Gouvieux, France, 11 July 2017: Tomorrow, on 11 July 2017, His Highness the Aga Khan will mark his Diamond Jubilee, or 60th year as the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the world's Shia Ismaili Muslims. This worldwide celebration brings together the global Ismaili community, partners of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), and government and faith community leaders in over 25 countries. 11 July begins a year of milestone announcements by the Aga Khan for a global commitment to partnerships based on the principles of ethics in action, peace and pluralism.
Over the past six decades, the Aga Khan has transformed the quality of life for millions of people around the world. In the areas of health, education, cultural revitalisation, and economic empowerment, he has worked to inspire excellence and improve living conditions and opportunities including in some of the world's most remote and troubled regions.
In Islam's ethical tradition, religious leaders not only interpret the faith but also have a responsibility to help improve the quality of life of their community and the societies among which they live. For the Aga Khan, this has meant dedicating his life to addressing the concerns of the developing world.
The Aga Khan and the Shia Ismaili Muslim Community
The Aga Khan is a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) through his cousin and son-in-law Ali, the first Imam, and his wife Fatima, the Prophet's daughter. He succeeded his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan as the Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims sixty years ago, at the age of 20.
Today, His Highness the Aga Khan leads a global community of some 15 million Shia Ismaili Muslims, living predominantly in South Asia, Central Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, North America, and the Far East. Like the Muslim world as a whole, the Ismaili community represents a rich diversity of cultures, languages, and nationalities. His role as Imam includes the interpretation of the faith for his community and responsibility for religious institutions and his followers worldwide.
The Aga Khan and the AKDN
Driven by the ethics of his faith and the Imam's hereditary responsibility to improve the quality of life for his community and for those amongst whom they live, the Aga Khan has been at the forefront of innovation in development during his 60 years as Imam. He is Founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), one of the most comprehensive development networks in the world today. The AKDN operates in over 30 countries principally in Central and South Asia, Eastern and Western Africa and the Middle East. Its activities contribute to the employment of over 80,000 staff, making one of the largest development organisations in the world.
The Aga Khan believes diversity should inspire, not divide, and that enhancing pluralism is a crucial building block for constructing peaceful and successful societies. In 2006, the Aga Khan and the Canadian government established the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa to conduct research and advance knowledge about the values that underpin inclusive pluralistic societies.
There will be a private event for the Aga Khan and leaders of the Ismaili Community on 11 July marking this historic occasion; global ceremonies coinciding with this event will be hosted by the Ismaili community. While the private nature of the event precludes it from general public broadcast, a press release, a video news release, and select photos of the event will be made available to the media on the day.