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Citation for His Highness the Aga Khan by Professor Andrew Petter, President and Vice-Chancellor of Simon Fraser University Vancouver, Canada Saturday, 20 October 2018 1539955800 Citation for His Highness the Aga Khan by Professor Andrew Petter, President and Vice-Chancellor of Simon Fraser University speech Canada 2010s 216391 1

Thank you.

President Ono,
Your Highness,
Your Honour,
Madam Chancellor,

As with UBC, Simon Fraser University is committed to the values of education, pluralism and global citizenship as drivers of social betterment. But SFU’s association with the example of His Highness the Aga Khan also relates to two other dimensions.

First, SFU aspires to be Canada’s most community-engaged research university, for the benefit of our students and of the communities we serve. And I can think of no better demonstration of the value of community engagement than that exemplified by the Aga Khan Development Network.

Second, we at SFU have committed ourselves to marshaling university resources to build social capital and to promote community betterment – goals that has been evident in the Aga Khan’s priorities for more than half a century.

The advancement of education by the Aga Khan Development Network (or AKDN) is, perhaps, the most obvious illustration of this priority. The AKDN engages more than two million learners a year, including 750,000 in early childhood development and more than a million at the elementary and high school levels through the Aga Khan Schools and Aga Khan Academies.

At the post-secondary level, the Aga Khan University and the University of Central Asia proudly claim 15,000 alumni, including doctors, nurses, teachers and school managers who are raising standards and playing leading roles in their fields and communities.

In the area of health, the AKDN supports a network of hospitals, including the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi, considered to be one of the best on the continent of Africa. The AKDN is also a leading supporter of health research, especially in areas such as tuberculosis that affect vulnerable populations.

In support of civil society, the Aga Khan Rural Support Programmes have embodied and employed grassroots democracy, participatory governance and pluralism as the springboards for improving the conditions of more than 8 million people living in poor, rural areas. And the AKDN supplies agricultural aid to more than 100,000 cotton farmers, while its social programmes offer microfinance, education, health and sanitation support.

In the category of humanitarian assistance, the AKDN is often one of the first on-the-ground responders after a natural or human-caused disaster, and one of the last to leave, working on long-term redevelopment for the benefit of all those affected. It frequently applies that same focus in remote and fragile geographies, working to reduce poverty, ensure food security and improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and their families. 

Also in the realm of social infrastructure, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture has shown how culture can be a catalyst for improving the quality of life. The Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme conducts complex restoration and conservation projects. It creates parks and gardens, and it plans and operates cultural assets from Afghanistan to Zanzibar. Indeed, His Highness earlier this week inaugurated the Aga Khan Garden in Edmonton, bringing to Canada some of the extraordinary cultural legacies of Muslim civilizations.

In an area where culture, education and social infrastructure intersect, the Aga Khan supports the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Since 1977, this has been one of the world’s pre-eminent architectural awards, focused on everything from village planning to environmental sanitation.

In addition to a vast array of not-for-profit initiatives, the Aga Khan has also established the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, which invests in ethically run, self-sustaining companies that create employment, provide essential goods and services, and promote economic development.

The Fund underwrites entrepreneurs and development, from an award-winning mobile phone company in Afghanistan to hydroelectric plants that provide half the electricity to Uganda – a country, by the way, that ejected its Ismaili population in 1972.

This is a leader who has much to teach us about truth and reconciliation.

And so we say, in looking to this remarkable record, and in celebrating the alignment of our values, it is clear that His Highness the Aga Khan is richly deserving of the honours we bestow today.

We, in turn, are profoundly honoured to be in association with His Highness and the honours that we provide to our two institutions.

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Citation for His Highness the Aga Khan by Professor Santa Ono, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Saturday, 20 October 2018 1539955800 Citation for His Highness the Aga Khan by Professor Santa Ono, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of British Columbia speech Canada 2010s 216386 1 honorary degree

Your Highness,
Your Honour,
Madam Chancellor,
And Governors and Senators of UBC and SFU,
Friends of our two universities,
And of the Ismaili community,

I am deeply honoured today, with my esteemed colleague, SFU President Andrew Petter, to welcome and present His Highness the Aga Khan IV, Imam of the world’s Shia Ismaili Muslims. We are gathered today to confer honour upon His Highness. Specifically – and for the first time in our two institutions’ history – we are here to confer honorary degrees from both of our universities.

The honorary degree is the highest honour that a university can bestow, one that recognizes the accomplishments and contributions of an exceptional individual. In honouring a candidate of eminence and excellence, we also offer a public illustration of our own values and ambitions. We do so to inspire our graduates and our community. To this end, I can think of no candidate who so deserves this unprecedented joint recognition than His Highness the Aga Khan.

Speaking from the perspective of my own university, UBC has defined its purpose as:

“Pursuing excellence in research, learning and engagement to foster global citizenship and to advance a sustainable and just society across British Columbia, Canada and the world.” Related to that pursuit, our vision is: “Inspiring people, ideas and actions for a better world.”

