Entries with content relating to ‘Spirit of Adventure, Confidence’, in chronological order.

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Inauguration of the Naryn Campus of the University of Central Asia (Naryn, Kyrgyzstan)

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.

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Keynote Address: “Africa 2016: Business for Africa, Egypt and the World” Conference (Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt)

What I see emerging today is a refreshingly, balanced confidence in Africa — a spirit that takes encouragement from past progress, while also seeking new answers to new challenges — understanding that the best way to move into the future is to walk hand-in-hand with partners who share one’s goals. And we are all here to fulfil that role. I highlight the part played by confidence because it addresses a problem that has long plagued the human race.

I refer to the fear we so often have that our environment will be controlled by others, to the point where we distance ourselves from potential worthy partners. This difference can extend to people of different ethnic groups, different tribes, different nationalities, different religious traditions. It can also extend to people with different political or economic loyalties. And the frequent result is a fragmenting of society, a breakdown of cooperation, an undercurrent of fear, and even a paralysing polarisation in our public life. It can be a distinctly disabling environment….

[T]he role of Civil Society is often misunderstood or taken for granted. At times, Civil Society has been marginalised, discounted, or dismissed…. Even more disturbing have been efforts in some places to constrain or even repress these institutions, stereotyping them as illegitimate, unelected and unaccountable. These attitudes may simply reflect a reluctance to share power and influence, or perhaps a feeling that the creative energy and sheer diversity of Civil Society is daunting and dangerous. Such attitudes have been exceptional, but they are highly regrettable, discouraging the qualities of vision, innovation and forward thinking that progressive societies so badly need….

In sum, I believe that social progress will require quality inputs from all three sectors: public, private and Civil Society. Sustainable progress will build on a three-legged stool. And that progress can be particularly impressive when the three sectors work closely together.

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2015 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Nairobi, Kenya)

As we expand our work in Kenya, one of our highest priorities is to achieve international standards of healthcare especially for non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Another special focus will be neuro-science, where the promises of stem cell technology must be brought massively and competently to Africa. Our overall plan is for a nationally integrated health system, built on the strong foundations already in place at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi. And our overall goal can be simply stated: we believe that no Kenyan should have to leave the country to seek quality medical care.

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2015 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Kampala, Uganda)

As the President has said, we plan to open a new campus in Arusha in just four years. It will be home for our new Faculty of Arts and Sciences plus two Professional Graduate Schools and a variety of other training and research facilities. We are also planning a new campus in Dar es Salaam for our Institute for Educational Development. Other AKU initiatives that will serve the entire region include new undergraduate medical and nursing programs in Kenya as well as our Graduate School of Media and Communications, opening this year in Nairobi. Seven other Graduate Schools will follow, designed to advance healthy Civil Society in specific African contexts. They will include Schools of Leadership and Management; Hospitality, Leisure and Tourism; Architecture and Human Settlements; Government, Civil Society and Public Policy; Economic Growth and Development; Law; and Education. It is our belief that developing graduate schools is one of the quickest ways in which universities can impact the improvement in the quality of life of people in developing countries.

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2015 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

As we look to the future, I am increasingly impressed by one overriding insight. It reflects the vast flow of information that has come my way as I have watched the ups and downs of the developing world. More and more, I am convinced that the key to improving the quality of human life, both in places that are gifted with good governments and in places that are not so fortunate, is the quality of what I describe as Civil Society. By Civil Society I mean that array of institutions which are neither public, nor profit driven, but which are motivated by voluntary commitments and dedicated to the public good. They include, for example, institutions dedicated to culture, to public information, to the environment and to religious faith. And they include, very importantly, the fields of health and education in which you are so centrally involved. A healthy Civil Society is a meritocratic one, where ethics are honoured, and excellence is valued.

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Aiglon College Graduation Ceremony (Chesières, Switzerland)

As I look around me, my deep sense is that today the strongest human force, sadly, is fear…. At this time, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees believes that there are some 50 million people who are either refugees or internally displaced persons. Far more than ever before. Practically every one of them — women, men, children, the sick — have been touched by fear and many still live in fear. At no time in human history has a percentage of human population living in fear and who has been uprooted [been] as great as it is today. And this issue is affecting the whole of our world with all the consequences we see …

So you may be asking yourselves, if fear is omnipresent — as I believe it is, what does that mean about the world in which the graduands of l’Aiglon will enter? And you will be asking yourselves how, as nano-players on the global scene, you could cause positive change to happen for yourselves, your families, your peoples. My answer is: hope. Fortunately, just as fear can be infectious, so hope is infectious…. Governments and institutions must create an Enabling Environment in which hope can flourish.

