A SHARED ACT OF REFLECTION AND COMMITMENT TO WELCOME THE YEAR 2000
In what has been called a unique gathering in human history, the Baha'i community joined the eight other major UK religions to celebrate the New Millennium in the Royal Gallery of the Palace of Westminster in the presence of Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester (welcomed by a fanfare played by trumpeters from the Blues and Royals), the Most Revd and Rt Hon Dr George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Hon Tony Blair MP, Prime Minister, and Mrs Blair. In his welcoming remarks, the Rt Hon Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, referred to the event as a gathering of the nine major religions of the UK. The Prime Minister spoke reflectively and enthusiastically about the unique importance of the event, showing as it did the importance of faith and religion and emphasizing the government's commitment to a tolerant, multi-faith future for the UK.
The event was hosted by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and the Inter Faith Network, who had planned it in consultation with The Lambeth Group and members of the faith communities. Representatives of all the major religions gave presentations on shared values such as community, care and compassion, justice, and respect to an audience of members of Parliament, faith leaders and faith community members from across the UK.
Carmel Momen, Public Information Representative from the Office of External Affairs, was involved in the planning of the event and regularly attended meetings at the Department of Culture Media and Sport for this purpose.
Mrs Joan Bowers of the Chester Baha'i community read from the writings of Baha'u'llah on the issue "Justice as a Foundational Value", and gave some personal insights into the importance of justice to her life as a Baha'i. Wendi Momen and Barney Leith attended as senior representatives of the Baha'i community, and a number of other Baha'is represented the nations of the United Kingdom.
After the readings, presentations and music, senior representatives of the Faith communities were invited to go forward (in alphabetical order) to take part in the recitation of an Act of Commitment to mark the year 2000. The recitation was led by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
BBC 2 TV showed 30 minutes of highlights of the event immediately afterwards and there was national newspaper coverage the following day.
This event sent a highly significant public signal about the acceptance of the multi-faith nature of UK society. It also marked an important stage in the emergence from obscurity of the Faith. The Baha'i Faith is one of nine faith communities represented on the Inter Faith Network of the UK, the body that has played a most important role in opening the door of dialogue between the government and the faith communities. Because of this the Baha'i community of the UK is now clearly in the public arena and is recognized by three pillars of the Establishment (the Royal Family, the Government and the Church of England) as one of the nine major faith communities in the UK. This has important implications for external affairs work at national and local level and can certainly be used to help official bodies to understand the part the Baha'i community is playing in public life now.
The text of the Act of Commitment was this:
"In a world scarred by the evils of war, racism, injustice and poverty, we offer this joint Act of Commitment as we look to our shared future.
©Copyright 2000, Wendi & Moojan Momen