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Emily Buchanan reports for BBC News
"All spoke of their shared values"
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Monday, 3 January, 2000, 14:57 GMT
Faiths unite for millennium service

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Prime Minister Tony Blair has called for the new millennium to be an age of faith, values and momentous scientific advances.

Into 2000
Mr Blair, addressing a multi-faith gathering at Westminster to mark the start of 2000, told a 400-strong audience that values derived from religion should continue to be the bedrock of civilisation.

The event, in the Royal Gallery of the Houses of Parliament, was attended by representatives from a variety of faiths in the UK and included readings, presentations and musical interludes.

Mr Blair said whatever the technological advances the new millennium was to bring, spiritual values would be as important as ever.

Tony and Cherie Blair Tony Blair and wife Cherie during the Act of Commitment
"This new millennium will be a time, I have no doubt at all, of great discoveries and huge scientific advances," said Mr Blair.

"We will no doubt again do things that people could not possibly have dreamt of 10, 20, 30 years ago.

"But if this gathering means anything, it means an affirmation of the fact that we need direction and purpose and values too."

Mr Blair said those values were firmly rooted in the faiths represented at the event.

"Justice, mutual respect, compassion, community - these are all values that all those that spoke shared in common - and they are not values that are not incidental to their religious belief, but central to them."

Mr Blair also stressed the importance of tolerance, education and mutual respect in a multi-cultural society.

'Event without precedent'

The event, hosted by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, was also attended by Culture Secretary Chris Smith , and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.

People from various faith communities are celebrating the values which all the religions hold in common and which they hope will characterise society in the 21st Century by taking part in the Shared Act of Reflection and Commitment.

There are key values, dear to all of us, that underpin our faith and which we can share as we move into the 21st Century
Dr Manazir Ahsan of the Islamic Foundation
This complemented the four millennium church services which took place on Sunday in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

Mr Smith, minister with overall responsibility for the millennium celebrations, said: "This event is without precedent.

"It is the first time government has hosted an event of this kind and I am delighted it is forming part of the millennium first weekend."

The content of the event was developed by the Inter Faith Network, co-chaired by Bishop Roy Williamson and Dr Manazir Ahsan, Director of the Islamic Foundation.

'Creative and positive'

The Inter Faith Network for the UK was established in 1987 to counter misunderstanding and prejudice about religious traditions.

Nine main faith communities
1. Baha'i,
2. Buddhist
3. Christian
4. Hindu
5. Jain
6. Jewish
7. Muslim
8. Sikh
9. Zoroastrian
Bishop Williamson said: "All the faith communities - including the Christian churches - have been keen from the outset to be fully involved in the millennium celebrations and to be creative and positive in the way in which we mark 2000.

Dr Ashan added: "While respecting the integrity of every faith, the event highlights the things that unite us - care and compassion, respect, a desire for justice and a sense of community.

"There is much to be celebrated and much scope for us to work together in future."

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See also:
21 Dec 99 |  African
Can Islam and Christianity live side by side?
02 Jan 00 |  UK
Royals join millennium prayers
02 Jan 00 |  Wales
Princes attend Songs of Praise celebration
02 Jan 00 |  Scotland
United in prayer to mark millennium
01 Jan 00 |  Wales
Archbishop's millennium message

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