Westminster Abbey hosts performers and dignitaries for 2014 observance

Dignitaries from across the Commonwealth joined the Queen in celebrating Commonwealth Day at Westminster Abbey on 10 March 2014. 

The observance, Britain’s largest annual multi-faith service, is held on the second Monday of March every year to celebrate the unity of the Commonwealth of Nations. Among those in attendance were the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex. 

This year’s theme, ‘Team Commonwealth’, stresses the importance of collaboration within the Commonwealth and makes reference to the upcoming Commonwealth Games. The Queen’s Commonwealth Day address reflected both leitmotifs. 

“Many of us are following closely the news of the baton relay as it passes through the 70 countries and territories whose teams will gather for the Games,” she said. “The images bring vividly to life what we mean by the Commonwealth family: it is wonderful to see the warmth, shared endeavour and goodwill as the baton is passed through the hands of many thousands of people. 

“Affinities of history and inheritance from the past are strong, yet we are bound together by a sense that the Commonwealth is a powerful influence of good for the future. People of all ages from different cultures are weaving an ever-growing network of links, which connect us in our diversity and our common purpose. It is this unity that is expressed in this year’s theme: ‘Team Commonwealth’. The understanding that we belong together, and are able, through teamwork, to achieve far more than we could do alone, has always been at the heart of our approach. For all of us this is now captured in the Commonwealth Charter which sets out the values and principles which guide and motivate us.” 

Following the Queen’s speech, international campaigner Malala Yousafzai gave a heartfelt keynote address to the congregation, pleading for the universal right to education and gender equality. 

“The future success of the Commonwealth – like the future success of any team – depends on the next generation. It should be the top priority that each country in the Commonwealth and all over the world has 100 per cent school attendance of both girls and boys. We need to work and invest more in education to build up a bright future and protect children suffering from terrorism, child labour, child trafficking and gender abuse such as FGM [female genital mutilation]. 

“Some of you may know, and some of you may not, that women own only one per cent of the total land in the world. In some fields, women and men do the exactly same job but women are paid less than men. Women get fewer opportunities in politics, businesses and other economic industries, and in the EU women comprise only three per cent of chief execs of major companies. 

“In my opinion, for a country’s development, it is essential that women are accepted with equal rights. We should take action for women’s rights because we can never succeed when half of us are held back.” 

Among other speakers were Lord Sebastian Coe and Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, who spoke on the subject of the Commonwealth Games. 

Coe told those gathered at Westminster Abbey: “These Games have their own unique spirit. It is a spirit formed not only by the diversity of the Commonwealth but also the sense of belonging to something, a sense of family.”

He added: “The Games in Glasgow will be another chance to show what the Commonwealth represents: peace, order and equal rights for all.”

Other highlights included South African poet Philippa Yaa De Villiers reading a poem that had been commissioned specifically for the observance and Laura Mvula giving a breathtaking performance of her song Unbelievable Dream.


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Amnesty International