Who, in that regard, could be a better exemplar than His Highness the Aga Khan? The Aga Khan Development Network – the AKDN – works in more than 30 countries. Operating roughly 1,000 programmes and institutions, it employs more than 80,000 people and invests more than $1 billion, every year, in non-profit development activities.

This is a profound example of global citizenship, and one that is inclusive of race and ideology. The AKDN is guided by the ethical principles of Islam, particularly consultation, solidarity with those less fortunate, self-reliance and human dignity. But the Aga Khan’s leadership is not restricted to a particular community, country or region. Rather, the AKDN focuses on the poor and vulnerable – although, as many UBC students and graduates can attest, it also supports programmes in Europe and here in North America. Working with every religion, race, ethnicity and gender, pluralism is a central pillar of the AKDN’s ethical framework. We are all, again, inspired by his example.

His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan is the 49th Imam of the Ismaili Muslims. In that role, he is the spiritual leader of the 15 million Ismailis, a multi-ethnic community dispersed among more than 25 countries, including South and Central Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Western Europe and North America. There are more than 100,000 Ismailis in Canada alone.

Renowned for the good works of the AKDN, the Aga Khan has demurred when people call him a philanthropist. He says, rather, that his mandate requires that he use the office of the Ismaili Imamat which he inherited to improve the quality of life for the world’s most vulnerable. He presents his work not as an act of generosity but as the exercise of his responsibility. If we all took the same view in our own lives, it would be such a better world.

Born Prince Karim Aga Khan, in Geneva, Switzerland, on December 13, 1936, the Aga Khan is the eldest son of Prince Aly Khan and his first wife, the Princess Tajuddawlah. It is believed that the Aga Khan is a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, through the Prophet’s daughter Fatima az-Zahra and her husband, and Muhammad’s cousin, Ali, who was the first Imam in Shia Islam.

The Aga Khan spent his early years in Nairobi, Kenya, where he began his education under private tutelage before returning to Switzerland and boarding school at the Institut le Rosey. He then studied Islamic history at Harvard University, where he graduated 1959 with a Bachelor of Arts and a varsity H for soccer. As an athlete of accomplishment, he also competed on behalf of Iran as a downhill skier in the 1964 Olympics.

On July 11, 1957, at just 20 years of age, the young prince was elevated to the role of Imam. The prince’s grandfather, Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan III, who had served as Imam for the previous 72 years, said he was designating his grandson because, and here I quote from the late Imam’s will itself:

“I am convinced that it is in the best interest of the Shia Ismaili Muslim Community that I should be succeeded by a young man who has been brought up and developed during recent years and in the midst of the new age and who brings a new outlook on life to his office as Imam.”

In more than 60 years of service, His Highness the Aga Khan has proved the wisdom of his grandfather’s choice.

I would now like to invite my colleague, SFU President Andrew Petter, to continue the Citation.

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Inauguration of the Aga Khan Garden, Edmonton Edmonton, Alberta, Canada Friday, 19 October 2018 1539696600 Speech by Hon. Rachel Notley, Premier of Alberta at the inauguration of the Aga Khan Garden speech Canada 2010s 216286 1 Aga Khan Trust for Culture Architecture,Culture

Well thank you very much and welcome everyone.

I’d like to begin by joining President Turpin and Her Honour, by acknowledging that we are all here on the traditional territory of Treaty Six and also to recognize the Metis people of Alberta who share a very deep connection with Islam that we are very, very, effectively celebrating here today.

It is a great honour to welcome you, your Highness, back to Alberta. It is wonderful to see you again and it’s a pleasure to be here with so many other distinguished guests including Their Honours, President Turpin and our many distinguished guests in the audience today, as we celebrate this exceptionally generous gift.

Years of hard, thoughtful work have produced extraordinary results and as this garden matures, it will become more beautiful with every passing year, if you can imagine that, because it is already rather stunning and jaw-dropping really.

You can say the same thing, quite frankly, about this region, and our province. There is a trend at work. The capital region is steadily becoming an even better place for people to work, to live and play, bringing new jobs, businesses and family attractions.

The Royal Alberta Museum, the biggest museum in Western Canada, just opened its doors and it will bring exhibits and visitors from around the world. On a slightly different track, in a few weeks we will be hosting the Grey Cup. And those are just a few of the fun things to name that are exciting, that are happening here in this area.

But now, we have one of the most elegant and beautiful gardens in Canada, and I would suggest, maybe the world. It is a tremendous addition to one of the country’s best universities. The University of Alberta already has a great research space and the Botanic Garden is a gorgeous oasis that educates and inspires visitors. Anyone considering a trip to the region just got yet another big reason to come here.

This garden is also a sign of Alberta’s welcome to the world. This is a living testament to a province where differences are valued and diversity thrives. And Alberta is genuinely a stronger place because of those differences. In Alberta, we don’t care who you love, where you worship or what the colour of your skin is. We respect and we celebrate our differences.

