shared humanity more precious than gold.

To learn more about the Himat Initiative, visit Michael and Judie’s website at


© 2017 Warren Harbeck

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