It is thus clearly evident that peace in the decades ahead can only be achieved when the pluralist nature of human society is understood, valued and built upon to construct a better future. In Islam, the pluralism of human society is well recognised, and the ethics of its multiple interpretations require that this diversity be accorded respect. The shahada — La-illaha-Illallah-Muhammadur-Rasullilah — binds a thousand million people who, over the centuries, have come to live in different cultures, speak different languages, live in different political contexts, and who differentiate in some interpretations of their faith….

Any differences must be resolved through tolerance, through understanding, through compassion, through dialogue, through forgiveness, through generosity, all of which represent the ethics of Islam.

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In recent years, human society has, sadly, witnessed a polarisation of differences amongst people into all forms of conflict.

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This is a situation which I deplore and which cannot be acceptable to any individual who aspires to live life in peace, dignity and security.

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It is thus clearly evident that peace in the decades ahead can only be achieved when the pluralist nature of human society is understood, valued and built upon to construct a better future. In Islam, the pluralism of human society is well recognised, and the ethics of its multiple interpretations require that this diversity be accorded respect.

The shahada — La-illaha-Illallah-Muhammadur-Rasullilah — binds a thousand million people who, over the centuries, have come to live in different cultures, speak different languages, live in different political contexts, and who differentiate in some interpretations of their faith.

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The plurality of the Muslim world is not just an irreversible historical fact, but it is a strength that must be continuously harnessed to the building of the future within the ethics of Islam. Any differences must be resolved through tolerance, through understanding, through compassion, through dialogue, through forgiveness, through generosity, all of which represent the ethics of Islam.

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It is with deep happiness and admiration that I note that here in Syria the principles of tolerance, brotherhood, and mutual support amongst communities are already well established. Perhaps more could be done, in particular, by greater and strengthened collaboration in identifying and analysing social and economic challenges that lie ahead, and in determining how best to anticipate them and to respond to them. No doubt, one of them will be the new global context in which countries, or regions, will be in competition with each other, to develop a better quality of life for their populations. In the forthcoming decades, countries, institutions, organisations and programmes, to be effective, will need to be increasingly competent in whatever they are doing. Today, and even more so for generations to come, that will require more consideration to be given to meritocracy.

Syria, like every other country, will need to respond to this challenge, and I am happy to be able to say today that during this visit, a context has been set, where all the agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network will be positioned to contribute to the future economic and social strengthening of Syria, and its peoples and institutions. We hold in common many convictions about the best way to build the future, including our trust and confidence in pluralism; a need to respond to the challenges of modern global society; a need to make decisions and prepare for institutional leadership through meritocratic processes; the need for society to draw strength and direction from shared ethical principles, including generosity in the use of intellect, professional competencies and voluntary service.

To the younger members who are present, I urge you to remember that in today’s world of accelerating change, education is, and should remain, a life long process. It is only by investing continuously in your intellectual capacities that you can hope to survive in the world of tomorrow.

Islam enjoins upon an individual the maintaining of a balance between spiritual life and material well-being, and to ensure that his or her material endeavours are underpinned by the ethical principles of Islam. This balance between din and duniya entails not only the fulfilment of the individual’s spiritual obligation but also the obligation to acquire knowledge and to use it for the benefit of others.

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His Highness the Aga Khan IV

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