“Water, after all, has been seen, down through the ages, as the great source of life” — His Highness the Aga Khan on the opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa, Canada

His Highness the Aga Khan delivers his remarks at the inauguration of the international headquarters of the Global Centre of Pluralism. –AKDN / Moez Visram

… When I first visited this site, I went across the Ottawa River, to see things from the opposite side.  From that perspective, I noticed that many buildings on the Ontario side had, over the years, turned their backs to the river.  But as we began to plan, another possibility became evident.  It seemed increasingly significant to open the site to the water.

Water, after all, has been seen, down through the ages, as the great source of life.  When scientists search the universe for signs of life, they begin by looking for water.  Water restores and renews and refreshes.  And opening ourselves and our lives to the water is to open ourselves and our lives to the future.

In addition, the Ottawa River represents a powerful connection to other places, nearby and far away.  It is not only a refreshing symbol, it is also a connecting symbol, connecting this site to the rest of Canada and the rest of the world.

Throughout the history of Canada, the Ottawa River has been a meeting place for diverse peoples, originally the First Nations, and then the British and the French, and more recently Canadians from many different backgrounds.  It symbolizes the spirit of connection.  And the spirit of connection, of course, is at the very heart of the Global Centre for Pluralism.   

The new forecourt garden suggests that the Centre will be a place for contemplation and reflection.  And the opening to the River suggests that it will also be a place for connection and engagement.

What happens at 330 Sussex Drive in the years ahead will radiate out well beyond its walls, to the entire world…

Read full speach here

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