Contents of the ‘Global Centre for Pluralism (GCP)’ category in chronological order.

Featured Item  »»  Global Centre for Pluralism Headquarters’ Opening Ceremony (Ottawa, Canada)

Let me emphasise a point about the concept of pluralism that is sometimes misunderstood. Connection does not necessarily mean agreement. It does not mean that we want to eliminate our differences or erase our distinctions. Far from it. What it does mean is that we connect with one another in order to learn from one another, and to build our future together. Pluralism does not mean the elimination of difference, but the embrace of difference. Genuine pluralism understands that diversity does not weaken a society, it strengthens it. In an ever-shrinking, ever more diverse world, a genuine sense of pluralism is the indispensable foundation for human peace and progress. From the start, this has been a vision that the Ismaili Imamat and the Government of Canada have deeply shared.

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Remarks introducing Justice Albie Sachs, The Global Centre for Pluralism’s Fifth Annual Lecturer (Toronto, Canada)

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….

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.

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Remarks introducing The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada, The Global Centre for Pluralism’s Fourth Annual Lecturer (Toronto, Canada)

In her LaFontaine-Baldwin lecture in Toronto, in 2003, the Chief Justice said and I quote, “One problem, more than any other, dominates human history — the problem of how we deal with those who are different than us.” Those words have sharp, continuing relevance as we move further into the 21st century. Whether the challenge involves new waves of migrants moving into European societies, or political participation for the indigenous peoples of Latin America, or working towards democratic change in the Middle East and North Africa, there is a profound need to focus on the values and hopes that unite all human beings.

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Remarks introducing António Guterres, The Global Centre for Pluralism’s Third Annual Lecturer (Ottawa, Canada)

Throughout his own, long career, António Guterres has been a passionate and effective advocate on these issues, articulating both the rights of the refugees and the responsibilities of society to support and to integrate them. Underlying both his words and his work is a conviction, which I share, that any person’s worth in this world does not depend on where he or she has come from and that all people should be welcomed into the fabric of the society in which they may find themselves so that they can contribute to that society’s long term progress.

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Remarks introducing Kofi Annan, The Global Centre for Pluralism’s Second Annual Lecturer (Ottawa, Canada)

In welcoming Kofi Annan this evening, I want to emphasise what his personal example has meant to all of us. He has truly been an inspiration, demonstrating the power of patience and persistence, of a willingness always to listen and a refusal to give up hope….

As Kofi Annan has taught us, pluralism requires constant dialogue, a readiness to compromise, and an understanding that pluralism is not an end in itself, but a continuous process.

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Remarks introducing Her Excellency Roza Otunbayeva, The Global Centre for Pluralism’s Inaugural Lecturer (Ottawa, Canada)

In the course of my work over the past half-century, I have become convinced that finding ways for diverse societies to live peacefully together is one of the principal challenges of the contemporary world. It has led me to the conclusion that pluralism as an ethic of respect for diversity is an essential building block of successful and prosperous societies.

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‘Diversity can be a force for good in the world’ published in the Vancouver Sun (Vancouver, Canada)

As societies come to think in pluralistic ways, I believe they can learn another lesson from the Canadian experience, the importance of resisting both assimilation and homogenization — the subordination and dilution of minority cultures on the one hand, or an attempt to create some new, transcendent blend of identities on the other.

What the Canadian experience suggests to me is that identity itself can be pluralistic. Honouring one’s own identity need not mean rejecting others. One can embrace an ethnic or religious heritage, while also sharing a sense of national or regional pride. To cite a timely example, I believe one can live creatively and purposefully as both a devoted Muslim and a committed European.

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10th Annual LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture, Institute for Canadian Citizenship, ‘Pluralism’, and apres lecture conversation with John Ralston Saul (Toronto, Canada)

The variety of the world is not only more available, it is nearly inescapable. Human difference is more proximate and more intense. What was once beyond our view is now at our side and, indeed, to use the popular expression, “in our face.” … The challenge of diversity is now a global challenge and how we address it will have global consequences….

I believe that the challenge of pluralism is never completely met. Pluralism is a process and not a product. It is a mentality, a way of looking at a diverse and changing world. A pluralistic environment is a kaleidoscope that history shakes every day. Responding to pluralism is an exercise in constant re-adaptation. Identities are not fixed in stone. What we imagine our communities to be must also evolve with the tides of history. As we think about pluralism, we should be open to the fact that there may be a variety of “best practices,” a “diversity of diversities,” and a “pluralism of pluralisms.”

In sum, what we must seek and share is what I have called “a cosmopolitan ethic,” a readiness to accept the complexity of human society. It is an ethic which balances rights and duties. It is an ethic for all peoples.

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CBC Interview (3rd), One-on-One (1st) with Peter Mansbridge (Ottawa, Canada)

Baghdad is one of the great historic cities of the Islamic world. Iraq is not a new country. It’s part of the history of our civilisation. It’s been a pluralist country. Great philosophers, great historians, great scientists. Reverse the question again. What would the Christian world think if a Muslim army attacked Rome? I think there would be a general reaction in the Christian world, not just an Italian reaction….