Alberta’s Ismaili community is a great example of that. Take for instance the celebrations for Ismaili CIVIC Day, which kick-started a whole year of volunteering and philanthropy among Ismailis, Canada-wide. It’s more evidence of this community turning beliefs into action.

We want all newcomers to Alberta to find the same success and we are helping them to do that. One way is by standing alongside people of all backgrounds to fight against racism. And after conversations across the province, we are creating an anti-racism advisory council, which will do a number of things. But one of the key things that it will do, is work with diverse communities to ensure that our school curriculum reflects the full tapestry of the cultures that make up our province and provides cross-cultural understanding and awareness that will support an inclusive and welcoming society.

And I have to say that I have this great vision of children who have this now built into their curriculum, or increasingly built into this curriculum, coming to this garden to learn about Islam, to learn about the Ismaili community, to learn about what this garden has to offer. And it’s a tremendously wonderful alignment of our values and we are able to come together to build that even more welcoming and more dynamic province.

So in closing I just want to offer my thanks as well and on behalf of the Province of Alberta, my thanks to everyone who has been involved in making this beautiful space happen.

Your Highness thank you again for your leadership and for your incredible, incredible generosity. It’s a beautiful gift to Alberta, to its people, and its economy. Everyone from families who have been here for generations, to recently arrived immigrants, will find moments of peace and calm, reflection and joy. And I am delighted that the people of Alberta can count on you, your Highness, as a true friend. And I am proud to say that we stand with you as we work together to build a fairer, more inclusive world.

So thank you very much.



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Inauguration of the Aga Khan Garden, Alberta Edmonton, Alberta, Canada Thursday, 18 October 2018 1539677700 Speech by Honourable Lois Mitchell, Lt Governor of Alberta, at the inauguration of the Aga Khan Garden speech Canada 2010s 216131 1 Aga Khan Trust for Culture Architecture,Culture

A very good afternoon to you all.

What a beautiful Alberta day. We couldn’t have had this event at a better time and we are so pleased that we could have a day like this to welcome you.

To begin with, I won’t go over how eloquently David expressed about being on Treaty 6 territory, but suffice it to say that I do acknowledge that we are on the Treaty 6 territory of the lands of the First Nation and Metis people.

As Her Majesty the Queen’s representative in Alberta, it is my very great pleasure to welcome His Highness the Aga Khan to our province for this very special Inauguration Ceremony. I had the privilege of welcoming you on May 7, so that’s when we first met, with many of your wonderful colleagues.

I would also like to extend a sincere thank you to His Highness for sharing the amazing gift of this beautiful garden with all of Albertans and in fact Canada. I know that people from around the world are going to want to come see this.

This wonderful Aga Khan Garden is an expression of the concepts of peace and cultural understanding. What I love about the garden is that it allows us to experience peace and tolerance in a truly immersive way.

We may come from a wide range of cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds but when we experience the sights, the sounds and the harmony of nature, it reminds us of our common humanity. The fact that this new addition is a unique coming together of a traditional Islamic garden in Alberta’s northern climate is further reminder, as David said, that we can use our differences to create something beautiful and something lasting.

I trust that everyone who visits the Aga Khan Garden will come away with a deeper appreciation and a stronger understanding of all that we can achieve through peace and cooperation.

I know that visitors will be also inspired by this remarkable example that His Highness offers us all. He mentioned what he really wanted was for this to be a place of communication, and I think that’s a wonderful goal. The architect also expressed that the Aga Khan wanted it to be whimsical. Who doesn’t love those little animals all over? How special is that?

You have encouraged countless people throughout our province and around the world, to share their energy and compassion with people in need and to create welcoming and inclusive communities. Thank you very much. That’s the spirit of our new Aga Khan Garden, and we are so proud and honoured to have here it in Alberta.

Thank you as well to everyone at the Aga Khan Foundation Canada and members of the Alberta Ismaili community for your ongoing contributions to our province.

I’d also like to recognise Premier Notley for the important contributions that the Alberta Government has made to these botanical gardens.

Thank you to all of the staff, including Lee who gave me a wonderful tour of this garden about six weeks ago. Thank you as well to the many leaders, especially David Turpin, President of the University of Alberta.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this great project and enjoy this very special day of celebration.


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Inauguration of the Aga Khan Garden, Alberta Edmonton, Alberta, Canada Wednesday, 17 October 2018 1539702000 Address by University of Alberta President David Turpin at the inauguration of the Aga Khan Garden speech Canada 2010s 216046 1 Aga Khan Trust for Culture Architecture,Culture

Thank-you all for coming to the inauguration of the Aga Khan Garden. I am your host, David Turpin, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Alberta, and I am absolutely thrilled to be part of the official inauguration of this very special place.

I want to start by acknowledging with respect that we stand on Treaty 6 territory, and that the histories, languages and cultures of First Nations, Metis, Inuit, and all First Peoples of Canada, continue to enrich our vibrant community.

