Speech at the Opening Ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, Dushanbe

Speech by Karim Aga Khan
At the Opening Ceremony of
The Ismaili Centre, Dushanbe
Monday, 12 October 2009

Photo: Gary Otte

Your Excellency President Rahmon,
Your Worship the Mayor of Dushanbe,
Your Excellencies,
Distinguished Guests,

It is a great honour for me to welcome you to this inauguration ceremony. I am deeply pleased to greet President Rahmon, who was here when together we laid the Foundation Stone for this building five years ago, and who has long been a steadfast supporter of the Centre project. The same thing is true of the Civic Authorities of Dushanbe, and we are also honoured to welcome His Worship, Mayor Ubaidullaev.

It is also a distinct pleasure to look out upon this audience and to greet so many other leaders, from so many walks of society. Your very presence here invests this occasion with special meaning, for you truly represent the broad diversity of this country — and your participation attests to the importance of pluralism in Tajik life.

We have looked forward to this event for a long time. And now that this day of dedication has come, let me also extend our warmest gratitude to everyone whose contributions have made this vision a reality. We salute those who have donated their time and talent and material resources to this project, including those who designed, constructed and decorated this building and its surroundings. You have created a remarkable building that will enhance the cityscape of Dushanbe, just as it reflects and re-interprets the materials and colours and inspiring landscapes of other iconic buildings of the larger region.

The Tajik Ismaili community has roots in this region that extend back more than a thousand years, as long ago as the second century of Islam. The community holds a recognised and admired position in the history of human endeavour here, contributing some of the greatest names in the fields of theology, philosophy, poetry and the sciences. This new Centre will be a place for looking back on that rich and powerful history in grateful and solemn remembrance. It will be a place, as well, for peaceful contemplation of the spirit, and of the world, as we live our lives in the present moment. And it will be a place to think about the future and how this profound heritage can shape and inform tomorrow’s world. This Centre aspires to give physical form and spiritual space for pursuing all of these objectives.

As we look around us today, we are reminded of other times down through history when a variety of cultures and traditions have come together happily in this land. It is inspiring to remember how enriching encounters of ideas and viewpoints have so often prevailed against opposing forces of ignorance and prejudice. The remarkable flowering of human talent here has owed much to the pluralism of Tajik society. I am proud, in noting just one reflection of that tradition, that this Centre is located in a neighbourhood that celebrates the great names of Ismoili Somoni and Rudaki.

(Submitted by Nizar Dhanani)

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