Interfaith Action of Central Texas (iACT) honors Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, philanthropist Ali Khataw and the Buddhist community Fo Guang Shan Xiang Yun Temple as pillars of hope and stewardship in Austin.

Image courtesy of iACT

On April 27, Interfaith Action of Central Texas (iACT) held their annual Hope Awards. A chance to honor women and men who exemplify stewardship in the Austin community. This year’s theme, “Better Angels,” highlights the exceptional impact of some of Austin’s leaders. Beacons of hope in the community who strive to help those who need it most.

How did you come up with this year’s theme of “Calling On Our Better Angels”?

President Abraham Lincoln said in his inaugural speech, “The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

The past year has been so challenging for our community and the world, we felt that we had to share hope for people to continue to dig deep into the depths of their hearts and call on their better angels to do good and persevere. This year we felt it was going to take more from us to keep hope alive and to keep going. Therefore,  iACT’s theme for this year’s Hope Awards is “Calling on Our Better Angels.”

What defines a “better angel”?

A Better Angel is in all of us. It is the ability to lift ourselves through the challenges we face and rise above them by focusing on kindness and generosity of spirit to  build up our community.

Can you tell us how this year’s honorees embody what it means to be a “better angel”?

We honor and celebrate our honorees because they embody iACT’s mission and spirit of cultivating peace and respect in our community. We honor them for their dedication to giving back. For their tireless commitment to calling upon their inner better angels to better our Austin community.

Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette
Photo by Kylie Birchfield

Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, president of Huston-Tillotson University, is a wonder woman, if there ever was one. She has combined her IQ, EQ, entrepreneurial spirit and technical knowledge to forge successful careers in engineering, information technology and higher education. She is a strong proponent of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and promotes civic and community engagement. Burnette’s commitment to being a servant leader is evident in her work in the Austin community. Co-chair of the mayor of Austin’s Task Force on Institutional Racism and Systemic Inequities, board chair of Leadership Austin and treasurer of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas.

Nahid and Ali Khataw
Photo courtesy of iACT

Nahid and Ali Khataw arrived in Austin in 1989 from Karachi, Pakistan. They have spent countless hours serving the Asian community. After 9/11, Nahid’s role was to counter distorted images of Islam extremism on TV. To model interfaith dialogue in Austin and to talk about women in Islam. How powerful and respected they are in Islam. Nahid is the founder of her own business. She was the former president of iACT, chair of the Asian community and Education Foundation and a board member of the American Red Cross. Ali is an accomplished photographer and philanthropist. He is the founder and CEO of Encotech Engineering. Also, he has also served on the boards of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, Goodwill Industries, KUT, Mayor Adler’s task force on institutionalized racism and is the first Asian American Board Chair of Leadership Austin.

Fo Guang Shan Xiang Yun Temple
Photo courtesy of iACT

FGS Xiang Yun Temple 佛光山香雲寺 was established in 1994 by the founder of the Fo Guang Shan (FGS) Buddhist Order. Situated on 11 acres off Capital of Texas highway, Xiang Yun Temple was built to serve those who are interested in learning about Buddhism. To serve as a bridge of cultural exchange between East and the West. FGS followers strive to bring Buddhism into their daily lives. They practice what they call “Humanistic Buddhism”: the practice of altruism, joyfulness and universality. The Xiang Yun Temple has played a vital role in iACT’s Passport Program and the Day of Thanks. Their spiritual leader, the Venerable Jue Ji, has been an active compassionate force in the community. She is a tireless advocate of interfaith collaboration and understanding..

The Hope Awards highlights the good works of people in the community. How they give hope to those who need it most. Given the times we live in, how can others in the community give hope to those around them?

We have to have hope. Hope keeps us going. Sharing our light, gifts, talents and resources with others lifts up those around us and strengthens our community. Kindness, compassion, empathy and love are acts of hope.

What are your aspirations for the 2022 Hope Awards?

Having lived in a virtual world for over one year has made us appreciative of the ease and accessibility of this platform. In 2022, iACT expects to have a Hybrid Hope Awards Event. Allowing people to opt to be in person or participate virtually.

You can learn more about iACT and the Hope Awards on the iACT official website.


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