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The Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2016 Ceremony Al-Ain, UAE Sunday, 6 November 2016 1478458800 Remarks by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2016 Ceremony Architecture speech 2010s 6926 2016 Cycle 1 Architecture Aga Khan Trust for Culture Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA) Architecture


Your Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum,
Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai
Your Highnesses
Distinguished guests


It is a genuine pleasure to welcome you to the 2016 ceremony of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

As you may suspect, I have the privilege of attending many wonderful ceremonies as I carry out my responsibilities.  But this Architectural Award Ceremony is one of those that I look forward to with a special sense of anticipation. 

Perhaps that is partly because it happens only once every three years – there is more time for the anticipation to build up!   But there is a much more important reason:  Architecture is the only art form which has a direct, daily impact on the quality of human life.

Again this year, the award shines a spotlight on six architectural masterpieces – calling attention to them not only within the professional community, but with the global public as well.  In doing so, we believe the Award can help instruct and inspire those who will shape the future of Global Architecture.   The Award seeks to guide and inspire better building in the future.

At the same time, of course, the Award Ceremony gives us a welcome opportunity to look back.  The purpose of the Award when it was first launched was to help renew one of the world’s great cultural legacies, the rich traditions of Islamic architecture.  Those traditions were being lost, we feared, amid a rush of modernising, westernising enthusiasms - depriving people everywhere of the insights, the intuitions and the idioms of some of the richest cultures in world history.  

There was a genuine sense of urgency about the effort to reclaim that precious heritage.

How appropriate it is that we meet this evening at this magnificent Fort, a beautiful example in its own right of thoughtful historic preservation.

As we gather in this special place – and for this special purpose – we hope to remind people everywhere, of all backgrounds and identities, of a powerful lesson: The way in which a thoughtful concern for the built environment can characterise an entire civilisation.

When I speak of a thoughtful concern for the built environment, I think of several qualities which the Award seeks to honour and to promote.  Let me mention just four of them.

I think, first, of how great architecture can integrate the past and the future – inherited tradition and changing needs.  We need not choose between looking back and looking forward; they are not competing choices, but healthy complements.  We can learn valuable lessons from history without getting lost in history; we can look boldly ahead without ignoring what has gone before.

Secondly, I think of how architectural excellence can integrate the Gifts of Nature and the potentials of the Human Mind.  Natural Blessings and Human Creativity are Divine gifts – and it is wrong to embrace one at the expense of the other.  The best architecture teaches us to engage with Nature respectfully; not by conquering or subduing it, nor by isolating ourselves away from it.  Our host country, the United Arab Emirates, itself offers impressive examples of integrating well the natural and the human environments. 

A third quality we see in the projects we honour tonight is the balance between aesthetic inspiration and practical utility.  Throughout history, the challenges of change have been central to the architectural mission.  But today, the pace of change has been accelerating so fast that it sometimes seems overwhelming.

Technological changes have revolutionised our lives in communication and travel, industry and agriculture, medicine and education.  Natural changes – including Global Warming – also present central challenges.  In a globalised world, dangerous threats can circulate more widely and quickly: weapons and pollution, drugs and crime, disease and terrorism, poverty and violence.  One result has been an unprecedented increase in the migration of displaced peoples.

Some of these problems directly challenge the architectural world.  At a time when old ties of community seem to erode, a sense of discipline and personal responsibility can also be diluted.  In such contexts, we hear more about professional incompetence, deteriorating engineering and building standards, and even dishonest contracting practices.

All of these realities – technological, economic, social and ethical – present important challenges for responsible architecture.  The projects we honour tonight have addressed such challenges, each engaging with the particular demands of its own time and place, while expressing the important values of cultural continuity.

A fourth major value that the Award for Architecture seeks to highlight is the Spirit of Pluralism – an approach to life that welcomes difference and diversity – one that embraces diversity itself as a Gift of the Creator, honouring cultural differences as the valued legacies of our predecessors. 

The Spirit of Pluralism has been central to the great achievements of past Islamic cultures, and it remains a central principle for these Awards.

One of the questions we addressed four decades ago was how the selection process for the Award could best reflect the pluralism of peoples and of their habitats.

One response was to set up a three year selection cycle – a schedule that would encourage wide-ranging discussion among a diversified array of participants.  Through the years, they have included architects, philosophers, artists, and historians from diverse faiths, cultures and places – people of different generations and genders.  I am happy to underline that three of the awardees this year are women architects.  We have drawn upon governmental and foundation friends, urban planners and village leaders, educators and researchers, engineers and financiers, and builders large and small.

To all who have contributed their time and talents to the Award process over the past three years – and down through all the years – we extend our deepest appreciation.  

The Spirit of the Award has been an inclusive one, valuing all manner of buildings and spaces from skyscrapers to mud huts, from residences to work and gathering spaces, from reforestation and financing projects to cemeteries, bridges and parks, from the accomplishments of signature architects to those of anonymous craftsmen.  This pluralistic approach may not echo the usual definition of the word “architecture”, but it is the closest we can get to the central inclusive message we want this Award to convey.

The jury again this year has explored projects that extend the boundaries of the architectural discipline itself, recognising that new knowledge sometimes emerges in the lines between old categories.  In doing so, they have acknowledged how the architectural endeavour can provide stages on which the tensions of our time can be choreographed and negotiated, bridging, for example, the gap between the cosmopolitan and the local.  Great architecture can remind us that Pluralism begins with difference, and that it does not require us to leave behind our cherished identities.  That is why Pluralism, the fourth of the qualities I have discussed, is so important to the architectural mission.

These four qualities, I would submit, are worth bearing in mind as we mark the Thirteenth Presentation of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture:  The integration of the Past and the Future, the harmony of Nature and Humanity, the Adaptation to Unprecedented Challenges, and the dedication to Pluralistic Ideals. 

The six architectural projects we celebrate this evening reaffirm the Award’s Founding Principles, even as they help us project those principles into the programme’s fifth decade.  

The Holy Quran commands humankind to shape our earthly environment, as good stewards of the Divine Creation.  In that spirit, in moments both of elation and  disappointment, we hope that the Aga Khan Award for Architecture will always point towards an architecture of optimism and harmony, a powerful force in elevating the quality of human life.  

