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Prince Amyn Aga Khan speaking at Centro Ismaili in Lisbon 2023-07-12

Wednesday, 2023, July 12

Prince Amyn, Prince Rahim, and Prince Aly Muhammad joined guests to celebrate a momentous occasion — 25 years of the Centro Ismaili, Lisboa. Since opening in 1998, the building has stood tall, embodying the principles of pluralism, knowledge sharing, and dialogue.

At the event, President Marcelo surprised the audience by awarding the Portuguese Order of Merit to the Ismaili Centre, accepted by Prince Amyn. Established in 1927, the distinction is awarded by the President of the Republic to citizens or institutions for services that benefit Portuguese society.

The Centre's elegant blend of traditional Islamic architectural motifs and Iberian elements, designed by the renowned architect Raj Rewal, has made it a distinguished feature within Lisbon's urban landscape. A distinctive space in the heart of the city, the Ismaili Centre and its gardens have served as a symbol of cultural heritage, and a catalyst for bridge building and cross-cultural understanding.

Upon opening, the new Jamatkhana soon became a focal point for the religious and social life of the Portuguese Jamat, as well as a source of pride — and a space to share with others.

In this spirit of sharing, President Yasmin Bhudarally of the Ismaili Council for Portugal joyfully welcomed guests to the Centre, and expressed her gratitude to government representatives for their long-standing support for, and enduring friendship with the Jamat.

“I would like to acknowledge,” she said, “the way in which successive Portuguese governments have maintained a very strong link with the institutions of the Ismaili Community, with an understanding anchored in shared values and the guarding of human dignity and social progress.”

Highlighting the Centre’s contribution to civic life in Portugal, she referred to the scores of events and programmes hosted across more than two decades, including multilateral conferences, diplomatic receptions, interfaith congregations, healthcare congresses, art exhibitions, and musical concerts.

“What unites them all,” President Yasmin explained, “is the spirit of pluralism and dialogue, of promoting and sharing knowledge and human development.”

Diplomatic Representative of the Ismaili Imamat to Portugal Nazim Ahmad delivered a speech in which he thanked those involved in the building’s planning and construction — in particular former Mayors of Lisbon Dr Nuno Abecasis and Dr João Soares, who secured the land and awarded the construction licence — and acknowledged the support of the country’s President at the time, the late Dr Jorge Sampaio.

In his address, President Marcelo spoke in glowing terms about the presence and commitment of the Ismaili community in the country, and noted the vital role of the Ismaili Centre as a meeting point of cultures, faiths, and beliefs.

“Here in this Centre,” he said, “the Ismaili community has worked for Portuguese society in education, science, technology, taking care of children, and of the older generations — helping almost everywhere.”

“You made a difference, with a very hard working and open minded community. A community that accepted and helped to build inclusion,” he added.

The Ismaili Centre was inaugurated on 11 July 1998 by Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam — and became the third in a network of high-profile Centres in various parts of the world. On that day, Hazar Imam explained the significance of this new structure and its surrounding gardens for the Jamat and wider community.

“These new buildings and the spaces within and around them, are rich in symbolism; drawing on the plurality of cultures which characterise Ismailis here, and around the world,” he said.

“The array of facilities included is a reflection of the core values of the Ismaili community, its organisation, its discipline, its social conscience, the importance of its community organisations, and its attitude toward the society in which it exists.”

A quarter-century later, these words still ring true. As a symbol of the Jamat’s identity, the iconic Ismaili Centre represents the community’s permanent presence in the region, and reflects its aspirations to serve civil society in Portugal for the next 25 years and beyond.

Heritage Society Collection

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