I would like to welcome our esteemed dignitaries today: Her Honour, the Honourable Lois Mitchell, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta; the Honourable Rachel Notley, Premier of Alberta and His Highness the Aga Khan.

I would also like to acknowledge a few, just a few, of the many dignitaries joining us today:

From the University of Alberta, Chancellor Douglas Stollery and Board Chair Michael Phair. From the Aga Khan University, President Firoz Rasul and Malik Talib, President of the Aga Khan Council for Canada.

We are also joined by our Chancellors and Board Chairs Emeritus, Ministers from the Government of Alberta, the Mayors of Devon, Spruce Grove and Edmonton, as well as other dignitaries – and, of course, all of you – our friends and alumni and supporters. Thank you all for being here.

I would also like to take just a moment to thank our university alumni and the members of our broader community who have made this event possible through their generous support.

This spectacular garden is intended to foster greater understanding between people of different cultures. It is aptly placed here among other culturally significant gardens, including the Indigenous Garden — the first Native Peoples Garden at a botanic garden in Canada — and the Kurimoto Japanese Garden, named after the first Japanese national to graduate from the University of Alberta.

This day has been more than 10 years in the making. It is the outcome of a very special relationship between the University of Alberta and the Aga Khan University that was formalized through a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2006 and renewed again in 2009 and again in 2017. The deep-rooted partnership between the two universities is marked by a longevity and sustainability that has transcended time and leadership transitions on both sides.

Together, we have collaborated in numerous teaching, learning and training initiatives in undergraduate programs, postgraduate studies, and internships in a wide variety of fields around the world.

Together, we have created knowledge networks that foster innovation through discussion, interaction and an emphasis on finding solutions to some of the most challenging problems facing communities everywhere in the world today.

Our partnership has transformed lives and communities through improvements and capacity-building in areas such as cardiology, nursing education and research, women’s health and empowerment, copyright law, teacher education, and dental hygiene. We have fostered cultural understanding with collaborations in Islamic music, art, architecture, and literature.

In 2009, in recognition of this collaboration, and for his work to advance global humanitarianism, pluralism and social justice, the University of Alberta conferred an honorary degree on His Highness the Aga Khan.

In his speech to graduates, His Highness announced that he was giving the university a garden to mark the University of Alberta’s 100th anniversary and his own golden jubilee, and to celebrate our growing partnership. Not just any garden, but a garden that would foster cultural  understanding, academic research and teaching, provide economic benefit and facilitate social interaction.

A garden that would be one of just 11 other gardens of its type around the world. A place that would be a special symbol of our shared values and beliefs, most especially of the value of education and its ability to uplift society and to bring people together towards shared understanding.

His Highness said he hoped this garden would be a space of (and I quote) “educational and aesthetic value, a setting for learning more about Muslim culture and design, as well as a place for public reflection.”

It was to be a contemporary interpretation of Islamic landscape architecture integrated into its northern location. Indeed, the northernmost Islamic Garden in the world, it bridges cultures, distances and time.

This summer, we opened the Aga Khan Garden to the public for the first time, and it has had an immediate impact. It has become a must-see destination for people to visit, and enjoy its beauty.

Everyone who experiences the garden feels the effect of this magnificent, transformative space. Our hard-working botanic garden staff have witnessed the garden come into being over the last year. The volunteer docents have learned about the culture, history and traditions of the great civilizations that built gardens like this in the past.

Everyone who visits the garden is struck by its precision and forethought - the intricacies of the fixtures, the specificity of the plants. They marvel at the way the garden so delicately blends architecture inspired by Mughal tradition with shrubs, trees, perennials, annuals and wetland plants that were selected to suit and reflect Alberta’s climate.

The experience of the garden — not only its beauty and its serenity, but its cultural gravity … the way it brings together our shared meanings, pleasures and identities — cannot be understated.

This garden is a fitting and beautiful representation of the collaboration between the University of Alberta and the Aga Khan University and our shared commitment to education, research and cultural understanding.

I want to thank His Highness the Aga Khan, for honouring us with this tremendous garden, which is one of only two in North America. It will be a space for reflection, education and leisure, for generations to come.

Your Highness, thank you.

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Citation for His Highness the Aga Khan by Dr. Elizabeth Cannon, President of the University of Calgary Calgary, Canada Wednesday, 17 October 2018 1539765000 Citation for His Highness the Aga Khan by Dr. Elizabeth Cannon, President of the University of Calgary speech Canada 2010s 216136 1 honorary degree

Your Highness,

The University of Calgary is honoured today to recognise the friendship, partnership, and the spiritual example of His Highness the Aga Khan, the Imam of the Shia Ismaili community.

His Highness is the beloved leader of fifteen million Ismailis, a global community representing the abundant traditions and values of a people who have enriched culture and pluralism in more than twenty-five nations.

Here in Canada, Ismaili Muslims contribute enormously to the fabric of diversity that we cherish so much. Their superb intellectual and educational background and their integrative cosmopolitanism, are outstanding. Their ethos of working to relieve hardship, pain, and ignorance shapes their social conscience, but extends to all around them.