Thank you.

speech_177226 <p>"Again this year, the award shines a spotlight on six architectural masterpieces – calling attention to them not only within the professional community, but with the global public as well.&nbsp; In doing so, we believe the Award can help instruct and inspire those who will shape the future of Global Architecture.&nbsp; &nbsp;The Award seeks to guide and inspire better building in the future."</p> English
Inauguration of the University of Central Asia’s Naryn Campus Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic Thursday, 20 October 2016 1476863100 Speech by Shamsh Kassim-Lakha at the inauguration of the University of Central Asia’s Naryn Campus speech Kyrgyz Republic 2010s 174586 1 University of Central Asia inaugurations Education,Financial inclusion



Welcome to the University of Central Asia Naryn Campus Inauguration Ceremony

Your Excellency, Sooronbay Jeenbekov, Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic,
Your Highness the Aga Khan, Chancellor of the University,
Your Excellency, Amanbai Kayipov, Governor of Naryn Oblast,
Honourable Ministers,
Our Well-Wishers and Distinguished Guests,
Our Faculty, students and Staff of the University.

Asalaam a lakum and good morning.

Welcome to this historic event marking the inauguration of the first residential campus of the University of Central Asia’s School of Arts and Sciences. For this auspicious day we owe immense gratitude to several constituencies of the University. Foremost among them are the Founders of this Institution, its Patrons, the Presidents of the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Imam of the Ismaili Muslims who is the Chancellor of the University of Central Asia. Their vision of this private, not for profit, secular institution, and their guidance and support, have been fundamental to the progress as a regional university that serves the development needs of the mountain societies of the Founding States and beyond.

Permit me to also acknowledge the intellectual contribution and hard work of UCA’s Board Executive Committee; the University’s Construction, Academic, and Operations teams; the contribution of over 100 Time and Knowledge Volunteers from the Ismaili community globally who have given selflessly of their time and professional knowledge; and of course the generosity of our esteemed donors.

We recognise today architect Arata Isozaki of Japan, whose magnificent designs for the campus here in Naryn as well as in Tajikistan Khorog, and Kazakhstan Tekeli have given us the pleasure of being in this surrounding. This design has been executed meticulously by the many consultants as well as the 600 workers and contractors, most of them from Naryn and from the country of Kyrgyzstan.

Today, our special thanks go to the unwavering support of the Patron of the University, His Excellency President Almazbek Atambayev and the government of the Kyrgyz Republic. As well, the Governor of Naryn Oblast and the Mayor of Naryn and all their colleagues who have facilitated the University's construction and have so warmly adopted UCA as a part of their own community. 

Today in its operational state, this campus has trained and provided full-time employment to members of the Naryn community. The University's future growth will also offer important opportunities for local enterprise and employment.

UCA’s effort and opportunities are regional. The construction of its residential campus in Khorog, Tajikistan is on schedule and I am happy to say will admit students inshallah in September of next year; and the Campus in Tekeli, Kazakhstan is expected to be open a few years later, possibly in 2019.

Today marks the completion of the first of four phases of the long-term development of the University of Central Asia. Many people have asked how we managed to establish this largest social sector project here in this mountainous terrain and in some difficult conditions, and in the remote mountain town of Naryn.

We have done so by taking one deliberate step at a time: The University first of all has assembled experts from many countries while at the same time systematically training professional talent that is existing here in Kyrgyzstan and in other parts of Central Asia and we expect the nationals to take on bigger responsibilities. This reflects our unique model of a regional university, rooted in its context while benefiting from the best knowledge sources around the globe. Among these sources of knowledge is our sister institution the Aga Khan University, which has campuses and programs in several countries of Asia, Africa and in London, United Kingdom and from whom which UCA has received valuable support in developing many of our academic and administrative systems.

Let me explain some other features that distinguish this University of Central Asia. 

To begin with UCA is the first institution in Central Asia that has a ‘commitment to development’ as a core objective. It is also the first regional university with all three campuses located in secondary towns. Its academic programs are offering faculty and students opportunities to move between campuses. Specialisations here in Naryn will be for bachelor’s degrees in Computer Sciences and Media and Communications, and the Khorog campus we will offer Economics and Earth and Environment Sciences. And in Tekeli, Kazakhstan UCA will offer degrees in Business Management and Engineering.

UCA is organised in three separate Schools. In addition to the undergraduate School of Arts and Sciences, which we are here to inaugurate today, there are the School of Professional and Continuing Education and the Graduate School of Development. The School of Professional and Continuing Education, since 2006 has trained 90,000 learners. Our Graduate School of Development is engaged in research in all three Founding States on relevant themes through its Mountain Societies Research Institute, the Institute of Public Policy and Administration and the Cultural Heritage and Humanities Unit.

Besides our firm and thriving partnership with Seneca College of Canada, UCA is forging linkages around curriculum development with several renowned universities in Russia, in Europe, in North America, and Australia.

Our student body and faculty also make us unique. Half of our faculty members come from countries of Central Asia and the remainder from four other nations. All were recruited on merit.

UCA’s first cohort of 71 students was selected all of whom are present here today were selected from a pool of 600 students, or applicants on the basis of academic merit and leadership qualities. They are from the three Founding States, as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan. 40% are women; 56% are from rural areas and secondary towns – this was one of the most pleasant surprises we had as an outcome of our admissions process.

This achievement however comes at a cost. While the cost of educating each student at UCA is US dollars $ 32,000 per year, tuition fees and living expenses are kept at $8000. However, thanks to the substantial financial aid through the generosity of His Highness and other donors, based on their financial circumstances, on average, students pay $1,450 per year in their national currency they don’t pay in US dollars. This cost as many of you already know is equivalent to many good secondary schools in Central Asia.

And because UCA brings together students from different backgrounds, they gain an appreciation of pluralism and its power to teach understanding of different cultures and to breakdown hurtful stereotypes.

Finally, while today’s Inauguration marks the end of the difficult journey of constructing this campus, it is also the start of a new and more challenging voyage; that voyage is to develop and sustain an institution not just build its buildings, with the right values and culture. As His Highness has pointed out, developing a high quality university is not like “instant coffee that you pour hot water and stir”. You need much more hard work.

In conclusion, I am reminded of the famous Kyrgyz saying, ‘Jalpylap kötörgön jük jengil’ which is saying “If lifted together, a heavy load becomes light.”

With your prayers, good wishes and support it is only together that we will realise this hugely demanding objective of taking UCA to its next stage of development.


speech_174581 <p>"Today marks the completion of the first of four phases of the long-term development of the University of Central Asia."</p> English
Inauguration of the UCA Naryn Campus Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic Thursday, 20 October 2016 1476862200 Address by Prime Minister Sooronbay Jeenbekov at the inauguration of the UCA Naryn Campus speech Kyrgyz Republic 2010s 174571 1 University of Central Asia inaugurations Education

Your Highness, Prince Karim Aga Khan, Dear guests, Dear fellow Kyrgyzstanis,

Today in Naryn, surrounded by white snowy mountains, icy mountain peaks, we are celebrating an outstanding moment for us all in Kyrgyzstan. Today, we inaugurate a new international standard university in Central Asia. Dear guests, in the very beginning of my speech, I would like to say that the President of the Kyrgyz Republic Almazbek Atambayev shared his congratulatory message, which I would like to read out to you. If I may, I would like to read it in Russian language as we have an international audience here. Dear Ladies and Gentleman, Your Highness, Dear citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic!

