On Monday 13 March, Commonwealth Scholars and members of the CSC attended a special observance service at Westminster Abbey in London to mark Commonwealth Day.
Commonwealth Day is an annual celebration observed by people across the Commonwealth. The theme for Commonwealth Day 2023 was ‘Forging a sustainable and peaceful common future’, supporting the promotion of peace, prosperity, and sustainability, especially through climate action. This year also marked the tenth anniversary of the signing of the Commonwealth Charter, which affirmed the Commonwealth’s shared values of peace, democracy, human rights, rule of law and care for the environment amongst others. In recognition of the tenth anniversary, nations across the Commonwealth raised the Commonwealth flag for peace.
The CSC delegation for the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey was led by Dr Joanna Newman, Chief Executive of the CSC and Secretary General of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), Professor Robin Mason, Chair of the CSC, and Dr Christine Thuranira-McKeever, CSC Commissioner. The CSC also welcomed over 100 Commonwealth Scholars to join the CSC delegation this year, following a special invitation from the Royal Commonwealth Society.
Commonwealth Scholars were thrilled to have attended the service and represented their countries on this important day for citizens of the Commonwealth. Three Commonwealth Scholars – Charity Nankunda, Farina Inayat, and Chisom Ezenwa Soremekun – also participated as flagbearers during the ceremony.
“Representing Uganda as a flagbearer at the Commonwealth Day service was a great honour and privilege. It was an amazing experience and a day that I will never forget.”
Charity Nankunda, 2020 Commonwealth PhD Scholar from Uganda
Joining guests of honour from across the Commonwealth
Among the special guests at this year’s Commonwealth Day service were their majesties The King and Queen Consort. During the service, His Majesty King Charles III delivered his inaugural speech as the Head of Commonwealth, emphasising the importance of the Commonwealth as a force for joint action on global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, youth opportunity, and education.
Joining the dignitaries in attendance were The Royal Highnesses The Prince and Princess of Wales, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland, Foreign Ministers from across the world, faith leaders, youth advocates, athletes, and school students.
Around 2,000 guests in total attended the service conducted by the Dean of Westminster, The Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle MBE. The service also featured a variety of performances by performers from across the Commonwealth including the Ngāti Rānana London Māori Club who choregraphed a traditional Māori greeting, a Sinhalese song by West End stars Roshani Anney and Nuwan Hugh Pereira, the all-female led Amalgation Choir from Cyprus, and a rendition of ‘Is this love’ by saxophonist YolanDa Brown. The Rwanda National Ballet performed a traditional dance to mark Rwanda’s role as the current Commonwealth Chair-in-Office.
Addressing the climate action theme, Suluafi Brianna Furean, a climate activist and the youngest ever winner of the Commonwealth Youth Awards offered her reflections on the effects of climate change on her home country of Samoa.
The event concluded with an address by Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland, who delivered the Commonwealth Day Affirmation, encouraging the congregation to reaffirm their commitment to uphold the values and fellowship of the Commonwealth.
“Attending the service to celebrate the Commonwealth Day 2023 was the most valuable experience of my life. I feel very honoured to be able to attend such a prestigious and beautiful event in the presence of His Majesty the King to celebrate what we all hold very dear, the Commonwealth, as a Commonwealth Scholar. After attending the service I feel much more inspired to serve and work for the good of the Commonwealth that we pledged during the service.”
Anum Fatima, 2020 Commonwealth PhD Scholar from Pakistan