His Highness’ concern for the arts, science, and economic development illuminates Ismaili tradition. He leads this resilient and altruistic community who believe that faith is demonstrated by contributing to the general welfare and doing good for all. The Ismaili presence in our radiantly diverse and youthful city has greatly benefitted Calgarians.

We tend, in our secular time, to relegate the spiritual to a separate sphere, as if it has no bearing on the daily challenges presented by all that is sublunary.  His Highness teaches by example that these elements are not divergent, but related, parallel passions that can fruitfully interact in the worldly world. His contemporary interpretation of the faith of Islam, through changing contexts, has been a superior guide to maintaining a balance between metaphysical wellbeing and individual quality of life. His respect for ethical connection, responsibility and trust nevertheless embraces evolving beliefs.

His Highness is the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon Him. Born in Geneva, His Highness spent his childhood in Nairobi, Kenya, attended school in Switzerland and graduated from Harvard University.

These seem small details, but they sparked His Highness’ many humanitarian and educational initiatives, all of which model an extraordinary ideal of stewardship for this leader’s sophisticated awareness of our changing planet.

Most of all, His Highness apprehends the intricacies of a sometimes turbulent era with engaging grace. In that spirit, the entire world looks to his generous and constructive éminence with respect and admiration. In these disquieting times, His Highness has undertaken to grapple with challenges. His work seeks to better material conditions for those less fortunate, but also to deploy strategic resources at a time when sudden changes and unexpected developments discourage progress. His concern for health and education goes far beyond mere aspiration. He is a meaningful force in international development, reshaping the horizon of hope and ethically pragmatic progress.

His Highness’s effective vitality as a leader is evidenced in the Aga Khan Development Network, which includes among its many agencies two universities -  the Aga Khan University and the University of Central Asia.  Those organisations are both foundational nuclei for health, education, development, protection of the environment, and cultural and economic revitalisation. Most important, they advance the ideal of a civil society, so fiercely necessary at this time, in this current climate of division and disrespect.  His Highness is a living manifestation of how we must work together to support human advancement, at home and around the world.

As founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, a group of international agencies dedicated to uplifting quality of life in the areas of health care, education, social services, architecture, cultural preservation and restoration, economic development, rural development, urban development and civil society, he builds bridges and creates opportunities for increasing prosperity to all locally and internationally.

The Aga Khan Development Network’s agencies include Health Services, Education Services, Academies, and Microfinance, as well as the Aga Khan Foundation, the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, the Aga Khan University and the University of Central Asia. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture co-ordinates multiple cultural activities, including the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, Historic Cities Programme, Aga Khan Music Initiative, Aga Khan Museum, and Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard and MIT.

Here, in Canada, we have benefitted from unique initiatives that the Imamat has spawned, including the Aga Khan Museum and the Global Centre for Pluralism, and of course, the Aga Khan Garden of Alberta which His Highness inaugurated in Edmonton yesterday.

The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development is dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship and economic enterprise in the developing world, often in countries with a need for outside investment. The health network supports 325 centres in multiple countries; and educational strategies include 240 schools determined to dismantle obstacles to educational access and achievement.

This Network is His Highness' tangible way of bringing together faith and action, diligently seeking solutions to hunger, poverty, illiteracy and ill-health. His Highness has been instrumental in forging universal ideals and aspirations, promoting pluralism, compassion, cultural amplitude, and human dignity. His measure is that of a significant figure in international development, one who has literally reshaped its landscape.

Here at the University of Calgary, we too have benefitted from a generative relationship with His Highness’ visionary reticulations. Positive connections with our Faculties of Graduate Studies, Nursing, Arts, and the Werklund School of Education, have focused on the essential work of education, international development, health and wellness, and social and human rights.

This collaboration has informed the evolution of the Faculty of Arts’ Arabic Languages and Culture program, which engages students in learning about Muslim civilisations, languages and cultures. Events like the celebration of Milad-un-Nabi provide a unique opportunity for our students to gain deeper cultural understanding and knowledge surrounding Islamic civilisations.

Our collaboration is rich and varied. We have engaged with the Aga Khan University through the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholars and Advanced Scholars Programs participating in research opportunities at AKU campuses in Pakistan, Kenya and Uganda, and we have welcomed their international researchers here.

The University of Calgary’s Faculty of Nursing develops through this project, future leaders in global citizenship in the areas of child and maternal health, neo-natal child health and perinatal mental health. Students from the Faculty of Arts and the Werklund School of Education participate in placements at AKU. And the Cumming School of Medicine will, in coming years, partner with the Aga Khan University on research and practice in cardiac sciences.

There, in that word - cardiac - resides a crucial evocation.  Heart is the kernel of what His Highness embodies: heart, a passion to inspire, not only through words, but with actions. Our Ismaili students, faculty, and staff share this passion and volunteer selflessly to advance the principles he models.