We celebrate a great occasion today which fills us with great pride and happiness. We officially mark the opening of the first campus of the first regional university in Central Asia in the city of Naryn. This is not an ordinary educational establishment, but an academic centre that will prepare the most skilled and innovative professionals for our country’s future development.

We are happy that with the opening of the University of Central Asia, our youth will have more opportunities to receive high quality education of international standards and quality professional training. The University’s building with its bold architectural solution makes Naryn a more modern and beautiful city.

Dear guests,

This past quarter of a century after acquiring independence for the Kyrgyz Republic, we have accomplished new achievements in all areas of life, including education. The opening of the first campus of the University of Central Asia in Naryn transforms the city into a modern and beautiful city. It is an example of our joint achievements.

Today, we consecutively improve our educational system. Kyrgyzstan is the only country in the CIS and around the world that allocates 24% of its budget for education. Of course, we are aware that in the educational establishment we have areas to be resolved. We want to prioritise making quality education accessible for everyone. 

The University of Central Asia admits students selected from across the region strictly based on their academic performance and leadership qualities. Thanks to the support of His Highness the Aga Khan, students from remote areas and small cities receive significant financial aid, based on their families’ needs, and no student was disqualified from study due to financial restraints.

The Kyrgyz Republic constantly develops and maintains dialogue with the Aga Khan Development Network, based on trust, mutual respect, and social, economic and humanitarian cooperation. Last year’s meetings with His Highness the Aga Khan in Brussels and Bishkek have strengthened and have given additional impulse to the development of our mutual cooperation.

I strongly emphasise that the Kyrgyz government is satisfied with the level and quality of cooperation with the Aga Khan Development Network, and is looking forward with optimism to its future development.

Dear students,

Beginning September 2016, your education began, where you received knowledge and skills necessary to become future leaders in various disciplines.

Kyrgyzstan is a special country with a unique role. Our strong state must be supported with professional human personnel. The future of our country is in the hands of our youth. Quality professional education must therefore facilitate the preparation of young people.

I would like to express special gratitude to His Highness the Aga Khan, construction workers and employees of the Aga Khan Development Network, for their long-term vision. Once again, I would like to congratulate all Krygyz citizens and especially the residents of Naryn region and city of Naryn! We wish success to the University of Central Asia, peace and prosperity to our homeland.

Almazbek Atambayev President of the Kyrgyz Republic Dear fellow Kyrgyzstani, 

We are a nation that supports science and education.  Education is not only our spiritual value but also a major resource for development.  That is why the development of educational sphere is one of our government’s top priorities. Whether in mountainous or urban areas, providing citizens access to good education, healthcare and cultural systems has become one of our governments’ major tasks that we have been focused on.

The inauguration of the University of Central Asia in Naryn has become one of the examples of our successful partnership with the Aga Khan Development Network.  On your behalf, I would like to extend my deep gratitude and satisfaction to his Highness the Aga Khan and all the staff of the Aga Khan Development Network for making it happen. 

Your Highness, esteemed guests, fellow citizens. Education and training of high-quality international standards for young women and men who can contribute to the economic development of Kyrgyzstan, is one of our strongest desires. I wish all of you good health, prosperity and every success in your future endeavours. May God support us in whatever we do for the benefit of our country and our partnership.

Thank you for your attention.

speech_174576 <p>"We are happy that with the opening of the University of Central Asia, our youth will have more opportunities to receive high quality education of international standards and quality professional training."</p> English
Inauguration ceremony of the University of Central Asia Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic Wednesday, 19 October 2016 1476892800 Speech by Eraj Uzoqov at the inauguration ceremony of the University of Central Asia speech Kyrgyz Republic 2010s 174556 1 University of Central Asia inaugurations Education

His Highness the Aga Khan,
Prime Minister Sooronbay Jeenbekov,
Representatives of the Kyrgyz, Tajik and Kazakh governments,
Members of the AKDN,
Honoured guests,
Our faculty and staff of UCA
and of course my fellow students,

My name is Eraj Uzoqov and I am honoured to deliver this speech on behalf of the inaugural class of 2021.

Only six weeks ago, we set foot on the University of Central Asia’s first campus in the mountains of Naryn. I remember seeing pictures of the university online and I was truly certain they had been photo-shopped. We all had, a hard time believing the pictures we saw online because we never thought that a university of this level would be found within the mountains of Central Asia. I remember the first day we arrived on campus, we were all in awe at how beautiful our university was.  I am sure that we all will cherish this moment for the rest of our lives.

When you are born and raised in Central Asia, you think that you know the region well, but after being here, I have realised just how much I need to learn. For instance, my roommate Nurlan lives in At-Bashy, about one hour from here and I live in Dushanbe, about 24 hours from here. In just six weeks we have become so close that he invited me to visit his home.

His family introduced me to Kyrgyz culture and they have showed me a side of Central Asia I have never seen before. Studying at this campus, I have met people from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and also I have met people from other mountain regions such as Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Even I am from Tajikistan, I never thought I’d have the chance to meet people from other regions of my home country. Not only are my classmates diverse, our faculty and staff at UCA, are also from different parts of the world. They come from as far away as Canada, United States, Philippines, Germany, Azerbaijan, Pakistan and as close as Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan.

Your Highness, you have spent years advocating for pluralism and diversity around the world, and I truly believe that this Naryn Campus is an embodiment of your vision. As beautiful as the mountains are around us, they have physically divided people in Central Asia for hundreds of years. This has posed a large challenge to our region. However, being at UCA we have realised that education can unite people despite the physical boundaries and altitudes of the mountains.

Some of my classmates and I have grown up in the cities and we were aware of the challenges of the mountains. However, this didn’t impact us until UCA provided us with an opportunity to learn about the challenges, not only through our interdisciplinary curriculum but also by learning, living in the mountains and gaining first-hand experience. This has made us think critically about how we, as a new generation, as a future generation of Central Asia, can turn these challenges into assets of Central Asia.

We have been here for just a month and a half and we have already seen the progress within our academic and non-academic skills. We have developed our English proficiency and our strengths in communication skills and we have developed our independence, and confidence and we are taking more responsibility with various aspects of our lives. Even though the transition has been challenging, the support we are getting from both faculty and our Student Life team has made it smooth and easier.

We, the inaugural class of 2021, realize that while we enjoy the benefits of this campus, we also carry important responsibilities with us. Each of us, each of us, is responsible for taking the knowledge we receive here and applying it to the larger world. We have a responsibility to serve the people who reside not only in our local communities, but also those across the globe. We pledge to follow Your Highness’s vision of what a global citizen should be as we begin this journey of education and discovery.

