“Indeed, the revelation of Islam – my faith – looks upon freedom from hunger, provision of appropriate shelter and clothing, security against fear for one’s safety, good health, learning and wisdom, and generation of wealth as a blessing to strive for, and to share in the creation of an equitable order of peace and harmony.
This explains my own role, as the hereditary Imam – the spiritual leader – of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, in development activities through the agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network, or the AKDN.
Like the Muslim Ummah as a whole, the worldwide Ismaili community that I lead is immensely pluralistic, culturally and linguistically. In our experience and conviction, the creation of a humane, socially supportive built environment is critical to people’s quality of life.
For this reason, the Historic Cities Support Programme, a component of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, is not only concerned with saving buildings or historic districts for future generations. It seeks to go beyond restoration to creating mechanisms that contribute to real, measurable improvement in the quality of life in rural and urban areas, also enabling their inhabitants thereby to look after their cultural assets.
This is the goal of the multi-programme capacity-building strategies which the AKDN deploys to help the residents of historic cities or areas, whether this be the Silk Road, or Kabul and Herat in Afghanistan, Aleppo in Syria, Mopti in Mali, Zanzibar, or Cairo, the city that my forefathers, the Fatimid Imam-Caliphs of Egypt, founded more than a thousand years ago. In all such places, rehabilitation of cultural heritage is supported by the work of AKDN agencies specialising in microfinance, health, education, water and sanitation and promotion of economic enterprise.
Read the complete speech at AKDN | Press Centre | Speech by the Aga Khan at the Royal Toledo Foundation Award Ceremony (Toledo, Spain)
Research, Insight & Perspective by A. Maherali