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Address at Massey Hall (Toronto, Canada)

It is a particularly happy day, for me, that we are extending this partnership, strengthening it, giving it new opportunities, in areas of development needs that are essential — young children, isolated peoples, post conflict situations. So we have a partner, a wonderful partner, who works with us not in the easy, comfortable parts of the world, but who works with us where there are challenges, where there are difficulties, where people fight, and where people seek to develop just a simple life of survival. And that is a unique partnership because it’s a partnership for people. It’s a partnership for people in difficulty. It’s a partnership where imagination is essential if you want to build strong programmes.

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2013 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Karachi, Pakistan)

We are planning now to build new undergraduate Faculties of Arts and Sciences, one in Karachi and one in Arusha in Tanzania. We plan to achieve this goal progressively as circumstances and resources allow. Yes, it will be a time-consuming exercise, but our planning has been advancing very quickly indeed.

Again, developing a liberal arts capacity will not only fulfil AKU’s founding vision, but it will also follow in the tradition of the great Islamic Universities of past centuries and their effort to expand, and to integrate, a wide array of knowledge. At that time, of course, comprehending the full expanse of knowledge was seen as an achievable goal; today, the explosion of knowledge seems overwhelming. But the knowledge explosion is precisely what makes a liberal arts platform even more valuable. The liberal arts, I believe, can provide an ideal context for fostering inter-disciplinary learning, nurturing critical thinking, inculcating ethical values, and helping students to learn how to go on learning about our ever-evolving universe.

A liberal arts orientation will also help prepare students for leadership in a world where the forces of civil society will play an increasingly pivotal role….

In places where government has been ineffective, or in post-conflict situations, civil society has demonstrated its potential value for maintaining, and even enhancing, the quality of human life. But civil society requires leaders who possess not only well-honed specialised skills, but also a welcoming attitude to a broad array of disciplines and outlooks.

This is why we believe that an investment in liberal arts education is also an investment in strengthening civil society. And this is also true of another, complementary investment we will be making at AKU — the creation of seven new graduate professional schools.

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India Today Interview (2nd), Sandeep Unnithan, ‘What keeps him on course with reviving cultural heritage in developing world’ (Delhi, India)

I think what drives our network is to enable people to manage their destinies. Once they manage their destinies, you will see, generally speaking, a take-off situation. It’s when they cannot manage their destinies and cannot achieve a level of economic independence that they are indebted in a terrible way or are subject to climate change because they are in agriculture or because they are high-risk and they have an earthquake — these are situations which we try to assist. We are not interested in philanthropy in a Western terminology as I would call it, because philanthropy or what they call it, charity, is not our notion of development. Our notion of development is to assist people to go from a notion of an unsatisfactory position of development to an autonomous position. That to us is what is important. Once they are autonomous, our role is finished. They can manage their destiny….

I think about what I used to read about India, China — you remember, the word most used by the Western media was “basket-case” (laughs). I think over and muse over the stupidity of that word, and how silly it looks today, in relation to India and China. I wonder where the basket is nowadays, probably it is moving to other places.

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Aga Khan Trust for Culture and Government of Kenya Agreement to Rehabilitate Nairobi City Park Signing Ceremony (Nairobi, Kenya) ·· incomplete

[S]topping a productive initiative simply because it might go on another six months or it might require additional financing, is extremely short sighted. What is important, is to complete it, to complete it well …

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Philip Jodidio interview (3rd) published in ‘A Racing and Breeding Tradition: The Horses of the Aga Khan’ (Aiglemont)

The idea of entering into an activity that was in no way central to the Ismaili Imamat, an activity in which no member of my family — neither my brother nor my sister nor I — had any understanding, in itself raised a major question mark. Would I have the time, and the capacity, to learn something about an activity with which I was totally unfamiliar? When the leader of a family endeavour disappears, the next generation does not necessarily carry on…. To be the new young owner who would come in and cause the operation to collapse was not exactly what I wanted!

