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Speech by Firoz Rasul, President, Aga Khan University (Lisbon, Portugal)

12 July 2008

 

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Your Excellency, Minister of Science, Technology of Higher Education,
Your Excellency Minister of Culture, Your Eminence Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon,
Your Highness the Aga Khan, Chancellor of the Aga Khan University,
Honourable members of Parliament, Rector of the Portuguese Catholic University,
distinguished guests,

Good Morning and Welcome,

Today marks a historic day as the Aga Khan University or AKU, establishes its first intellectual relationship in Portugal with one of its premier centres of higher learning, the Portuguese Catholic University. The signing of this Agreement in the presence of the Cardinal Patriarch and His Highness the Aga Khan, the Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, is significant as it is but one embodiment of the larger relationship in Portugal between the Catholic Church and the Ismaili Imamat.

This collaboration between our Universities is based on a collective commitment to go beyond common boundaries to build bridges between diverse faiths and peoples by connecting different parts of the world together through the universal language of scholarship. The Memorandum of Understanding we sign today is the beginning of what we believe to be a long relationship in which we will learn with and from each other through cooperative academic pursuits.

This partnership is an opportunity to address shared concerns, identify common interests and foster greater understanding and to develop capacity to address the issues of global concern such as poverty alleviation, environmental degradation, the building of civil society, democracy, social inclusion and human development.

The collaboration between our universities will cover disciplines such as culture, law, religion, ethics, the life sciences, education as well as early childhood development.

An initial area of common interest - identify for cooperation - is the comparative study of the impact of religion on the evolution of legal systems as it relates to the law of the land and the bearing on civil society.

This specific programme will be led from AKU’s side by our Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations in London, England.

While the scope and modalities will be refined as we start work in our collaboration we expect to engage in joint research, training initiatives and programmes for the exchange of faculty and students. This would also include the joint organisation of symposia, lecture series, conferences, short courses and continuing education programmes.

The Aga Khan University guided by the vision of our Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan strive to achieve international standards and quality in educational programmes and services. The Universities Programmes are now delivered in 8 countries including Pakistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, United Kingdom, Afghanistan, Syria and Egypt. Our current disciplines include medical education, nursing, teacher education and human development and the study of Muslim Civilisations.

Celebrating our 25th anniversary this year, we are now moving to become a comprehensive University, with new campuses, for Faculties of Arts and Sciences in both Pakistan and Tanzania as well as for medical and nursing education in Kenya. Our plans also include graduate professional schools in law, architecture, management, government and public policy, economic growth, leisure and the media.
AKU’s rich data and understanding of local knowledge and cultures in several countries combined with the Portuguese Catholic University’s expertise in several fields of study such as food engineering and digital arts provides our two Universities with the opportunity to explore new frontiers of innovation and research.

The Aga Khan University and the Portuguese Catholic University are building this relationship on our strong value systems and ethical frameworks that underpin our common goal of equitable human advancement.

Through this partnership we will collectively project Portugal’s capabilities to contribute to capacity enhancement in countries of the developing world in Africa and Asia.

His Highness at a conference on a new economic partnership for the 21st century said, and I quote: “The key to building partnerships whether they are amongst social sectors or amongst countries is a profound spirit of reciprocal obligation. A readiness to share the work, to share the costs to share the risks, to share the credit, and in the end, what it will require the most is a spirit of mutual trust.”

It is on these principles that we build our partnership today and we are very excited and inspired to join the Portuguese Catholic University in this significant endeavour to contribute to improving the quality of life of the less fortunate by adding to human knowledge.

Thank you very much.

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