Your Highness, we are incredibly grateful to you and the Founding Countries of this University for providing us with an opportunity to expand ourselves and our minds at UCA. We are very thankful for everything you have done and continue to do for creating opportunities for mountainous regions such as ours. Honorable Prime Minister Jeenbekov, we would like to express our gratitude for allocating this beautiful land as our home for the next five years.

On behalf of the students, I would like to thank everyone who has made this possible for us as members of the Inaugural class of the University of Central Asia.

We sincerely hope you enjoy your time here in the midst of the mountains we call home and we look forward to seeing you again in five years’ time at our graduation ceremony.

Thank you.

speech_174561 <p>"Your Highness, you have spent years advocating for pluralism and diversity around the world, and I truly believe that this Naryn Campus is an embodiment of your vision."</p> English
Inauguration of the Naryn Campus of the University of Central Asia Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic Wednesday, 19 October 2016 1476863100 Speech by His Highness The Aga Khan at the inauguration of the Naryn Campus of the University of Central Asia speech Kyrgyz Republic 2010s 6926 1 University of Central Asia inaugurations Education


Your Excellency, Sooronbay Jeenbekov, Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic
Your Excellency, Amanbai Kayipov, Governor of Naryn Oblast
Honourable Ministers,
Faculty and Staff of the University
Distinguished Guests

This is a great day for the University of Central Asia and for me, and for all those who have participated in the development of this University in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. And I know that now is also a very special day for the people of the Kyrgyz Republic and for the leaders and the citizens of Naryn.  It is indeed a great pleasure to join with you in celebrating a truly historic moment as we inaugurate the Naryn campus of the University. 

It has been a great honor, and also a great pleasure, for my colleagues and for me to work with all of you in building here in Central Asia a great new institution.  Your contributions have come in many ways; through your wise advice, through financial resources, through building materials, and through the energies of local workers. Everyone who has made a contribution will always be a part of this place.

You all have our warmest thanks not only for your generous material support, but also for your friendship and for your vision.

Let me mention, too, how honored I was when the President presented to me yesterday this country's esteemed Danaker Order.  This award has special meaning for me because it represents important ideals - values that the people of the Kyrgyz Republic honor in daily practice.

I gratefully accepted this award as a symbol of the partnership which has grown up through the years between the people of Central Asia and the people of the Aga Khan Development network, a reminder of the road we have walked together, and of the wonderful journey that still lies before us.

As a result of your efforts, the University of Central Asia is already helping to lead the peoples of this Central Asian Mountain Region to an exciting new chapter in their history.  As we take this new step forward, I am also thinking of some of the developments already underway that have highlighted the story of these past sixteen years while providing a great sense of momentum as we move into the future.  

UCA is not a typical start-up university.  I would point, for example, to the remarkable School of Professional and Continuing Education.  Since it launched its first courses in 2002, it has engaged a remarkable number of learners - over 90,000 in all - ranging from members of parliament to young people from the regions and from villages.  I would also point to the Humanities Project with its valuable array of courses that have attracted support from 77 other universities and colleges throughout Central Asia.  We could also talk proudly about The Institute of Public Policy and Administration, as well as the Mountain Societies Research Institute, two places that are already doing path-breaking research, cooperating with international partners on issues that will be central to the region’s progress.  In yet another area of learning, the Cultural Humanities and Cultural Heritage Unit's work on the musical heritage of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are harbingers of what can be expected.  Meanwhile, through our faculty development programme, scores of Central Asians have completed their doctorates at leading universities, also providing a unique talent pool for UCA.  All of these assets are building blocks which now can help the Naryn campus to play its own central and vibrant role. 

This event today brings back some wonderful memories for me.  It was just sixteen years ago that I joined the Presidents of the Founding States in signing an extraordinary International Treaty.  It was an unprecedented event.  The Treaty was then a unique example to the entire world of how these three countries could actually dream together about their common future.  And it was also a wonderful example of how they could join hands together, across national boundaries, to make their dreams come true.

When I have talked about this project with people in all parts of the world over these past sixteen years, many of them have been a little bit surprised, and they were also extremely impressed.  Do you mean, they asked me, that this new university will have these different bases, in three different countries, all working together in the pursuit of common goals?  And my answer of course is yes - not only has this been our plan, but that is what is actually happening today.   We would like to build our three campuses in the quickest succession possible.

What this University is all about is not only the power of education, but also the power of international cooperation.  It is a power that can change peoples’ lives.

It is important to know that what we are doing here will be a valuable example of international cooperation for the future not only here in the region, but also for people far beyond the region.

And it is also important to remember how this example also grows out of this region’s past.

Students of world history remind us how Central Asia, a thousand years ago, “led the world” in trade and investment, in urban development, in cultural and intellectual achievement.  This was the place that leading thinkers from around the known world would look to for leadership.  What were the latest breakthroughs in astronomy or mathematics, in chemistry or medicine, in philosophy or music?  This was the place to find out.  This region is where algebra got its name, where the earth's diameter was precisely calculated, where some of the world’s greatest poetry was penned.

Why did this happen then?  Why did it happen here?  Above all, I would suggest, it was because of the quality of “openness.”  By that I mean openness to new ideas, openness to change, and openness to people from many backgrounds and with a variety of gifts.  The people of the cities here, even all those centuries ago, joined hands with the people of the steppes, and together they reached out to people who were far, far away. 

That kind of openness can again be the key that unlocks the doors to the future. This will be true not just for people who live down the road, or others who may live over the immediate horizon, but also for people who are even farther away.  They are potential partners and potential beneficiaries as we take on the great questions of our time and place:  How can we best improve our schools, head off climate change, deal with natural disasters, and advance the public’s health?

The University of Central Asia can do a great deal to help address and answer these questions,  not only through its undergraduate and graduate programs, but also through faculty and student research, through relevant interdisciplinary programs - and through partnerships with other institutions - in each case, geared to the specific challenges and circumstances of the region.  And the impact of what we do can not only be global and regional - it can be local as well.  By working with the leadership of the Oblast, we hope, for example, that Naryn will become a dynamic university town, enhancing the quality of life for all its citizens.

Some examples are already in place:  the renovation of the Jakypov Park is one; the medical and diagnostic centre is another.  New plans are underway for an early childhood development center, a residential development for faculty, staff and other local citizens, as well as a university inn for the many visitors that will come to share in the beauty and vitality of the Naryn region, and the new university community.

Finally, let me mention that we are also taking some very important organizational steps as we reach this milestone moment in the early history of the University of Central Asia.  Not only is UCA launching its first undergraduate degree programme, but, as an autonomous institution, it is now ready for self-governance under a Board of Trustees as envisaged in the International Treaty and the University’s Charter.  As the Chancellor of the University, I am making the first appointment to the Board by naming, as its chairman, Shamsh Kassim-Lakha.