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The Peterson Lecture, Annual Meeting of the International Baccalaureate (Atlanta, USA)

[T]he great problem of humankind in a global age will be to balance and reconcile the two impulses … the quest for distinctive identity and the search for global coherence. What this challenge will ultimately require of us, is a deep sense of personal and intellectual humility, an understanding that diversity itself is a gift of the Divine, and that embracing diversity is a way to learn and to grow — not to dilute our identities but to enrich our self-knowledge….

As we move into that future, we would like to collaborate with the International Baccalaureate movement in a challenging, but inspiring new educational adventure. Together, we can help reshape the very definition of a well educated global citizen. And we can begin that process by bridging the learning gap which lies at the heart of what some have called a Clash of Civilisations, but which I have always felt was rather a Clash of Ignorances….

There will be a strong temptation for us to regard these new frontiers as places to which we can bring some special gift of accumulated knowledge and well seasoned wisdom. But I would caution against such an emphasis. The most important reason for us to embrace these new opportunities lies not so much in what we can bring to them as in what we can learn from them.

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Aga Khan Academy, Kampala, Foundation Stone Ceremony (Kampala, Uganda)

Let me extend, at the very start, my heartfelt thanks to the person who made this beautiful site available for the building of a new Aga Khan Academy. He is Amirali Karmali [and we] are most deeply grateful to Amirali and his family for their extraordinary generosity. I know I speak for everyone here in describing this gift as a truly inspiring one….

Together [the 18 Aga Khan Academies] will constitute an inter-related community of learning exchanging students and teachers, sharing ideas and insights. And they will also share a variety of environmental experiences. Some, like the first Academy at Mombasa, will be in ocean-side settings, other will be placed in high mountain environments, still others will be built in desert terrains or forested areas or, as in Kampala, at the side of a beautiful lake. As our students and teachers experience these remarkable surroundings, I hope they will develop what I would call a sense of “environmental pluralism” to accompany the appreciation for cultural pluralism which we will also hope will be one of the programme’s hallmarks….

The final point I would emphasise today, above all else, is our uncompromising commitment to quality, in every aspect of the Academy experience. Our hallmark will be quality students, quality instructors, quality facilities — an unwavering devotion to world-class standards. Let the day be long past when some could excuse mediocrity by saying that it was “good enough for Africa”.

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Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa, Residential Campus, Foundation Stone Ceremony (Mombasa, Kenya)

[A new] World Bank study confirms a central tenet of our Academies planning, our confidence in the value of a residential campus. We believe that students draw valuable life lessons not only from learning together but also from living together — especially if the mix of students is broadly diversified. The laying of this cornerstone symbolises this commitment to a residential experience. In addition, we are also committed to building an international network of similar schools so that those who are enrolled on any one campus will also be able to be study at other Academy sites….

As world affairs have been steadily transformed by the process of globalisation, the ability to command and control has become less important than the ability to anticipate, connect and respond. And educational institutions which can instill and enhance those capacities have become essential to effective development.

Educating effective future leaders is a high responsibility…. We must rise above the antiquated approaches of earlier days and instead infuse our students with what I would call three “A’s” of modern learning — the spirit of anticipation, the spirit of adaptation and the spirit of adventure.

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Golden Jubilee Inaugural Ceremony (Aiglemont)

In a world where quality of life is increasingly measured in material terms there is risk that the essential value system of Islam will be eroded, or even threatened with disappearance. Political situations with a theological overlay are also causing disaffection or antagonism between communities of the same faith, and even more so amongst different faiths.

At the centre of this turbulence is Islam. We cannot let this continue. On the other hand, the sheer scale of the problem, added to its complexity, make it an issue which the Ummah, in its entirety, can better address, rather than individual schools of interpretation within it. It will be essential that while respecting their individual identities, various tariqahs within Islam should collaborate to articulate the common social and moral principles of our Islamic value system…. Islam is a faith of tolerance, generosity and spirituality…. Where we can build bridges with other tariqahs around a common Muslim cosmopolitan ethos, we should make this endeavour.