Well, that [conflict, between the Shia and Sunni in Iraq,] was entirely predictable. Entirely predictable. There was nothing unpredictable. What you were effectively doing is replacing a Sunni minority government in a country that had a Shia demographic majority. And again, take the case out of its situation. What would happen — and I’m sorry to come back to this, but it’s important — if a Muslim army went into Northern Ireland and replaced one Christian interpretation by another? Imagine the fallout that that would cause in the Christian world itself.

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Funding Agreement for the Global Centre for Pluralism Signing Ceremony (Ottawa, Canada)

As Canadians know so well, the idea of pluralism is not a new one in this world. It has honourable and ancient foundations, including deep roots in Islamic tradition. What is new, today, is that society is globalised, intimately interconnected and extraordinarily interdependent. (1)

[Google translation] Many factors have contributed to this new order: the end of the Cold War, the advanced techniques of transport and communications, accelerated migration of peoples. But the impact of these forces is likely to intensify in the future. In my opinion, what we face now is a new and challenging period in human history, where the values and practices are more pluralistic secular just desirable — they have become absolutely essential — not only for the future of the world but also for our very survival.

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Ottawa Citizen Interview, Chris Mikula and Hayley Mick (Ottawa, Canada) ·· incomplete

I don’t believe that societies are born pluralist. Pluralism has to be omnipresent in civil society … it’s got to be part of the way a society is constituted.

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Address to the International Press Institute, 54th General Assembly (Nairobi, Kenya + [Israel, Jordan, Pakistan])

There is one other front on which the battle must be waged, however, and it has to do with media owners and managers. Too often, those who set the media agenda see it primarily as a business agenda. Too often the measure of media success is simply financial profit. I think this attitude is wrong — it often makes for manipulative media, distorting and misleading in a narrow pursuit of readers and ratings. It means that journalism is subordinated to entertainment, and that the need to inform must yield to the need to please.

Responsible and relevant reporting is not the priority in that business model. Instead, the power of the press is used to turn traditional value systems on their heads; to take what is really quite unimportant and to make it seem very important, to take what is trivial and to make it seem titillating. In that context, what is most truly significant must yield to what is most readily saleable. The damage that can be done by such distorted journalism is especially heavy in Africa, offending African value systems, distracting African energies and mis-serving African development. Manipulative journalism is not merely a nuisance here, it can have destructive power. Yet journalism at its best can be a strong pillar in building Africa’s future. [Emphasis original]

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Government of Canada announcement to partner in the Global Centre of Pluralism (Ottawa, Canada)

Canada has for many years been a beacon to the rest of the world for its commitment to pluralism and for its support for the multicultural richness and diversity of its peoples. Canada has embraced pluralism as a foundation for strength and growth. Therefore, I am extremely pleased that the Government of Canada under Prime Minister Paul Martin’s leadership has joined us in this important global venture.

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Keynote Address to the Nobel Institute’s Seminar: ‘Democratic Development, Pluralism and Civil Society’ (Oslo, Norway)

Just as we read about the supposed clash of civilisations, we read about so-called “failed states.” In fact, at least in my definition of a state, it cannot fail. What we are observing in reality is the massive failure of democracy around the world.

I estimate that some 40% of the states of the United Nations are failed democracies. Depending upon the definitions applied, between 450 million and 900 million people currently live in countries under severe or moderate stress as a result of these failures. To me, therefore, a central question is why these democracies are failing and what can the world’s nations and international organisations do to sustain their competence and stability….

As long as the developed world hesitates to commit long term investment towards education for democracy, and instead laments the issue of so-called failed states, much of the developing world will continue to face bleak prospects for democracy.

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Keynote Address to the Governor General’s 2004 Canadian Leadership Conference: ‘Leadership and Diversity’ (Gatineau, Canada)

[D]emocracy cannot function reasonably without two preconditions. The first is a healthy, civil society…. The second precondition is pluralism….

The rejection of pluralism is pervasive across the globe and plays a significant role in breeding destructive conflicts. Examples are scattered across the world map: in Asia, in the Middle East, in Africa, in Europe, in the Americas. No continent has been spared from the tragedies of death, of misery and of the persecution of minorities. Are such high-risk situations predictable? If the answer is, “Yes”, then what can be done about them, to pre-empt the risk that the rejection of pluralism will become the spark that sets human conflict aflame? Is the onus not on leadership, in all parts of the world, to build a knowledge base about such situations and consider strategies for preventing them? For, I deeply believe that our collective conscience must accept that pluralism is no less important than human rights for ensuring peace, successful democracy and a better quality of life.

A secure pluralistic society requires communities that are educated and confident both in the identity and depth of their own traditions and in those of their neighbours. Democracies must be educated if they are to express themselves competently, and their electorates are to reach informed opinions about the great issues at stake. Perhaps the greatest obstacle to pluralism and democracy, however, is the lacuna in the general education of the populations involved.

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