Portugal hosts culmination of the year-long celebration of the Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee.  His Highness the Aga Khan arrived in Portugal on July 6 for a visit commemorating his Diamond Jubilee, marking 60 years of leadership as the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the world’s Shia Ismaili Muslim community.

This visit, at the invitation of the Portuguese Government, represents the culmination of celebrations that have been undertaken worldwide since July 11, 2017 -- 60 years to the day that he acceded to the office of the Ismaili Imamat in 1957 at the age of 20 years, according to the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).

Over 40,000 people from the global Ismaili community have reportedly gathered in Lisbon to commemorate this special occasion and to celebrate the Aga Khan’s commitment towards uplifting the lives of thousands of vulnerable communities, and promoting the values of peace and pluralism.

Activities include Jubilee concerts featuring world-renowned performers as well as artists from the Aga Khan Music Initiative; exhibitions; an international talent showcase featuring Ismailis from around the world; an international art gallery; a film festival, and a series of other celebrations.

While in Portugal, the Aga Khan will meet with various government leaders to discuss ongoing partnerships implemented through the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and areas of further collaboration.  A feature of His Highness’ schedule will be an address to the Portuguese Parliament on July 10.  His Highness will also meet with members of the Portuguese and global Ismaili community gathered in Lisbon during his week-long visit in the country.

In June 2015, the Ismaili Imamat, concluded and signed a landmark agreement for the establishment of a Seat of the Ismaili Imamat in Portugal.  The agreement, which was unanimously ratified by the Parliament of the Portuguese Republic, builds on a series of earlier accords and provides an enabling framework for the facilitation of the Imamat’s work.  The agreement will result in intensified cooperation between Portugal and the Ismaili Imamat in improving the quality of lives of people within the Republic of Portugal and elsewhere around the world.

As in many other traditions, Jubilees mark important anniversaries.  The Diamond Jubilee celebrations therefore represent both the recognition of the Aga Khan’s work over the last 60 years and an opportunity to launch new initiatives – for the Ismaili Muslim community as well as the communities in which they live.

During this Diamond Jubilee year, His Highness has visited a number of countries around the world including Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, India, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, the United States of

America, Canada, France, and the United Kingdom, at the invitation of their respective governments.  During those visits, His Highness met with various leaders of the Government, civil society institutions, development organizations and other partner agencies of the AKDN, as well as with project staff, volunteers and beneficiaries. These meetings and visits have enabled His Highness to strengthen and expand a number of AKDN initiatives to improve the quality of life in areas of greatest need.

Examples of Diamond Jubilee initiatives include the Sunder Nursery in India, the Global Pluralism Award of the Global Center for Pluralism which goes to individuals who contribute in innovative and high-impact ways to building societies where diversity is respected and valued and the Center for Innovation in Medical Education (CIME), a state-of-the art facility for technology-based learning for health professionals in Karachi, Pakistan. Most recently, the Aga Khan Center in London’s Knowledge Quarter was opened and with its institutions, will continue to serve as a knowledge hub and build bridges of understanding about Muslim cultures and societies.  Jubilee years are also special in that they provide an occasion for members of the global Ismaili community to express their gratitude to His Highness for his leadership.

The Aga Khan’s visit to Portugal represents yet another milestone for the Ismaili Imamat and the Republic of Portugal’s strong and centuries-old relationship.  Reflecting on this partnership, Portugal’s President de Sousa remarked during a 2016 visit of His Highness: “What really brings us together is a joint commitment to defend and apply the principles and values that honor the ethical importance of human life, pluralism of societies and respect for the dignity of human beings.”

“The values of your civil society are the same values that we defend,” responded His Highness.  “We have therefore great commonality in the work we do, not only here in Europe, but in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere.”