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2006 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Karachi, Pakistan)

If we judge from Islamic history, there is much to encourage us. For century after century, the Arabs, the Persians, the Turks and many other Islamic societies achieved powerful leadership roles in the world — not only politically and economically but also intellectually. Some ill-informed historians and biased commentators have tried to argue that these successes were essentially produced by military power, but this view is profoundly incorrect. The fundamental reason for the pre-eminence of Islamic civilisations lay neither in accidents of history nor in acts of war, but rather in their ability to discover new knowledge, to make it their own, and to build constructively upon it. They became the Knowledge Societies of their time.

Those times are over now. They are long gone. But if some people have forgotten or ignored this history, much of the Ummah remembers it — and, in remembering, asks how those times might be recaptured. There may be as many answers to that question as there are Muslims — but one answer which can be shared across the whole of the Ummah is that we must become full and even leading participants in the Knowledge Society of the 21st Century.

That will mean embracing the values of collaboration and coordination, openness and partnership, choice and diversity — which will under-gird the Knowledge Society, learning constantly to review and revise and renew what we think we know — learning how to go on learning. [Emphasis added]

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Acceptance Address – Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, American University of Beirut (Beirut, Lebanon)

The university’s fidelity to its founding notion that disciplined, objective inquiry is the property of all humanity, attracts faculty and students of high calibre from dozens of countries and cultures, challenged not only to excel in their chosen fields, but to place their knowledge in the wider context of humanity’s pluralist heritage. This is a core principle of my own faith — Islam — that learning is ennobling, regardless of the geographic or cultural origin of the knowledge we acquire. Such teachings spurred a spiritually liberated people to new waves of adventure in the realms of the spirit and the intellect …

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His Highness the Aga Khan’s vision for the Aga Khan Academies: ‘What does it mean to be an educated person?’ (Aiglemont)

Education must also make the case for a pluralistic tradition in which other views, ethnicities, religions and perspectives are valued not only because that is just and good, but also because pluralism is the climate best suited for creativity, curiosity and inquiry to thrive. It must also stimulate students to consider a variety of perspectives on some of the fundamental questions posed by the human condition: “What is truth?” “What is reality?” and “What are my duties to my fellow man, to my country and to God?” At the same time, education must reinforce the foundations of identity in such a way as to reinvigorate and strengthen them so that they can withstand the shock of change.

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Eighth Aga Khan Award for Architecture Prize Ceremony (The Citadel, Aleppo, Syria)

Many Muslims today, of which I am one, carry with them a memory of the historical achievements of Islamic civilisations. What is the significance of this historical memory for the Ummah in the contemporary world with its many and varied challenges? How can we look back and reinvigorate aspects of it, and what level of significance should be accorded to it? Since there is this general feeling that something has been lost, it is critical to look back in order to look forward. This is the debate that must occur, in which there must be broad participation on a basis that, like that used in the Award, provides freedom for full exchange. The goal should be to turn this great resource into an intellectual trampoline to generate ideas for building the future productively and constructively in terms that will be meaningful and beneficial for Muslims generally.

Some progress was made at an Award seminar on understanding the specifics of such a process with respect to expressions of Islam in contemporary architecture which I offer as an example, because it illustrates the level at which the process of questioning and deliberations must take place. Two lessons emerged from the discussion. One is that the technical issues of the built environment cannot be considered in isolation from the cultural and spiritual values of a society. The second is that these values have to be related at one and the same time to the historical traditions of Islam, in all their diversity, and to the fresh challenges posed by the opportunities and needs for living in the modern world.

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Pranay Gupte Interview (United States, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

In the long run, the question is what is the context in which human society will function and the Islamic community will function? And I think the whole notion of relevance is a massively important issue. It’s going across all faiths. Not just the Islamic faith. Not just the Islamic interpretation. It’s going across all faiths today. There is a clear search for ethical contexts. And my sense is that could be a little bit of a reaction to maybe some of excesses in the material context.

It’s clear that uncontrolled freedom becomes license. It’s an issue that keeps coming up all the time. And it’s one which needs very, very deep reflection. Very deep reflection. It’s probably the most challenging issue that I have to address today. More so since the life sciences have evolved, since communications have evolved.

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