Bahá'ís receive message from Prime Minister Blair at new year's reception in House of Commons

21 March 2002

LONDON — In a message commemorating the Bahá'í New Year, British Prime Minister Tony Blair commended the Bahá'í community of the United Kingdom for its "significant contribution" to multiculturalism and interfaith dialogue.

The message was read at a reception on 21 March 2002 in the House of Commons, which was attended by nearly 100 people.

The gathering was sponsored by the All Party Parliamentary Friends of the Bahá'í Faith, and participants included members of the British parliament and other government officials, as well as representatives of non-governmental organizations and members of the media.

MP John Battle, the Prime Minister's advisor on interfaith matters, read the Prime Minister's message.

"I have a clear vision of a multi-cultural Britain -- one which values the contribution made by each of our ethnic, cultural, and faith communities," stated Mr. Blair, as read by Mr. Battle. "I am determined to see a truly dynamic society, in which people from different ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds can live and work together, whilst retaining their distinctive identities, in an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding.

"British Bahá'ís make a significant contribution towards achieving this vision and we are a stronger, better country because of it. It is particularly important that we celebrate the contribution of the Bahá'í faith to the stability and prosperity of British society as a whole.

"I am very encouraged by the vision the Bahá'í community demonstrates in recognizing the power of interfaith dialogue and the importance of all citizens fulfilling their potential. Your community has a vibrancy which is well demonstrated by the recent opening of the Bahá'í Gardens on Mount Carmel in Israel. It is an outstanding monument to your faith," said Mr. Blair's statement.

At the reception, Barney Leith, Secretary General of the Bahá'í Community of the United Kingdom, welcomed participants and talked about the UK Bahá'í community's Institute for Social Cohesion, an initiative to facilitate dialogue between entities that are working towards building stronger societal bonds in the United Kingdom.

MP Lembit Opik, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Friends of the Bahá'ís, welcomed the people to the reception and spoke of his esteem for the Bahá'í community.

"The Bahá'ís seem to have a uniquely positive image among religious believers," Mr. Opik said. "Personally I feel that this is because Bahá'í teachings fit human nature rather than trying to change it."

The All Party Friends of the Bahá'ís was formed in 1999. The group is open to members of Parliament, peers, and members of the European parliament and was formed largely in response to the persecution of the Bahá'ís in Iran and other states.

This was the third reception held by the Bahá'ís in the Parliamentary building, but was the first held on the terrace of the House of Commons, the most prestigious parliamentary venue for this type of event.

Omid Djalili, a Bahá'í actor and comedian, was the guest speaker for the evening. He performed a 10-minute stand-up comedy routine about world culture and the humor inherent in diversity.

Bahá'ís celebrate their new year on 21 March; the date coincides with the vernal equinox and the traditional beginning of Spring. The Bahá'í calendar, which was established by Bahá'u'lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Faith, is based on 19 months of 19 days, with four intercalary days.