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SPEECH AT THE DINNER IN HONOUR OF THE PRESIDENT UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA

Go To News Event: 
Event - 1982-11-21
Date: 
Sunday, 1982, November 21
Location: 
Hazar Imam, Begum Salimah and Prince Amyn Mohammed at the Dinner with the President of Tanzania

Mr President, Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to welcome you here this evening and to be able to reciprocate the generous and warm hospitality which you, Mr President, extended yesterday; I would also like to express my appreciation for the welcome given to us by CCM and Government Leaders and officials since our arrival. Both my wife, Begum Salimah and my brother, Prince Amyn, join me in these sentiments.

It gives me particular pleasure to be here in Dar es salaam, celebrating the twenty fifth anniversary of my Takht Nashini. It was here on the site of the Upanga Jamatkhana, the foundation stone of which I laid three days later, that the first of the Takht Nashini ceremonies took place in 1957. It was here too that my grandfather, Sir Sultan Mohammed Shah Aga Khan, celebrated his Diamond Jubilee.

The Takht Nashini ceremony bore witness to my newly inherited leadership of the Ismaili Community. I was then twenty years old and, like any young man, looked forward to great progress in the world. Indeed, since then tremendous changes have affected all of us here today. You, Mr, President have led your Nation to Independence and you have brought your people from a situation in which only one in ten could read and write, to far greater literacy, the highest rate in Africa. You have instituted many rural health and development programmes and I note that in your keynote speech of October 21st you have set a target of clean water being available within 400 metres of every household by 1991. Such basic improvements are the foundation for progress in the Third World, because Third World populations are predominantly rural and development must take place in the rural areas if they are to prosper.

You, Mr. President, are of course aware that I am deeply involved with problems of Education, Health and Rural Development in the Third World. Being responsible, as the Imam, for an Ismaili Community of fifteen million people, spread through twenty five different countries, I have necessarily become a student of social problems of all kinds.

Islam, I should like to underline, is an all encompassing Faith. It gives direction to man's life, urging the individual to achieve such a balance between material progress and spiritual well-being. But no man, woman or child can hope to achieve such a balance in sickness, illiteracy or squalor.

My Grandfather was well aware of this. Education services which he initiated a hundred years ago, in the 1880s, are now on their way to becoming internationally linked systems of voluntary, non-profit, Muslim institutions serving all communities and which through their welfare activities are contributing to improving the quality of life in the Third World.

When I assumed the responsibilities of the Imamat in 1957 I was eager - as I still am - to see that the countries where my followers live are sound and stable; that they are countries with clear development horizons; countries where, following my Grandfather's example, I could help to underwrite the integrity of the State and to contribute to improving the quality of life for all communities, not just my own. I hoped to help bridge the gulf between the developed and the developing worlds. This aspiration, I felt, was particularly appropriate to the Imamat because of its commitment to broad social objectives without political connotations, save in its concern for the fundamental freedom of its followers to practise the Faith of their choice.

Just as a few moments ago, I stressed the all-encompassing nature of Islam, so I must emphasise the non-political character of the Ismaili Imamat. Far from seeking to interfere in politics, I have always urged Ismailis to be loyal to their countries where they live and to whatever Government is responsible for their security and their well-being. This respect for the integrity of nations, coupled with our fundamental aspiration to improve the quality of life in the Third World countries is, I believe, the reason why the role of Ismailis and the Imamat is today generally perceived as being a positive and constructive one.

This evening, Mr, President, I should like to explain very briefly how we try to realise our aspirations in practice.

I mentioned Health and Education. Overall, the Aga Khan Health Services here in Tanzania, in Kenya, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Syria comprise some 200 health care units, from major hospitals down to village dispensaries and primary care centres. I am very pleased to say that on Thursday I shall be inaugurating an expansion and renovation scheme for the outpatient department at the Hospital in Dar es Salaam which will particularly help the urban poor, I shall also be appointing a Director of primary health care to liaise with our health centres up-country. In November last year the Aga Khan Foundation and the World Health Organisation co-sponsored in International Conference in Karachi on the Role of Hospitals in primary health care, a subject which is becoming of increasing concern to every Third World Country.