Shamsh has had a remarkable career as a successful leader in the field of education.  For almost three decades, he led the building, planning and operation of the Aga Khan University, based at first in Pakistan, but now extending into three continents.  He was also a former Minister of Education, as well as a Minister of Science and Technology in Pakistan.  After making his appointment official, we will now also be moving to appoint other Trustees as Members of that Board, a task I will undertake in cooperation with the Presidents of the Founding States who are the Patrons of the University.

It is under their leadership that we will now go forward.  What we celebrate today is not the first phase of this story of growth and progress - but it is still an early step.

Even as we rejoice today, we look forward to the many wonderful steps that are still to come.

Thank you.

speech_174496 <p>"As a result of your efforts, the University of Central Asia is already helping to lead the peoples of this Central Asian Mountain Region to an exciting new chapter in their history. "</p> English
Brussels Conference on Afghanistan Brussels, Belgium Wednesday, 5 October 2016 1475671500 Statement by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan Education and knowledge society,Civil society,Economic development speech Afghanistan 2010s 6926 1 Belgium,conferences Civil society,Education,Infrastructure development

Your Excellency Federica Mogherini and
Your Excellency Salahuddin Rabbani;
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

I thank the Government of Afghanistan and the European Union for bringing the international community together.  I am very pleased to be here, as the Ismaili Imamat and the Aga Khan Development Network have an enduring commitment to Afghanistan.

Since 2001, AKDN and its partners have channelled over $1 billion to enhance self-reliance and improve the quality of life of Afghans.  Between now and 2020, AKDN plans similar investments in cultural heritage, education, energy, health, and poverty alleviation.

In supporting the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework, I wish to highlight three areas we believe are crucial to its success.  

First, it is urgent to drive efforts to sustain and develop Afghanistan’s human and social capital. For this purpose, AKDN supports the Ministry of Education’s National Education Strategic Plan in over 850 schools and education centres.  In health, AKDN’s public private partnerships have provided treatment to over 1.6 million Afghans and trained over 13,000 doctors, nurses, and health workers. Together with our partners, we will soon inaugurate the Mothers and Children’s wing of the French Medical Institute in Kabul and the new Bamiyan Provincial Hospital.

Second, supporting civil society is essential. Decades of experience have taught us that effective civil society is fundamental to lasting progress, helping ensure development that is inclusive and participatory.  Civil society can unleash constructive talents from a broad spectrum of organisations and individuals, including the private sector.   We are gratified to see these principles reflected in the Citizen’s Charter adopted last week by the government.

Third, area development should be supported. Ensuring sustained social and economic gains often requires working across frontiers.  One promising example is Pamir Energy, a public private partnership between the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development and the government of Tajikistan.  Since 2008, it has exported electricity across the border, reaching nearly 35,000 Afghans, and much more is possible.

Finally, I would reiterate my profound belief in the power of sustained, long-term, multi-dimensional development that empowers individuals and communities to improve their quality of life.  It is with that conviction that I support this meeting and reconfirm our commitment to Afghanistan’s future.

Thank you.

speech_174071 English
Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship Toronto, Canada Thursday, 22 September 2016 1474419600 Remarks by Adrienne Clarkson at the inaugural Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship speech Canada 2010s 22636 1 prizes

Tonight, this prize for Global Citizenship is recognizing and celebrating His Highness the Aga Khan, whose entire life demonstrates steadfast unchanging commitment to the ideals of belonging and inclusion.

Through his words, through his actions, and through the results obtained by the institutions that he has founded and encouraged and nourished, he has become a light in much of the world’s conflicting darkness.

He is someone who has consistently encouraged thought and dialogue as well as practical approaches and inventing strategies that remove barriers, that help to change attitudes, and that ultimately reinforce principles of respect and understanding. I feel the significance of this prize deeply, because I arrived in this country at the age of two-and-a-half as a refugee of a war on a red cross ship, and all of my life in Canada has been made possible by the kind of principles that His Highness the Aga Khan embodies and makes us aware of everyday.

His Highness has realized through his almost 60 years of leadership of the Ismaili people, that no true development can happen without the pre-condition of a healthy civil society. Only the strength of a society that can pay attention to rural populations, which are frequently geographically isolated, and to the misery of the urban poor, who are totally marginalized. It is his efforts to bring them to equality, to security, to opportunity and to humane treatment that we are honouring by recognizing him as a global citizen.

His Highness is totally committed to pluralism. And, his commitment has had a pervasive effect over the last decade, particularly in making the world understand pluralism, that pluralism is as important as human rights to ensure peace, democracy, and a better quality of life. His Highness has continually pointed out that the management of pluralism, its establishment as a pure value, is critical to a peaceful, harmonious understanding and he points out that pluralism does not happen by accident, but as the product of enlightened education, of moral and material investments by governments, and by the recognition of human beings that each and every human being shares a common humanity. And that no human being is more human than any other.

His Highness has been the inspiring founder of universities and colleges – because education is one of the democratic pillars that he recognizes. He alerts us to the fact that education is not simply the promotion of dogmatic commitments or ideological choices. He emphasizes always that there must be scientific problem-solving with a continued openness to new questions.

The way in which he has dealt with the fashionable “clash of civilisations” is to point out that it is really a “clash of ignorance”. He points out that this ignorance is both historic and current and he is unequivocal in his belief that this ignorance could have been avoided if there had been more dialogue and understanding between the Judeo-Christian and Muslim worlds.

He always sees clearly where democracy has failed to create human and institutional resources to nurture young democracies. He is a wise and somewhat sad observer of the fact that corruption can grow out of the sometimes sheer incompetence of democratic failure His belief in what democracy can do is the most inspiring of all. Because he understands there is a need to be flexible, to be diverse in the institutions that take part in the democratic life. And, most important of all, that the public’s capacity and understanding of democracy can only come about through education and awareness.

And finally, he sees and emphasizes the need to strengthen public integrity as the important and sound foundation on which democracy can rest and remain stable. He asks us all to realize that it is not simply governments that make democracy work. He makes us realize that citizens of the most successful democracies are the ones in which their role is played because of their voluntary energies and their commitment to the public good.

