LONDON: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the Diwali spirit of the victory of light over darkness and good over evil as he delivered a message of optimism about overcoming the coronavirus pandemic for a first-of-its-kind virtual Diwali festival this weekend.
Johnson appealed for a “huge collective effort” as England entered its second stay-at-home lockdown earlier this week, to last at least until December 2, in order to curb a surge in coronavirus infections across the country.
“While undoubtedly there are huge challenges ahead, I have every confidence in the resilience and resolve and good sense of people across the country and that together we will overcome this virus, just as Diwali teaches us that light triumphs over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance,” said Johnson from 10 Downing Street in London on Friday.
“Just as Lord Rama and his wife Sita found their way home after the defeat of the demon king Ravana, their way lit by many millions of lamps, so too we shall find our way through this, and we shall do so triumphantly,” he said.
Acknowledging that people would find it particularly difficult this year with all the lockdown restrictions, Johnson praised the Indian diaspora in the UK for all their sacrifices and efforts at working towards a safe and secure Diwali.
He praised the “fantastic virtual Diwali festival” for bringing the spirit of Diwali into people’s homes while helping people stay safe.
“I know that celebrating at a distance isn’t easy when you want to get together with all your family or visit your friends or share with them the Diwali fun, as well of course the odd samosa or gulab jamun,” said Johnson, in his inaugural address to the ‘iGlobal Diwali Fest 2020’.
“So I want you to know that your sacrifices, and your determination to do the right thing really are helping to save lives, and tough though I know many aspects of this year have been, I have been blown away by the inspirational way in which Hindus, Sikhs and Jains have responded to this crisis with compassion, community spirit and a can-do attitude,” he said.
The three-day virtual Diwali Fest kick-started on Friday with the UK PM’s message and will include sessions with UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, Opposition Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer and Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey.
The agenda also includes yoga, music and dance performances as well as an awards ceremony to honour British Indian community champions across different fields. Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and West Midlands Mayor Andy Street will be among those delivering Diwali messages from different parts of England.
“The Prime Minister, leaders of the main UK political parties and the Mayors of the country‘s major metros lining up for Diwali in this way is quite unprecedented and reflects not only the real depth of UK-India ties but also the pivotal role of the UK’s 1.5-million strong Indian diaspora,” said Manoj Ladwa, CEO of the India Inc Group, the UK-based organiser of the event.
Among some of the other virtual events scheduled over the weekend include a spiritual session with Art of Living Founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, bhajans from different parts of India and a Bollywood concert headlined by British Indian musician Navin Kundra.
Diwali — the festival of lights — will be celebrated in India on November 14.