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“We affirm our belief in the Commonwealth as a force for good in the world.”
These were the words of Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, who today gave a reading to the Commonwealth Service, a multi-faith service for Commonwealth Day 2017.
The Westminster Abbey service was attended by The Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, and around 800 schoolchildren and young people, including flagbearers from the association’s 52 countries.
In her Affirmation, themed around peace-building, the Secretary-General spoke of the Commonwealth’s contribution to supporting social progress, advancing democracy and building economic resilience and prosperity.
“We cherish the spirit of respect and understanding that inspires us as ‘A Peace-building Commonwealth’ to work for the eradication of all forms of violence from homes and communities, and with goodwill and cordiality for the comity of nations,” she said.
“We stand in solidarity alongside the vulnerable and marginalised, and all who live in fear of discrimination or oppression, pledging to uphold their rights to justice and dignity.”
The Commonwealth Service saw readings by Joseph Muscat, Prime Minister of Malta and Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth, and Achaleke Christian Leke, Commonwealth Young Person of the Year, a peace advocate and former victim of radicalisation and violence.
Guests from the world of sport and entertainment in attendance included athletes Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Anna Meares, Annie Lennox and Geri Horner. The service was broadcast live around the world by the BBC World Service.
Performers included George the Poet, a British spoken word artist and social commentator of Ugandan heritage, Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman and Maltese poet and author Dr Immanuel Mifsud. The service is organised by the Council of Commonwealth Societies and the Royal Commonwealth Society.
Earlier in the day, The Queen set the Gold Coast 2018 Queen’s Baton Relay in motion, by placing a message to the Commonwealth and its athletes inside the distinctive baton at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
The baton will travel through all Commonwealth member countries over 388 days, covering 230,000 kilometres to its final destination, the opening ceremony of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
In her Commonwealth Day message, The Queen said, “The cornerstones on which peace is founded are, quite simply, respect and understanding for one another. Working together, we build peace by defending the dignity of every individual and community.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among the many government and community leaders who issued Commonwealth Day statements. In his message, the Prime Minister invited fellow citizens to learn more about the shared history and values that bind the association’s peoples.
“The Commonwealth is a champion of democracy, freedom, sustainable development, the rule of law, and human rights, especially the rights of women and girls. As a member of the Commonwealth, Canada remains committed to protecting and promoting these values,” he said.
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