Auckland Commonwealth Day 2014 service
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Parnell
Delivered by Aaron Hape
Henry Ford once said “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” For young people, being part of a team – whether it is a sports team, a drama club, a faith group, or simply a bunch of friends – can help create a motivation towards shared goals and values.
We see this in our Commonwealth. 53 countries will tomorrow celebrate the spirit of teamwork that enables them to work together to help one another create just and peaceful societies, achieve sustainable and social progress, advance democracy and civil liberties, and create economic resilience with prosperity in which all citizens can share.
This year’s Commonwealth theme – “Team Commonwealth” – is a celebration of our achievements, particularly those that may have seemed daunting or impossible, which have helped to build strength, resilience and pride in young people, in our communities and in our nations.
Great achievements have a number of common characteristics. From climbing the highest mountain, to winning a sporting competition, making a scientific breakthrough, building a successful business or discovering artistic talent – these outcomes all begin as a simple goal or idea in one person’s mind.
We are all born with the desire to learn, to explore, to try new things. And each of us can think of occasions when we have been inspired to do something more efficiently, or to assist others in achieving their full potential. Yet it still takes courage to launch into the unknown. Ambition and curiosity open new avenues of opportunity.
Last November I was given the opportunity to run with the Queen’s Baton as part of Commonwealth Games Baton Relay. This beacon of unity has now passed through two thirds of the Commonwealth and will continue on to Glasgow, acting as a physical embodiment of team spirit, shared goals, fair play, and mutual aspirations.
After the 23rd biannual CHOGM summit last year, which was fractious and largely overshadowed by the row over Sri Lanka’s accountability for alleged war crimes, the debate over the Commonwealth’s relevance in a modern world has again come to the fore. Its critics accuse it of looking away when bad things happen, or sweep things under the carpet. They denigrate the organisation for its failure to uphold its ideals and vilify it for offering a fig-leaf of legitimacy to damaging regimes. They say it has no relevance. If that is true, then why is there an ever-growing queue of sovereign nations lobbying for membership?
The Commonwealth is a voluntary assembly that has come to encompass every region, faith and race on the planet, something that no other organisation apart from the United Nations can boast. It enables otherwise isolated and disadvantaged nations to link with powerful allies and be part of decent club.
One of the most powerful devices in the Commonwealth’s toolbox is the ability to encourage member states to raise their standard of democracy, civil liberties, and governance. We are able to speak candidly to each other and work together for the betterment of all citizens.
That is what lies at the heart of our Commonwealth approach: individuals and communities finding ways to strive together to create a better future that is beneficial for all.