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Britain’s largest inter-faith gathering

Science to be at the heart of Britain’s largest inter-faith gathering

Commonwealth Day, on Monday 8th March, will be marked in London by an Observance at Westminster Abbey. For the first time, Britain’s largest inter-faith service will put science and technology centre stage.

Organised by The Royal Commonwealth Society on behalf of the Council of Commonwealth Societies, this annual event is attended by HM The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. This year, they will be joined by HRH The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.

In recognition of the role played by scientific achievement in the advancement of societies the world over, The Queen will lay a wreath at the tomb of Sir Isaac Newton.

The UK’s Young Scientist of the Year, Peter Hatfield, will conduct a live experiment in the Abbey and will be joined by leading young scientists from India, Malawi and Kenya.

Commonwealth leaders including the current Chairperson-in-office, Prime Minster Patrick Manning of Trinidad and Tobago and the President of the Commonwealth’s newest member, Paul Kagame, will also attend. They will be joined in the Abbey by more than 1,000 schoolchildren, as well as hundreds of VIPs.

Representatives of all the major Christian denominations will take part, alongside faith leaders from the Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Baha’i, Zoroastrian and Jain communities, their collective participation reflecting the unity and diversity of the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth theme for 2010, and the focus of the Observance, will be ‘Science, Technology and Society’. Musical performances from around the world will include the debut of a newly created Commonwealth Choir.

Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma said: “It was our Heads of Government who in 1975 chose the second Monday of March as Commonwealth Day, since on that day all Commonwealth children in 54 countries – north and south, east and west – are in school. It is a day to inspire young people about a community of shared values, shared aspirations, and shared responses to shared challenges. Science and technology have brought transformative progress: our challenge is to ensure that this progress is shared by all, the world over.”

The Lord Watson of Richmond CBE, Chair of the Council of Commonwealth Societies said: "The Commonwealth is unique. It encompasses great diversity, yet produces intimate and invaluable dialogue in discussing shared challenges and opportunities. It has all the energy of populations that are young and that now inherit not only history but a future shaped by science and technology. Commonwealth Day and our observance of it celebrate this extraordinary human collaboration and above all rejoice in the potential of the Commonwealth."

Clare Matterson, Director of Medical Humanities and Engagement at the Wellcome Trust said: “This year’s theme of science, technology and society complements our aim to improve understanding of the ways science and medicine have developed, and how research affects people and society today. We are delighted to have been able to support this event in bringing together and inspiring the scientists of the future, particularly those from developing Commonwealth countries”.

ENDS

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