In the great chain of thinkers, those who encapsulate the poetry and vision of human reason, His Highness has fostered social justice as a dream that all yearn to achieve. He stands as a living legend, a model for every conscience.  

We Canadians share that dream with His Highness, who is an honorary Canadian citizen.

And apparently, this city, Calgary, shares with His Highness a love of fast horses. From its earliest days, Calgary was known as “horse town,” and equine speed has resonated from the long history of our indigenous peoples to the present. Here, on the rolling prairie and the incipient foothills, horses symbolize our landscape and our aspiration, and we hope that His Highness will continue to share those dreams of freedom, beauty and action.

Our laudation does only small justice to His Highness’ example and his urgent message that we build bridges, make friendships, and find common ground with all faiths. He commissions everyone to reflect on those who have contributed to our lives, and to remember the importance of contributing to the lives of others.

We are today, grateful to be in His presence, and honoured that He has accepted our tribute.


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Inauguration of the Aga Khan Garden, Alberta Edmonton, Canada Tuesday, 16 October 2018 1539685800 Speech by His Highness the Aga Khan at the inauguration of the Aga Khan Garden, Alberta speech Canada 2010s 6926 1 Aga Khan Trust for Culture Culture


Your Honour Lois Mitchell,
The Honourable Rachel Notley,
Honourable Ministers,
Your Worships,
Chancellor Stollery,
President Turpin,
Distinguished Guests,

It is always a great pleasure to greet old friends and welcome new friends at a celebration like this.  But today’s inauguration stands out for me as particularly joyous.

For one thing, the old friendships we renew today are especially meaningful.  We look back, of course, to the welcome in Alberta of members of the Ismaili community who settled here almost a half century ago, often in very difficult circumstances.  And those bonds of welcome have been continually renewed through the years, especially through our rewarding partnerships with the University of Alberta.

One of the special gifts that old friends offer is introducing us to wonderful new friends, and that has also happened here.  The project we celebrate today – the inauguration of the Aga Khan Garden – is a particularly happy example.

I think all of you have had the pleasure – in your personal life or your professional life – of seeing a fascinating story develop happily from beginning to end.  We recall the excitement of a new beginning – as well as that deep sense of grateful satisfaction when the planning works – when the hope is realised, and the vision is achieved.

Well that is exactly how I feel today. I was fortunate to have been part of this project’s conception – and I feel fortunate to be here today to help mark its realisation.

I remember well my visits to the University of Alberta during my Golden Jubilee year – in 2008, and again for the graduation ceremonies in 2009.  That was when we first discussed this dream of creating here, together, a new Islamic Garden.  I paid my first visit to the proposed Garden site at that time, wondering, even then, just how this dream might come true in practice.  

It seemed like an unlikely dream to many.  After all, the great tradition of Islamic Gardens has its roots in very different times and places.  The symbol of the Garden as a spiritual symbol goes back to the Holy Qur’an itself - where the Garden ideal is mentioned many times.  Down through many centuries, Islamic culture has continued to see the Garden as a very special place, where the Human meets further proof of the Divine.

The development of the Garden as a symbol of Islamic ideals flourished most magnificently some 500 to 600 years ago – and that happened, of course, in the warmer climates of Southern Asia.  And yet, there we were in Edmonton a decade ago, proposing to extend that lovely Eastern and Southern tradition, at the start of the 21st Century, to the unique natural environment of northern and western Canada.  This proposed new Garden, to be precise, would be the northern-most Islamic Garden ever created.

Over the past nine years I have been able to watch the dream come true – as we agreed on the configuration of the site, assembled a Steering Committee, chose an architectural firm, and reviewed development plans.  And then, with the planning completed, the building process took just some 18 months – finishing “on time and on budget,” as planners like to point out!

As I look out at this Garden today, what I think about – above all – are the people who made it possible - their dedication, their talent, and their remarkable energy.  I want them all to know that in celebrating this new Garden today – we are also celebrating them.  Theirs is a highly valued gift to the generations to come, who also must be privileged by experiencing the spirituality and harmony of multiple life forms.

They include construction workers and gardeners, planners and administrators, artists and scholars, architects and designers – including the landscape design firm of Nelson Byrd Woltz.  They include dedicated members of the Ismaili and other Muslim communities in Alberta – and other parts of Canada, the remarkable family of the University of Alberta, governmental officials at all levels, and those who serve the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the Aga Khan Development Network.

At the heart of their efforts, of course, was the inspiring power of the Islamic Garden itself.  For a central part of the Garden tradition is the high calling of human stewardship, our responsibility to honor, to protect, and to share the gifts of the natural world.

Gardens in this context can be seen not as imitations of Nature but as humanity’s interpretations of nature, their geometric structures providing a human framework in which we can experience – in this case – the magnificent fluctuations of the Albertan landscape. 

