17 April 2003
Thursday - 14 Safar 1424

Aga Khan speaks of shared heritage

NEW DELHI, April 16: Whether through neglect or wilful destruction, the disappearance of physical traces of the past deprives us of more than memories. Spaces that embody historic realities remind us of the lessons of the past.

This was stated by the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims, while speaking at the inauguration on Wednesday of the restored gardens that surround the tomb of the Mughal emperor Humayun.

Joining India's Minister for Tourism and Culture, Shri Jagmohan, at a ceremony to mark the first privately funded restoration of a World Heritage Site in India, the Aga Khan made reference to recent events affecting what are "valuable national assets but that also represent the patrimony of mankind."

"As we witnessed most poignantly across Afghanistan and now in Iraq," the Aga Khan said, "the very survival of so much of this heritage is today at risk."

"What, then," asked the Aga Khan, "of the deeper values that we risk abandoning under the dust of our own indifference or that might be crushed to rubble by our own destructive human forces?" Tolerance, openness and understanding towards other peoples' cultures, social structures, values and faiths were now essential to the very survival of an interdependent world, he said. "Pluralism is no longer simply an asset or a prerequisite for progress and development; it is vital to our existence."

A press release reporting the Delhi ceremony says the Humayun's tomb restoration project has been undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, in collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India.