His Excellency the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, attended a celebratory event at the Ismaili Centre Lisbon in December to commemorate the 20th anniversary of its opening.

The President was warmly welcomed to the Ismaili Centre by the Diplomatic Representative of the Ismaili Imamat to the Portuguese Republic Nazim Ahmad, the President of the Ismaili Council for Portugal Rahim Firozali, and by the Aga Khan Scouts of Lisbon.

Other guests at the event included President of the Assembly of the Republic Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues; Former President of Portugal Dr Jorge Sampaio, who opened the Ismaili Centre in 1998; Mayor of Lisbon Fernando Medina; as well as leaders of Jamati and AKDN institutions.

The celebration began with the planting of a tree in the garden of the Ismaili Centre by His Excellency Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. Historically, the olive tree has been a symbol of peace and friendship both in the Abrahamic religious traditions, and in ancient Greek mythology. The tree was given pride of place alongside the one planted by Mawlana Hazar Imam and President Sampaio at the opening ceremony 20 years ago.

This was followed by the inauguration of an exhibition entitled “The Ismaili Centre: 20 Years Celebrating Pluralism.” The exhibition highlights a number of events held in the building over the last 20 years, where visitors have engaged with a diversity of cultures, and a sharing of knowledge and experiences.

The inauguration of the Ismaili Centre Lisbon 20 years ago represents a long-term relationship between the Ismaili community and Portugal. During this time, projects have been developed and opportunities have been created in a place where values are rooted in a harmonious connection between the past, present, and future.

As Mawlana Hazar Imam said during the Opening Ceremony of the Centre on 11 July 1998, “The inauguration of the Centro Ismaili today symbolises both the welcome accorded by the Government of Portugal, the response of the Ismaili community to this land of harmony and opportunity, and its permanent commitment to Portugal. These new buildings and the spaces within and around them, are in rich symbolism; drawing on the plurality of cultures which characterise Ismailis here, and around the world. 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.”

Nazim Ahmad delivered a speech to gathered guests where he mentioned the significance of the Centre to the establishment and integration of the community in Portugal. Furthermore, he took the opportunity to thank all those who were involved in the construction of the building — especially to former Mayors of Lisbon Dr Nuno Abecasis and Dr João Soares, who secured the land, and awarded the license for construction of the Centre respectively — and to the President of the Republic at the time, Dr Jorge Sampaio.

In his remarks, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said the Ismaili Centre represents the hard work and dedication of many people, and that it is a meeting point of cultures, religions, and views of the world. He spoke about the presence of the Ismaili community in Portugal and how, when settling in the country decades ago, “the community brought with it a life full of values, full of commitment, energy, and a will to help to build Portugal.” He went on to state that the Ismaili Centre Lisbon is a symbol of this enriching presence.

The programme included performances by the Ismaili and the Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa Choirs.

At the end of the ceremony, His Excellency the President was presented with a replica of tiles from the Ismaili Centre Lisbon as a token of recognition of his support for Portugal’s Ismaili community.