The Garden of Islamic tradition is also a place where the flow of refreshing water reminds us of Divine blessing.  It is a place for meditation, and quiet renewal.  But I would likewise emphasise that the Garden, through history, has also been seen as a social space – a place for learning, for sharing, for romance, for diplomacy, for reflection on the destiny of the human race.  And even as we share the Garden experience with one another, we can feel a connection with those who walked through similar Gardens in the past.   

I would also mention one additional aspect of the particular Garden we inaugurate today.  It symbolises not only the creative blending of the Natural and the Human – but also the beauty of multiple inter-cultural cooperation.  

One of the great questions facing humanity today is how we can honour what is distinctive about our separate identities – and, at the same time, welcome a diversity of identities as positive elements in our lives.   

This city and this country have been among the world leaders in providing positive answers to that ancient question.  The project we inaugurate today is a beautiful extension of that Canadian tradition.

In Canada and in many other places, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture has made a major commitment to creating and renewing important green spaces in recent years.  We can look back on ten recent successes in places ranging from Cairo to Zanzibar, from Toronto to Kabul, from Dushanbe in Tajikistan to Bamako in Mali.  In 2018 alone, I helped to inaugurate three such Garden projects – in London, in Delhi, and now here in Alberta.

But the story does not end here.  In fact, the story of Canadian Islamic Gardens itself is not yet completed.  Our plans are now advancing, in fact, for a new Park to be developed a few hundred miles southwest of here, in Burnaby, British Columbia. 

Yes – to be sure – it will surpass Edmonton as the western-most Islamic Garden.  But, of course, we can be rest assured, that Edmonton’s Garden will still have a lasting claim as the northern-most! 

I have talked about the past, today, but I would close by emphasising the future.  It is wonderful at a moment like this to think of all those who will visit here in the years to come.  Our work now is to sustain this space, to create new experiences and to meet new challenges.  

As you walk through these Gardens, you will see evidence of the ways in which future generations will be able to make the most of this site.  It is our hope and expectation on this special day that the Aga Khan Garden here at the University of Alberta will truly be a gift that keeps on giving.

Thank you.

speech_215821 <p>For a central part of the Garden tradition is the high calling of human stewardship, our responsibility to honor, to protect, and to share the gifts of the natural world.</p> English
Remise des Insignes de Grand-Croix de la Légion d’Honneur à Son Altesse l’Aga Khan Paris, France Monday, 15 October 2018 1537362900 Speech by Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian when awarding His Highness the Aga Khan the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour speech France 2010s 215726 1 HH awards,awards

Your Highness,

This evening we are celebrating your sixty years at the head of the Ismaili community. Sixty years also of commitment to the most vulnerable people wherever they are. Sixty years devoted to bringing different peoples closer together, to promoting dialogue between cultures and religions. Sixty years spent working to achieve tolerance and peace.

And on this occasion, the President of the Republic wants to elevate you the rank of the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour in order to pay tribute to your special character, which is recognised by all.  

The vision that you embody, of a pluralist, open and modern Islam, shows you are a man of peace, a genuine symbol of the role that Ismailis can play in the reconciliation of their opposing brothers and in the fight against radicalisation. We know the extent to which we still value your help in every place where extremism infiltrates minds and causes terrible tragedies. Syria and Afghanistan in particular come to mind.

Your commitment to peace is also evident in the international activities you lead via your Network and your Foundation and its many agencies. The Aga Khan Development Network has a reputation for excellence that is universally recognised in the fields of health, education and culture. Your Network represents a truly stabilising and healing force.

Since France signed the partnership agreement with your Foundation ten years ago, our collaboration has gone from strength to strength, finding concrete expression in the development of some fifty projects, notably in sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia - which we mentioned just a moment ago - and the Middle East. This partnership is a source of pride and I am looking forward to the future initiatives that we can work on together. By choosing to settle in France, Your Highness, you have shown yourself willing to promote the influence of France's heritage abroad, so please accept our thanks once again this evening. I hail especially the work done by your Foundation to Protect and Develop the Chantilly Region, which has to a large extent helped make the region a shining example in the global cultural landscape, as can be confirmed by David Darcos, whom I greet this evening. We are also grateful to you for the constant support given by your Trust for Culture to the work of the French archaeological delegation in Afghanistan. Last but not least, we acknowledge the value of the support you have given to the Académie Diplomatique Internationale, and in the presence of Hubert Védrine whom I also greet, I want to thank you for that. As you can imagine, this is an institution that this Ministry holds dear. We greatly appreciate the commitment you have shown to promoting the prestige of this institution over many years.

Your Highness, you are a man who is loyal to his commitments, a man of his word and a man of peace. And for everything that you have accomplished in your life for our country, and for stability in the world, France, this evening, would like to warmly express its gratitude by bestowing on you the honour of the Grand Cross in the Order of the Legion of Honour.

Your Highness, on behalf of the President of the Republic, and by virtue of the powers vested in me, we have the privilege to award you the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour.