To commemorate this prize, I had a medal created by the sculpture Anna Williams. It shows the Inuit Goddess of the Sea, Sedna, emerging from the Arctic waves to pass a vulnerable world to the outstretched arms of a winged triumphal guardian. Because of his wisdom, practicality, and his total commitment to the betterment of the world through a realistic understanding of the way in which democracy can bring citizens to their fullest level of participation - It is my great pleasure to honour His Highness the Aga Khan with this first Global Citizenship Prize.

speech_173716 <p>"His Highness has continually pointed out that the management of pluralism, its establishment as a pure value, is critical to a peaceful, harmonious understanding and he points out that pluralism does not happen by accident, but as the product of enlightened education, of moral and material investments by governments, and by the recognition of human beings that each and every human being shares a common humanity. And that no human being is more human than any other."</p> English
Accepting the Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship Toronto, Canada Thursday, 22 September 2016 1474419600 Address by His Highness the Aga Khan accepting the Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship Pluralism,Ethics speech Canada 2010s 6926 1 prizes


Madame Adrienne Clarkson
Dr. John Ralston Saul
Premier Kathleen Wynne
Madame Reid, First Lady of Iceland
Your Honour Elizabeth Dowdeswell
Your Worship John Tory
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

This is a deeply memorable moment for me. My warmest thanks go to Adrienne Clarkson, John Ralston Saul and the Institute for Canadian Citizenship for this wonderful Award, and to all of you for sharing in this important moment in my life.

Imagine the honour one feels - to receive an Award named after Adrienne Clarkson, presented by Adrienne Clarkson, and dedicated to the ideals of which Adrienne Clarkson is such a leading example.

As you know, Madame Clarkson has experienced, in her own life, what the concept of Global Citizenship really means. Arriving as a two-year old refugee from outside Canada, she became a Canadian citizen in the fullest and best sense. And she also became an extraordinary advocate for what Global Citizenship truly means. In so many roles over so many years, as a thoughtful journalist and broadcaster, as Canada’s distinguished Governor General, and as a forceful national matriarch, she has continually been reaching out to diverse peoples in Canada, and around the world, not only in eloquent words but also in decisive action.

Madame Clarkson ne s'est pas contentée d'être une amie et une inspiratrice ; elle a aussi été pour moi un partenaire pour qui j'ai la plus grande estime. Sa contribution aux travaux de notre Réseau de Développement a été marquée par son mandat d'Administratrice du Centre Mondial du Pluralisme à Ottawa, l'un des nombreux projets collaboratifs dans lesquels mes institutions, avec une profonde reconnaissance, se sont engagées aux côtés du gouvernement canadien.

One might say that to receive an Award for Global Citizenship from Adrienne Clarkson is a bit like receiving an Excellence in Hockey Award from Wayne Gretzky!

As for the concept of Global Citizenship, that was something I began to think about seriously when I became the Imam of the Ismaili Muslims almost 60 years ago. Happily, I was able to share my thinking about Global Citizenship with the dedicated people of the Aga Khan Development Network - with whom I want to share this honour today. What we learned from the very start was that advancing our development agenda, we would be required to respect the immense diversity of ethnicities, of languages and of cultures, of faiths, of philosophies. In short, we learned to embrace the values of Global Citizenship.

As we discuss this concept, and the spirit of Pluralism on which it rests, it is only realistic, in my view, to acknowledge an increasing frustration concerning the pluralism story. We talk sincerely about the values of diversity, about living with complexity. But in too many cases more diversity seems to mean more division; greater complexity, more fragmentation, and more fragmentation can bring us closer to conflict.

The stakes seem to be getting higher as time goes by, but so do the obstacles. And that is why I will focus my brief remarks today on the continuing challenges to the ideals of Global Citizenship.

One enormous challenge, of course, is the simple fact that diversity is increasing around the world. The task is not merely learning to live with that diversity, but learning to live with greater diversity with each passing year.

One aspect of this changing reality is the challenge of human migration. More people are moving, willingly and unwillingly, across national frontiers than ever before. In country after country, the migration question is a central issue of political life. Often it is THE central issue. And old habits of mind, including narrow, exclusionary definitions of citizenship, have not met the challenge.

That was true three months ago when Great Britain voted to leave the European Union. It is true in pre-election debates in France, where I now live, and in the United States, where I went to university. It is true in Canada, as you well know, though Canada has certainly been a world leader in expanding the concept of citizenship. But the challenge is felt everywhere. Nor is the migration challenge likely to dissipate any time soon, especially as war, and violence, and economic deprivation, displace more and more people.

In such a world, the “Other” is no longer a distant someone whom we encounter primarily in the pages of a magazine, or on a video screen, or an exotic holiday trip. The “Other” increasingly is someone who appears in what we think of as “our space”, or even, “in our face.” And that reality can be hard to handle.

When the Other is seen as a potential competitor, for a job for example, even when this fear is unfounded, then the challenge of pluralistic attitudes becomes even more difficult. For those who feel insecure, it is tempting to look for scapegoats, for someone to blame, when their self-esteem seems threatened. Often, we then find it easier to define our identity by what we are against, than by what we are for.

Such fears may be culturally based, or economically driven, or psychologically rooted. But they should not be underestimated. And they will not be driven away by nice sounding words proclaiming lofty ideals.

This is why I would emphasize, as Adrienne Clarkson has always done, our responsibility to improve the quality of life in places throughout the world where that quality is unsatisfactory - fighting poverty, improving health and education, expanding opportunity - as the first manifestation of a healthy pluralistic ethic. Pluralism means responding to diversity not only at home, but on a global basis, creating genuine “visions of opportunity” wherever constraints or reversals are in the air.

But the growing challenge to pluralistic values does not happen only when people move physically from one place to another. As new technologies shrink the planet, distant forces become dire threats. We worry about the perils of environmental degradation, for example, including the spectre of climate change. We see how every local economy can be affected by distant economies. We realize how dangerous forces can spread across national borders - deadly diseases, or deadly weaponry, criminal networks or terrorist threats. And often, the human impulse is not to work across borders to meet these dangers, but to withdraw from a threatening world.

One element that complicates this challenge is the way in which we communicate with our global neighbours. We think sometimes that the new technologies can save us. If we can connect faster, at lower cost, across greater distances, with more people, just think what could happen! We would all learn more about one another and perhaps understand one another better. But I am not sure that things are working out that way. The explosion of available information often means less focus on relevant information, and even a surfeit of misinformation. Thoughtful leadership often gives way to noisy chatter.

Media proliferation is another challenge: what it often means is media fragmentation. Many now live in their own media bubbles, resisting diverse views. New technologies can make communication seem easier, but they can also make pluralism much more difficult.

Yet another dimension of the challenge has to do with the realities of human nature. We often hear in discussions of Global Citizenship that people are basically alike. Under the skin, deep in our hearts, we are all brothers and sisters - we are told - and the secret to a harmonious world is to ignore our differences and to emphasize our similarities.

What worries me, however, is when some take that message to mean that our differences are trivial, that they can be ignored, and eventually erased. And that is not good advice. In fact, it is impossible. Yes, our understanding and our underlying humanity should motivate our quest for healthy pluralism. But such a quest must also be built on an empathetic response to our important differences. And that, again, is a point which Adrienne Clarkson has emphatically articulated.

