Lisbon – In another rare honour – in a lifetime filled with rare honours – the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the world’s Ismaili community – will address the Portuguese Parliament today (Tuesday.)
The parliamentary speech is part of his Diamond Jubilee visit to Portugal where tens of thousands of Ismailis have traveled to in celebration of the spiritual leader’s 60 years of leadership of the Shia Muslim community.
Thousands of Ismailis have traveled to Lisbon from Canada, USA, England, EU nations, India, East Africa, Pakistan and central Asia. The week has been marked with pageantry and cultural shows and festivals.
The address to the Portuguese parliament is to be webcast live at 11:45 a.m. GMT.
The Aga Khan arrived in Portugal three days ago to a welcome fit for a head of state.
“This visit, at the invitation of the Portuguese Government, represents the culmination of celebrations that have been undertaken worldwide since 11 July 2017 – 60 years to the day that he acceded to the office of the Ismaili Imamat in 1957 at the age of 20 years,” said a statement issued by his press relations staff.
He’ll visit his community for a grand audience on July 11 – the day 60 years ago when he became the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the community upon the death of his grandfather.
He was only 20 when he inherited the leadership of the global community and was a student at Harvard at the time.
“Over 40,000 people from the global Ismaili community will gather in Lisbon over the next week to commemorate this special occasion and to celebrate the Aga Khan’s commitment towards uplifting the lives of thousands of vulnerable communities, and promoting the values of peace and pluralism,” his spokesman said.
“Activities will include Jubilee concerts featuring world-renowned performers as well as artists from the Aga Khan Music Initiative; exhibitions; an international talent showcase featuring Ismailis from around the world; an international art gallery; a film festival, and a series of other celebrations.”
While in Portugal, the Aga Khan will meet with various government leaders to discuss ongoing partnerships implemented through the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and areas of further collaboration.
“In June 2015, the Ismaili Imamat, concluded and signed a landmark agreement for the establishment of a Seat of the Ismaili Imamat in Portugal. The agreement, which was unanimously ratified by the Parliament of the Portuguese Republic, builds on a series of earlier accords and provides an enabling framework for the facilitation of the Imamat’s work,” said spokesman Miguel Guedes.
It’s expected that as a result of the agreement, “intensified cooperation between Portugal and the Ismaili Imamat in improving the quality of lives of people within the Republic of Portugal and elsewhere around the world.”
During this Diamond Jubilee year, the Aga Khan has visited a number of countries around the world including Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, India, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, the United States of America, Canada, France, and the United Kingdom, at the invitation of their respective governments.
“During those visits, His Highness met with various leaders of the Government, civil society institutions, development organisations and other partner agencies of the AKDN, as well as with project staff, volunteers and beneficiaries. These meetings and visits have enabled His Highness to strengthen and expand a number of AKDN initiatives to improve the quality of life in areas of greatest need.”
“Examples of Diamond Jubilee initiatives include the Sunder Nursery in India, the Global Pluralism Award of the Global Centre for Pluralism which goes to individuals who contribute in innovative and high-impact ways to building societies where diversity is respected and valued and the Centre for Innovation in Medical Education (CIME), a state-of-the art facility for technology-based learning for health professionals in Karachi, Pakistan,” said Guedes.
“Most recently, the Aga Khan Centre in London’s Knowledge Quarter was opened and with its institutions, will continue to serve as a knowledge hub and build bridges of understanding about Muslim cultures and societies. Jubilee years are also special in that they provide an occasion for members of the global Ismaili community to express their gratitude to His Highness for his leadership.”
The Aga Khan’s visit to Portugal represents yet another milestone for the Ismaili Imamat and the Republic of Portugal’s strong and centuries-old relationship.
Reflecting on this partnership, Portugal’s President de Sousa remarked during a 2016 visit of His Highness:
“What really brings us together is a joint commitment to defend and apply the principles and values that honour the ethical importance of human life, pluralism of societies and respect for the dignity of human beings.”
“The values of your civil society are the same values that we defend,” responded His Highness. “We have therefore great commonality in the work we do, not only here in Europe, but in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere.”
Upon his arrival in Lisbon the Aga Khan was received with military honours. He has previously addressed the Canadian Parliament and received honorary citizenship of Canada.