Ottawa, Canada, 6 June 2005 - His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Ismaili Muslims and founder of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), today, initiated the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat, in the presence of Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada.
Speaking at the Foundation Ceremony of the new landmark building, soon to be built on Sussex Drive , the Aga Khan remarked that the occasion was of special significance to the Ismaili community and the Imamat as it marked a cherished moment, “a milestone, in the forward flow of a valued relationship.”
Reflecting on the years when Canada opened her shores to thousands who had been expelled from their homeland in Uganda , then in the grip of a brutal tyranny, the Aga Khan reflected that today, the Ismailis were, “a transnational community, who were, first and foremost, active and loyal citizens of the countries where they live.”
“Today’s occasion is an appropriate opportunity to renew, on behalf of the Ismaili community and myself as their Imam, our lasting gratitude to the Government and people of Canada ,” said the Aga Khan. “The initiation of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat is a celebration of the Ismaili community’s permanent presence in, and commitment to, Canada .”
He said his role as Imam is to lead the interpretation of the faith as well as to lead in the effort to improve the quality of life of his community, and of the wider societies within which it lives and noted that the guiding principle of the Imamat’s institutions is to “replace walls that divide with bridges that unite.”
The Delegation will serve a representational role for the Imamat and its non-denominational, philanthropic and development agencies which constitute the Aga Khan Development Network- the AKDN. An open, secular facility, the Delegation will be a sanctuary for peaceful, quiet diplomacy, informed by the Imamat’s outlook of global convergence and the development of civil society. “It will be an enabling venue for fruitful public engagements, information services and educational programmes, all backed up by high quality research, to sustain a vibrant intellectual centre, and a key policy-informing institution,” remarked the Aga Khan.
The building has been designed by the internationally-celebrated architect Fumihiko Maki, and is inspired by natural rock-crystal. While resting on a solid linear granite podium, it will have, above it, a glass dome through which light will illuminate two symbolic spaces from multiple directions – an interior atrium and exterior courtyard in the traditional Chahr-bagh or Islamic garden.
“The Delegation with its openness and transparency will be a symbolic seat for the Imamat’s permanent presence in Canada, and a platform for constructive exchanges that mutually broaden moral and intellectual horizons,” explained the Aga Khan. “It will be a window for the
AKDN to reinforce existing, and cultivate new, partnerships with national and international agencies present in Ottawa , that share the ethic of contributing to an improved quality of life in the developing world.”
Noting that human progress could only be sustained when people were able to participate in their own governance, the Aga Khan cited the successful partnership of the AKDN and CIDA in northern Pakistan over the past twenty years, “Successful experience with democracy, civil society and pluralism are the national genius of Canada of which much of the developing world is in dire need.”
Her Excellency the Governor General, speaking about the Delegation, commented that “This place represents such an infusion of energy, and I am sure that it will move development efforts forward”.
Concluding her address she said “May I again say how pleased I am to be part of this important event in the life of the Ismaili community and also of the City and this country. Please be assured that you are welcome here. Know that when you speak, Canada and the world will listen.”
Three other projects are also underway in Canada : The Global Centre for Pluralism, also to be based in Ottawa , will foster policy and legislation to support the developing world “so that pluralism takes root in all spheres of modern life: law, justice, the arts, media, financial services, health and education.”
The Aga Khan Museum to be built in Toronto , will house exceptional collections of Islamic art and heritage and will be the first of its kind in the English-speaking world. An Ismaili Centre also to be built in Toronto , will include a place of worship as well as spaces for institutional, social, educational and cultural activities.
The Aga Khan noted Canada’s leadership among Western countries in the seriousness and respect it accords to the world of Islam. “May this mutual understanding, so important to the future stability and progress of our world, flourish many fold.”
He said he hoped the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat would be an illuminating landmark on “the Mile of History,” along Sussex Drive : “An epitome of friendship to one and all, it will radiate Islam’s precepts of one humanity, the dignity of man, and the nobility of joint striving in deeds of goodness.”
The Foundation Ceremony was also attended by His Worship Robert Chiarelli, Mayor of the City of Ottawa , who presented His Highness with the Key to the City of Ottawa.
For further information, please contact:
Mr. Zool Samji
Imara (Sussex Drive) Ltd.
Telephone: +1 416 219 6014
The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is a group of private, non-denominational development agencies whose mandates range from the fields of health and education to architecture, culture, rural development and the promotion of private-sector enterprise. Its agencies and institutions, working together, seek to empower communities and individuals, often in disadvantaged circumstances, to improve living conditions and opportunities, especially in countries in sub-Saharan Africa , South and Central Asia and the Middle East .
In Canada , the Aga Khan Foundation has collaborated with partner institutions, on a wide range of projects focussed on international development, for over 20 years, including CIDA and the Canadian Council for International co-operation.