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Remise des Insignes de Grand-Croix de la Légion d'Honneur Paris, France Monday, 15 October 2018 1537362000 Speech by His Highness the Aga Khan upon receipt of the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour speech France 2010s 6926 1 HH awards,awards

Dear Friends,

I don’t have a prepared speech. Which means I am going to talk to you from the heart and share with you my sense of enormous gratitude, deep friendship, and partnership with France, at this important moment in my life.

For years, we have worked together in different fields, in France and abroad, always in close partnership, sharing common perspectives and goals, with respect, above all, for the great values of France. For me this partnership is particularly important. It's a partnership built on historical values. And these historical values have proven their worth the world over. They are values that originated in France, but are now universal.

My institution and my community are committed to defending, developing and promoting these values. We seek to educate the institutions in the countries where we work to include these values in their own philosophy and educational programmes so that it is no longer something new, but an integral part of the quality of civil society in the countries where the Ismaili community lives.

I want to thank France today for its wise counsel and the examples you have set. I have witnessed their implementation, especially in Africa where there are political regimes that have learned a great deal from France; thanks to what they have learned from you, today these regimes demonstrate a high level of management quality.

Thank you for the award you have given me. I am extremely touched. I hope that, in the years I have left, I will be able to make myself even worthier of this honour.

Thank you.

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GCP Annual Pluralism Lecture 2018 London, UK Friday, 5 October 2018 1538639100 Introductory remarks by His Highness the Aga Khan at the GCP Annual Pluralism Lecture 2018 Pluralism speech Canada,United Kingdom 2010s 6926 1 Global Centre for Pluralism,pluralism


Your Excellencies,  
Ms. Armstrong,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you, on behalf of the Board of the Global Centre for Pluralism, to the 2018 Pluralism Lecture at the new Aga Khan Centre here in London.  

At the outset, I should like to remark on the passing of our fellow Director, the late Kofi Annan.  

I was privileged to know and work with Mr. Annan for many years.  He made an enormous contribution to the Global Centre for Pluralism, just one of his many remarkable contributions to humanity.  He will be greatly missed.  Our thoughts are with Mrs Annan at this difficult time.  It is gratifying that the important work of the Kofi Annan Foundation for a fairer, more peaceful world is continuing.

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me a moment to speak of this beautiful building and the transformative power of architecture.  I hope you will have the opportunity to explore the building and especially to visit its unique series of gardens, courtyards and terraces, each one inspired by a different region of the Islamic world.  

The building also stands as a testament to the value of education: it is the new home for two educational institutions - the Aga Khan University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations and the Institute of Ismaili Studies.

Through research and learning, they will contribute to increased understanding of the rich history and varied traditions of different Muslim civilisations.  In so doing, they should help bridge the gulf of ignorance that has characterised Islamic-Western relations for far too long.  

Tonight’s speaker, Karen Armstrong, is a person who has contributed in a remarkable way to illuminating Islam, Judaism and Christianity, and indeed, understanding all of the great religious traditions.

One of the world’s most respected and prolific historians of religion, Ms. Armstrong has written more than 20 books, translated into 45 languages.  Notably, in Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, she challenged the view that religion has been the cause of many of history’s violent conflicts, and argued convincingly that in many cases, religion has been the pretext.  An original thinker and activist, her work has resonated well beyond the realm of theologians and philosophers.  

A graduate from the University of Oxford with a degree in literature, Ms Armstrong went on to teach, and in 1982 she had become a freelance writer and broadcaster.   After being retained to work on a documentary on St Paul, she spent time in the Middle East.  She was inspired by the time she spent there. She learnt and she reflected on the great religions, and found her vocation as a writer exploring the commonalities shared by the faiths of Islam, Judaism and Christianity - commonalities such as the Golden Rule - behave towards others how you would like them to behave towards you.

In February 2008, Ms. Armstrong was invited to participate in the TED speaker series where she made the case for the creation of a Charter for Compassion.  Her talk had a great impact and led to her winning the coveted TED prize which allowed her to implement the beginnings of the Charter for Compassion.

A year and a half later, the final Charter for Compassion was released.  The process of its creation included the contributions of more than 150,000 people from around the world, who submitted their thoughts online.  Their ideas were then refined into a final draft by a panel of leading theologians.  

This idea of compassion resonates with people.  When Amin Hashwani, a business executive and activist in Pakistan, heard Ms. Armstrong’s TED Talk, it affected him deeply.  In 2011, Amin Hashwani founded the Compassionate School Network, a programme to train schools and educators to build student skills in compassion, which is still operating with great success.

The momentum and excitement behind this global initiative led to another remarkable book by Ms Armstrong:  Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.   

Ladies and Gentlemen, looking into the future, I think that one of the greatest challenges for the entire world will be finding ways in which we can all achieve a deeper understanding of the other, and what makes each of us distinct, as human beings and as communities.

To achieve this vital goal, reflective, creative and empathetic thinkers and writers will be critically important.

Tonight, we are privileged to hear from one of their most respected voices, Karen Armstrong.

Thank you.


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