As the world celebrates the festival of lights let us all embrace the true spirit of Diwali: the victory of light over darkness, and hope over despair.
At this special time of year I know millions of people around the world and here in the UK will come together to mark this joyous festival with family, friends, feasts and fireworks.
When we hear so much about tragedy and misery in our world it is at times like Diwali that we can reflect on all the incredibly positive and generous things that people and communities do for others.
This is why it is important as a country we celebrate our religions. I am proud that Diwali and other important festivals such as Easter, Eid, Vaisakhi and Hanukkah are freely observed and celebrated – by people of faith and none. They are reminders of the countless positive things that we have in common and show us that good will always triumph over evil.
Diwali also shines a light on Britain’s Indian community and allows us to think about the astonishing contribution they have made to our country. And this is not just about what we all see and benefit from today: the businesses they run, the jobs they create and the great public and professional services they provide. It is a contribution that goes back many years. As we commemorate a century since the outbreak of the First World War we recall a conflict in which hundreds of thousands of men from India travelled far from home to help the Allies defeat tyranny in the fight for the freedoms we enjoy today.
As well as looking back we can also look forward with great confidence about the future in the knowledge that British Indians will continue to excel and be at the forefront of our society, helping to take Britain from strength to strength.
I am sure that as Diwali is celebrated here in Britain many people will be thinking about their loved ones in India, underlining the people to people connections between our 2 great countries.
These deeply personal links are just one part of the great friendship between Britain and India. It is a strong and vibrant relationship that works in so many ways: from the economy to education; from science to sport. I very much look forward to continuing to build on this historic and invaluable friendship for the benefit of both our peoples.
So whether you are in the UK or India, whether you are Hindu, Sikh or Jains – to everyone celebrating the festival of lights around the world I wish you a very peaceful and happy Diwali.