Pretending that our differences are trivial will not persuade most people to embrace pluralistic attitudes. In fact, it might frighten them away. People know that differences can be challenging, that disagreements are inevitable, that our fellow-humans can sometimes be disagreeable. As Madame Clarkson has famously said, and I am quoting her here: “the secret to social harmony is learning to live with people you may not particularly like.”

My fear is that talking only about our common humanity might seem to threaten people’s distinctive identities. And that can complicate the challenge of pluralism.

Who am I? Qui suis-je? We all must pose that question. Answers will grow out of basic loyalties - to family, faith, community, language, which provide a healthy sense of security and worth. But if the call for pluralism seems to dilute those old loyalties, then that new call may not be effective. Embracing the values of Global Citizenship should not mean compromising the bonds of local or national citizenship. The call of pluralism should ask us to respect our differences, but not to ignore them, to integrate diversity, not to depreciate diversity.

The call for cosmopolitanism is not a call to homogenization. It means affirming social solidarity, without imposing social conformity. One’s identity need not be diluted in a pluralistic world, but rather fulfilled, as one bright thread in a cloth of many colours.

When Adrienne Clarkson gave the Massey Lectures on CBC two years ago, she used a phrase that became her book’s title: “Belonging, the Paradox of Citizenship.” The word “paradox” expresses precisely the challenge I have been discussing.

Perhaps the key to resolving the Paradox of Citizenship is to think about layers of overlapping identity. After all, one can honour a variety of loyalties - to a faith, an ethnicity, a language, a nation, a city, a profession, a school, even to a sports team! One might share some of these identities with some people, and other identities with others.

My own religious community identifies proudly as Ismaili Muslims, with our specific interpretation of Islamic faith and history. But we also feel a sense of belonging with the whole of the Muslim world, what we call the Ummah. Within the Ummah, the diversity of identities is immense - greater than most people realize - differences based on language, on history, on nationhood, ethnicity and a variety of local affiliations. But, at the same time, I observe a growing sense within the Ummah of a meaningful global bond.

When the question of human identity is seen in this context, then diversity itself can be seen as a gift. Diversity is not a reason to put up walls, but rather to open windows. It is not a burden, it is a blessing. In the end of course, we must realize that living with diversity is a challenging process. We are wrong to think it will be easy. The work of pluralism is always a work in progress.

Some of that work will be done in our schools. What I have called the Cosmopolitan Ethic is not something that we are born with, it is something that must be learned. Similarly, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, under the inspirational leadership of Adrienne Clarkson and John Ralston Saul, has been working to give people who are new to Canada a sense of belonging. But this process does not simply take care of itself. It requires planning, it requires persistence and ever-fresh thinking. It is work that is never finished.

Finally, advancing the cause of Global Citizenship is not only a matter of building healthy, diversified societies, but also of maintaining them. Inevitably, new challenges will arise. Canada’s Chief Justice, the Right Honorable Beverly McLachlin, spoke of such challenges last year when she delivered the annual Lecture for our Global Centre for Pluralism. She spoke of how a cosmopolitan society needed, continually, to sort out the balance between healthy diversity and social cohesion. To do that well, she said, required a respect for human dignity, strong legal institutions, and a pluralistic institutional environment.

For me, that latter strength implies a broadly diversified civil society - a healthy array of private organizations that are dedicated to public purposes. For pluralism to thrive will require the successful integration of diverse institutions and diverse leadership.

These are just a few thoughts as I look to the future of Global Citizenship. The challenges, in sum, will be many and continuing. What will they require of us? A short list might include these strengths: a vital sense of balance, an abundant capacity for compromise, more than a little sense of patience, an appropriate degree of humility, a good measure of forgiveness, and, of course, a genuine welcoming of human difference. It will mean hard work. It will never be completed. But no work will be more important.

Thank you.

speech_173711 <p><span>"This is why I would emphasize ... our responsibility to improve the quality of life in places throughout the world where that quality is unsatisfactory - fighting poverty, improving health and education, expanding opportunity - as the first manifestation of a healthy pluralistic ethic."&nbsp;</span></p> English
Global Centre for Pluralism Annual Lecture 2016 Introductory Remarks Toronto, Canada Saturday, 21 May 2016 1463652900 Introductory remarks by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Global Centre for Pluralism Annual Lecture 2016 Pluralism speech Canada 2010s 6926 1


Justice Albie Sachs
Madame Adrienne Clarkson
Your Excellencies
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

What a great pleasure it is for me to welcome you, most warmly, to the Aga Khan Museum and to this Lecture. I am particularly pleased to extend this welcome on behalf of the Global Centre for Pluralism and the members of the Board of Directors.

This is the Fifth time that the Centre has sponsored this annual event - we call it the Pluralism Lecture. It is one of the highlights of the Centre’s activities each year. It is something we look forward to, beforehand, with great anticipation - and something we remember, afterward, with great appreciation.

And this year, it is our special honour to welcome as our Pluralism Lecturer - Justice Albie Sachs.

Au nom du Conseil d’administration du Centre mondial du du pluralisme, permettez-moi de vous souhaiter la bienvenue à la cinquième Conférence annuelle sur le pluralisme que nous avons le plaisir d’organiser pour la deuxième fois au Musée Aga Khan à Toronto. Ces conférences offrent une plateforme unique pour le dialogue international et soulignent le leadership de ceux et celles qui font une différence concrète en faveur du pluralisme et d'une citoyenneté basés sur le respect mutuel. Aujourd’hui, nous avons l’immense honneur de recevoir le juge Albie Sachs.

Justice Sachs’ career has been a truly inspiring one.

He has been a heroic freedom fighter, an insightful legal scholar, a compelling author and for fifteen years a member of South Africa’s Constitutional Court. And, as most of you undoubtedly know, he was a chief architect of South Africa’s new, post-apartheid Constitution - one of the most admired Constitutions in the world.

The creation of that Constitution is a story with continuing relevance as nations across the world look for better ways of governing themselves. And it is about that Constitution - and how it was created - that Justice Sachs will speak to us tonight.

Justice Sachs’ commitment to the cause of justice and equality has been the central theme of his life. Even at the age of seventeen, he was a passionate anti-apartheid activist. As an engaged freedom fighter, he was arrested, held in solitary confinement without a trial and forced into exile. And he was not deterred even when a bomb was planted in his car, resulting in the loss of his arm and the sight in one eye.

As a senior member of the African National Congress, he helped to draft the organization’s Code of Conduct - a key document in advancing the ideal of an inclusive South Africa. And then, of course, came his role in creating the post-apartheid Constitution, and later his long career on South Africa’s Constitutional Court.

