To herald the 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2018, a “Celebration of the Commonwealth” service was held at Westminster Abbey. The service brought together many leaders of different faiths from 53 nations. Her Majesty the Queen, Head of the Commonwealth’s message gave thanks to what we learn from others and how consensus and commitment can create a more prosperous, sustainable future.
On arrival, guests were greeted by One-Drum, Ghanaian musicians playing Kpanlogo music. The gathering of faith communities included Bogoda Seelawimala, representing Buddhists; rabbi Debbie Young-Somers, representing the Jewish Reformed Synagogues, and rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein, representing Liberal Judaism and rabbi Jason Kleiman, representing Orthodox Judaism; Malcolm M. Deboo, representing the Zoroastrian community; Trupti Patel, representing the Hindu community; Dr Natubhai Shah, representing the Jain community; Lord Singh of Wimbledon, representing the Sikh community; Maulana Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi, representing the Shia Muslim community; Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, representing the Sunni Muslim community; and Patrick O’Mara, representing the Bahai community. The representatives of the Christian Churches were the Dr Martyn Atkins from the Methodist Church, Andrea Price from the Church of Scotland, Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawod from the Syrian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Angaelos from the Coptic Orthodox Church, Archbishop Gregorios from the Orthodox Church and Canon Christopher Tuckwell from the Roman Catholic Church.
Almost a full complement of royalty attended, starting with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster, bid everyone to give thanks for the rich diversity in their common humanity, which was followed by the London Máori Choir, Ngáti Ránana, performing “The Call for Welcome”; Jaspreet Kaur, poet and history teacher, read her poem “The Moment” about learning to love and understanding others; Prime Minister Theresa May read from the Bible, “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour”; Liam Payne, formerly of boy band One Direction sang, “Waiting for the World to Change” by John Mayer; the Portsmouth Gospel Choir sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkle; Dr Andrew Bastawrous, eye surgeon and Co-Founder/CEO of Peek Vision, provided a reflection on bringing better vision to people around the world through the latest technology and health intelligence. The prayers from the various faith leaders called for peace, unity, an end to prejudice and for a common future. Patrick O’Mara quoted Abdu’l-Bahá, “O thou kind Lord! Unite all. Let the religions agree and make the nations one, so that they may see each other as one family and the whole earth as one home. May they all live together in perfect harmony.” Malcolm Deboo said, “There are many religions, but God is one. There are many countries, but the world is one. There are many races, but humanity is one.” Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra said “…O one of majesty and nobility, you created us from one man and one woman. Had it been your will you would have made us all the same, but you made us into nations and tribes so that we may know each other. O magnificent Creator; enable us to respect and celebrate the diversity you have created…”
The Royal Commonwealth Society, founded in 1868, is a network of individuals and organisations committed to improving the lives and prospects of 2.4 billion Commonwealth citizens across the world. All participants affirmed their belief in the Commonwealth as a force for good in the world and pledged themselves to its service, now and for the future.