As, You Mr, President, remarked in Moshi only last week, a real health service reaches from the village through first aid care up to health centres and hospitals and up to reference hospitals and every point all along the way is important.

The Aga Khan Health and Education services both aim to complement national efforts and are, of course, open to all communities. I am happy to say that here in Tanzania, 91 percent of the 213,000 outpatients we expect to have treated by the end of this year are non-Ismailis. In our schools, 70% of the 3,000 students we educate, mainly in our Day Care Centres, are non-Ismailis, as are 84% of the teachers. We would be happy if more of the teachers could be trained locally because we are seriously short of the qualified staff who alone can maintain the quality of teaching so essential to produce the trained manpower which this country needs so much.

Our schools here are amongst 300 educational institutions of ours in the Third World and I hope you, Mr. President, will forgive a moment of pride when I mention the foundation of The Aga Khan University which was evolved out of the Aga Khan Hospital and Medical College we are building in Karachi. This University will broaden its teaching to other disciplines and will be unique in having faculties in other countries. I very much hope that one such faculty will be established in Africa. The Aga Khan University will address itself to Third World problems in a way that many existing universities have not done, especially taking into account the fact that Third World populations are predominantly rural, not urban. The University is the largest project sponsored by The Aga Khan Foundation, which I established in 1967 in Geneva to build further on the structure of welfare services originated by my Grandfather and to help resolve social development problems in the Third World. The Foundation now has affiliates in seven countries, collaborates with other International agencies and was officially recognised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1980. Its activities range widely; a highly successful goitre control programme through rural health centres in Pakistan: combatting diarrhoeal diseases in Bangladesh; originating programmes to improve the farming of the rural poor both in the remote areas of Northern Pakistan and India; helping to fund our new primary health care office in Tanzania. The list is long. I am told that the Aga Khan Foundation is today among the larger international foundations when measured in terms of its yearly commitments in the developing world. Many of our schemes depend on volunteers, even though the staff of the foundation are professionals.

Indeed volunteers, displaying self-reliance and initiative, have always been the lifeblood of the Aga Khan social institutions.

Where the Aga Khan Foundation acts as a catalyst in generating social programmes, our Industrial Promotion Services (IPS) companies have been established since 1963 to be an agency of the Imamat's economic developments in the Third World. Not, I stress, simply to make a profit, but to invest in constructive economic development.

Here in Tanzania IPS is involved in 11 projects, employing 4500 people and is in partnership with several parastatals, exploring with them the better use of local materials. Indeed IPS has already gone a long way in utilising local raw materials to avoid foreign imports. One of its greatest strength is the quality and flexibility of its management resources, both of which I believe vital throughout the Third World in the present time of economic difficulty.

The Imamat's social and economic institutions here continue to be privately managed. But I should like to emphasise that our institutional endeavour is not to be confused with the less desirable aspects of unrestrained capitalism. The Ismaili Imamat has no single home country and so its activities are international and institutional as opposed to Governmental.

All the Imamat activities, agencies and services seek to identify themselves with the objectives of the developing countries and my intention is that the benefit of their enterprise should be recirculated within the Third World.

For generations Ismailis have been advised by their Imams to be loyal to the countries in which for the most part they are a minority. I believe that they are demonstrating that loyalty, sometimes admittedly in very difficult circumstances, throughout the world. They have adapted themselves to accord with Governmental aims. They and the Imamat Institutions and projects, are forging links between the developed and developing nations, bringing skills and finance from the one to assist the other, in Health, Education and Welfare as well as in Economic Development. They can assist with the vital business of international bridge building, of helping nations to learn from each other and to understand each other. So long as they all maintain the Imamat's fundamental commitment to improving the quality of human life, I believe their role in the Third World will be of increasing value.


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