Toronto, 20 May 2016 — At a special ceremony held this evening, the Pontifical Institute for Mediaeval Studies awarded Mawlana Hazar Imam an honorary degree for his service to humanity.
A Doctor of Letters in Mediaeval Studies honoris causa was conferred upon Mawlana Hazar Imam at St Basil’s Collegiate Church by the Chancellor of the Institute, His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins, the Archbishop of Toronto.
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David Mulroney, President of the University of St Michael’s College and a former Canadian Ambassador to China, delivered the citation.
“Let us celebrate today our own connection to His Highness, a champion of pluralism, a transcender of borders and barriers, and a great, wise and benevolent connector,” said President Mulroney.
Founded in 1929, the Pontifical Institute for Mediaeval Studies is the oldest humanities research institute in Canada. It is dedicated to advancing studies in the intellectual and material cultures of the Middle Ages, and to deepening the understanding of how this period has shaped life and ideals in Western culture. It received a papal charter in 1939.
“Canadians take special pride in the links that connect us to the Aga Khan, to the Ismaili community and to the important values that they so effectively champion,” said President Mulroney.
Pluralism is one of those values, he said, noting that Mawlana Hazar Imam has “generously reinforced the connection between Canada and respect for this value by making our national capital home to a Global Centre for Pluralism.”
The citation also recognised the extensive work of the Aga Khan Development Network in Afghanistan. By strengthening its economy, revitalising its cultural assets and upholding its rich historical diversity, AKDN has helped to rebuild a shattered society and restore its humanity.
Mawlana Hazar Imam was accompanied by Prince Aly Muhammad. The ceremony took place before a distinguished gathering that included former Governor General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson, Senators Nicole Eaton and Vivienne Poy, and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. Senior Jamati and institutional leaders were also present.
President Mulroney concluded his remarks by recounting an experience from his time as Ambassador to China between 2009–12. Having learnt of the existence of an Ismaili community established the west of the country, he decided to travel to the Chinese city of Tashkurgan to meet them.
“It was a deeply moving experience, and one that resonated with me as a Catholic,” he recalled. “I met people of faith and hope and tremendous goodwill. They readily acknowledged the sorrow of being physically separated from their Ismaili brothers and sisters and from His Highness. But they displayed a profound and confident spiritual connection to their global community.”
“They possess a faith that refuses to be hemmed in or isolated by man-made barriers, a conviction that owes much to their very real and justified sense of being in communion with their spiritual leader.”
As the convocation drew to a close, the Chancellor of the Institute, His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins, the Archbishop of Toronto invoked the blessing of God:
“I pray for the lord's blessing upon you and upon your whole community and I look forward in the years ahead to a deepening of love, friendship and a common effort between our communities as a sign to the whole of society of that profound effect of beauty, truth and goodness and the pursuit of that for the benefit of all.”