President William Mkapa Chancellor
Dr. Helmut Kohl
President Michail Gorbachev
Your Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan
Excellencies Distinguished Guests,
It is a special privilege that, exactly one year after I stood under this magnificent roof – gratefully awarded by Die Quadriga, I return today to honour one of the most renowned personalities of our time. I am also happy to be in Germany on this day of national importance, and to congratulate the people of Germany on the anniversary of the unification. It is most fitting that the board of Die Quadriga has chosen to honour His Highness Karim Aga Khan with the ‘United We Care’ award for this year. His Highness, the spiritual leader of the global Ismaili Community, is a man of vision who is committed to the noble ideals of humanity in the face of harsh realities of the world. As the 49th Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, he continues a long-standing family tradition as a world leader. His grandfather, Sir Sultan Mohammad Shah commanded pre-eminence on the socio-political scene in India and internationally. I am unsure where to begin to describe this great citizen of the world. Aga Khan the humanist, the peace-builder, the democrat, the philanthropist or an esteemed ambassador between civilisations.
His Highness the Aga Khan is a tireless humanist whose views and beliefs are employed for the service of people and in the true expression of humanity. In pursuit of his vision, His Highness has drawn upon the views and thoughts of the great scholar and poet of Afghanistan, Nasir Khosraw Balkhi, as much as he has been influenced by the humanist philosophers of Europe. His Highness the Aga Khan the peace builder believes in co-existence which leads him to champion the dialogue of religions. His efforts to enhance harmony among followers of various faiths are especially noteworthy. Indeed, the basic tenets of all religions require that we work for peace and for justice. The future generations have the right to live in a better world – that world can only be secured through the vision and conscious efforts of the peace-builders of today. While bringing people together, His Highness is striving not to diminish or remove cultural and religious differences, but to promote their acceptance and to work for a harmonious diversity. Indeed, His Highness has encouraged the world to embrace pluralism as a source of strength and not a weakness. It is this belief in an inclusive world that makes His Highness an inspirational leader of our time. Let’s remember that we live in a world that is stratified by parochial interests and threatened by dark forces of violence. With this backdrop, we can truly appreciate the significance of the broad vision and tireless efforts of His Highness to promote understanding and foster peace.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Today, millions of people around the world receive humanitarian and development assistance from the Aga Khan Development Network. It is one of the largest private development networks in the world with operations in over 30 countries. Its partners include the United Nations, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, as well as the international development agencies of Western countries. The German government is a long standing supporter.
I personally am a witness to the valuable work that His Highness has done for some of the most marginalized communities in my part of the world. His Development Network has not only built schools, hospitals, roads, and bridges but equally invested in developing important human capacity at all levels. These efforts uplift people from the extremities of poverty, and open up avenues of hope, opportunity and choice for those in despair. The Network’s approach to the preservation of cultural heritage is truly unique. It invests not only in historic heritage but in the social and architectural fabric that surrounds these important assets. As I watched a documentary on the creation of the Al-Azhar park in Cairo, I was inspired by how interventions in culture can act as a spring-board to urban and social development. In the same spirit, I eagerly follow the restoration of Bagh-e-Babur, the gardens and burial site of the first Moghul Emperor Babur, in Kabul that is being rehabilitated by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. Your Highness, I look forward to both of us inaugurating these gardens next year.
Ladies and Gentlemen, This great man’s vision and commitment to humanity has won him admirers and friends across the world. And, I am particularly proud to know His Highness and to be able to call him a close friend. Your Highness, It is my distinct privilege and honour to present to you, on this historic day of the unification of Germany, the prestigious Die Quadriga award. This award is not only a recognition of your personal achievements, but also an affirmation of the path that you have chosen to lead. May many others be inspired to walk your path and make the world a more humane place for generations to come. May I now request His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan to join me on the stage.