All of us who try to understand the challenges of pluralism in our modern world also understand that viable constitutions are the sound foundations on which healthy pluralism must rest. They are the vehicle through which the nations can reconcile the quest for national identity with the protection and the bridging of differences. In the pursuit of an effective pluralism we can learn a great deal from studying the South African constitution - and how it works - and how it was created.

Constitution-making requires a strong sense of idealism, married to a practical sense of realism. It requires a willingness to listen as competing priorities are expressed, and a readiness to negotiate as differences are reconciled. As the challenges of governance grow in complex and changing societies, a widely respected Constitution is essential to the preservation of peace and the pursuit of progress.

Canada’s own Charter of Rights and Freedoms has played a central role in making Canada a leading example of a successful pluralist society. And I should also point out that Canada was a helpful contributor to the successful Constitutional transition in South Africa.

That Canadian contribution in South Africa was principally made through the work of the International Development Research Centre - IDRC as most canadians know it - a resource created during the Prime Ministership of Pierre Trudeau - whose dedication to effective pluralism was so important in Canadian history, and is, not surprisingly, mirrored in the commitments of the present Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

The mission of the Global Centre for Pluralism is to convene Global leaders and to learn from their experience how to bring about a more inclusive, pluralistic society. On an evening like this, we see how well that mission can be achieved in practice.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are grateful that all of you are here to share in that experience, and to join me in welcoming, most warmly, the Centre’s honoured lecturer for 2016, Justice Albie Sachs.

Thank you.

speech_64836 <p>"The mission of the Global Centre for Pluralism is to convene Global leaders and to learn from their experience how to bring about a more inclusive, pluralistic society. On an evening like this, we see how well that mission can be achieved in practice."</p> English
Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies citation for His Highness the Aga Khan Toronto, Canada Saturday, 21 May 2016 1463822100 Citation on the occasion of the presentation by the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies of an Honorary Degree to His Highness the Aga Khan speech Canada 2010s 69341 Mr. David Mulroney, President of the University of St. Michael's College and former Ambassador to the Republic of China delivers the citation at the ceremony of the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies conferring an Honorary Degree on His Highness the Aga Khan 1

Your Highness, Your Eminence and Chancellor, Praeses, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

I am honoured to present today His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam, or spiritual leader, of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. His Highness is also of course an honorary citizen of this country, a person whose many contributions and connections to Canadian life and society we extend with today’s ceremony.

Given the energy and vigour with which his Highness pursues his calling, and the extent to which he has used it to benefit not only Ismaili Muslims but a broad range of communities around the world--with a particular attention to the most vulnerable--it is all the more impressive to recall that His Highness has been serving in this remarkable capacity since 1957.

The Aga Khan Development Network partners with public and private institutions around the world to build (often, actually to re-build) the institutions necessary to sustain and nurture communities. This mirrors the activism of the Ismaili community, whose members are among the agents of change, the difference makers, in so many parts of the globe, Canada included.

Canadians take special pride in the links that connect us to the Aga Khan, to the Ismaili community and to the important values that they so effectively champion. It is a bond that stretches back to 1972, to an earlier Trudeau era, when Canada provided a home to thousands of Ismailis who had been expelled from the Uganda they had helped to build.

Many have been the rewards that have flowed back to us, most notably the remarkable and continuing contribution of the Ismaili community to our national life. His Highness has himself been most generous, as visitors to the Aga Khan museum here in Toronto can attest.

He has also paid us the compliment of associating us with a powerfully important word: pluralism. As he has written, pluralism is “one of our fundamental values and an inescapable condition for world peace and further human development.” He generously reinforced the connection between Canada and respect for this value by making our national capital home to a Global Centre for Pluralism.

This is a gift that keeps on giving, because the Centre also serves as a perpetual reminder to Canadians of what we can offer the world when we are truly at our best. His Highness, through the work of the Centre, reminds us of our duty, and inspires us to do even more.

Of course, pluralism for His Highness means something more than diversity for its own sake. Our celebration of the many ways in which human society orders and expresses itself is grounded in a sense of shared humanity. As, the Aga Khan Development Network reminds us, we find “in the very diversity of human kind, signs that point to the Creator and Sustainer of all creation.”

Pluralism inevitably involves that most Catholic of words, connectedness.

And His Highness is a great connector, a builder of bridges metaphorically and actually. He has, for example, reconnected Afghanistan with its traditional role as a cross roads of trade and people, art and ideas. This has been evidenced by the construction, thanks to His Highness, of multiple bridges linking Afghans with their northern neighbours.

But it has also been achieved through numerous projects designed to re-connect Afghans with their history and rich array of cultures. His Highness is a great proponent of something that the friends of this Institute also know so well: that openness to learning and culture inevitably restore a sense of common humanity, and with it, an awakened appreciation of the many signs that do indeed point to our Creator.

These natural impulses to learn, communicate and connect were anathema to the extremists who for too long held sway in Afghanistan. Such implacable enemies of progress, tolerance and pluralism sought to disconnect Afghanistan from its neighbours, to uncouple it from its history, and to deflect it from its future.

They did great damage, but His Highness has helped to rebuild and reanimate a broken society. Thanks to the efforts of the Aga Khan Development Network, life is returning to the Bamyan valley, where the tolerant Hazara people, primarily Shia Muslims themselves, embrace a history that includes the golden age of central Asian Buddhism. And in Kabul, a city shattered by 30 years of war, hope and pride have taken root in the restoration, again thanks to His Highness, of the mausoleum of the emperor Babur, and of the great gardens that surround it. Babur was the founder of the Mughal Empire, and a contemporary to those similarly ambitious and larger-than-life princes Henry VIII and Francis I. He laid siege to Kandahar in the same year in which Henry and Francis laid siege to one another at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.

Allow me a personal observation on His Highness as a builder of bridges and a connector of people. While serving in Beijing, I was interested to read one of His Highness’s speeches in which he remarked on the size and vitality of the Ismaili community in the far west of China. So, I travelled to the city of Tashkurgan to meet them for myself.

It was a deeply moving experience, and one that resonated with me as a Catholic. I met people of faith and hope and tremendous goodwill. They readily acknowledged the sorrow of being physically separated from their Ismaili brothers and sisters and from His Highness. But they displayed a profound and confident spiritual connection to their global community. They possess a faith that refuses to be hemmed in or isolated by man-made barriers, a conviction that owes much to their very real and justified sense of being in communion with their spiritual leader.

Let us celebrate today our own connection to His Highness, a champion of pluralism, a transcender of borders and barriers, and a great, wise and benevolent connector.

speech_64776 "Let us celebrate today our own connection to His Highness, a champion of pluralism, a transcender of borders and barriers, and a great, wise and benevolent connector." English