Commonwealth Day celebrations across 53 countries
Communities and citizens across 53 countries came together to celebrate this year’s Commonwealth Day - 12 March - with a series of events that captured the diversity and vibrancy of the Commonwealth.
Classroom assemblies, memorial ceremonies, flag raising and Commonwealth Big Lunches were just some of the activities that featured in the day’s celebrations.
Her Majesty The Queen - Head of the Commonwealth - praised the diversity of the Commonwealth and the future it can help to build for citizens in her annual Commonwealth Day message:
She said: “There is a very special value in the insights we gain through the Commonwealth connection; shared inheritances help us overcome difference so that diversity is a cause for celebration rather than division.
“We shall see this in action at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting... These gatherings are themselves fine examples of how consensus and commitment can help to create a future that is fairer, more secure, more prosperous and sustainable.”
In her Commonwealth Day message, the UK Prime Minister Theresa May which focused on the opportunities for the Commonwealth to build a better future for its citizens.
Mrs May said: “This year’s Commonwealth theme is towards a common future. With this focus we have an opportunity to work together to ensure the Commonwealth delivers the best possible future for all our citizens, particularly our young people.”
Comnonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland highlighted the strength of commitment and cooperation that exists across the Commonwealth in her Commonwealth Day statement:
She said: “Just as we work together in the Commonwealth to preserve the health of the ocean, we cooperate in many other ways for the common good. Our member countries have committed to nurture and protect democracy, development and respect for diversity so that people of all communities can live safer and healthier lives, and share in the fruits of prosperity.
“There are opportunities for each and every one of us as members of the worldwide Commonwealth family to become involved. It is by living and working for the good of one another, towards a common future, that we build our Commonwealth.”
In London, dignitaries and representatives gathered for a wreath laying ceremony at Memorial Gates to honour all Commonwealth servicemen and women of the First and Second World Wars - this year with an especial focus on the service and contribution of Jamaica.
The annual Commonwealth Day Service took place in Westminster Abbey and was attended by members of the Royal Family including Her Majesty The Queen as well as the UK Prime Minister, Prime Minister Muscat of Malta, dignitaries and nearly 1,000 school children from across the UK.
The first Commonwealth Big Lunch was held in Downing Street with 50 children from schools across the UK attending the event which was hosted by chef and television presenter Ainsley Harriot and Education Secretary Damian Hinds.
Commonwealth Day also saw the first Commonwealth Big Lunches take place with lunches held in London, Malawi, Canada, The Gambia, Ghana, Scotland, Kenya, Nigeria, Wales, South Africa, the Solomon Islands, Uganda and India.