Rev John Whitaker, Jason Kouchak and Dr Zimar Sivardeen
In May, BRISLA organised the Performance for Peace: Reflections and Prayer in Unity and Hope at St Mary’s Church, Putney following the tragic events in Easter in Sri Lanka.
The event, organised in co-ordination with leading international musician Jason Kouchak and friends, provided an environment to reflect and remember the lives lost and the importance of unity with diversity. The ceremony was attended by a diverse representation of distinguished guests from across all faiths and communities including diplomatic missions, religious representatives and leading social leaders including Mr Nirj Deva, Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London
Further speakers at the event included Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the United Nations and the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief, who spoke of his personal religious upbringing and the importance of diversity and community.
H.E. Manisha Gunasekera, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to the United Kingdom, also spoke of the importance of international collaboration in building communities and social inclusion. This was supported by speeches from the Mayors of Wandsworth and the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and Mr Imtiaz Ahmed and Father Michael O’Dean.
Jason Kouchak and the talented musicians at the Performance for Peace
The event ended with the lighting of ceremonial candles to support the reflection and represent the role of cohesion between communities.
We express our sadness at the acts of barbarity in Sri Lanka during the holy Easter Sunday.
We would like to extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to all those affected; worshippers of Christian faith during the holy Easter weekend, and individuals and families – both local and from overseas, who lost their lives. Our thoughts are also with the unfortunate members of all communities who were injured and who experienced this terrible scene.
We would like to thank the work of the emergency services and those who voluntarily donated blood during this tragic period.
These shameful and despicable attacks transcend politics and policies; belief and non-belief.
It is now more important than ever to highlight the objectives that BRISLA promotes; unity with diversity.
Moving forward, it is imperative that all of us from diverse origins join together in a spirit of peace and seek harmony.
We, as members of humanity, of all faiths and no faith, must stand together against these atrocities.
The BRISLA Awards celebrates local champions who embody BRISLA’s mission to achieve a cohesive, fair and prosperous society. Those shortlisted ahead of the evening were able to demonstrate to BRISLA how they had excelled in this quest and rightly earned their right to attend the prestigious awards thanks to their fantastic work within their own sphere.
Watch a video from the event kindly produced by Islam Channel
The winners were praised for their commitment by Dr Sivardeen, who opened the evening’s awards with an engaging speech.
Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice Chancellor of Buckingham University, Wasim Khan MBE, CEO of Leicestershire Cricket Club, H.E. James Dauris British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and Ambassador to the Maldives and H.E. Sugeeshwara Gunaratna, Acting Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the UK delivered enthralling speeches relating to leadership, diversity and relations between the UK and Sri Lanka.
Guests in attendance at the Awards witnessed six overall winners receive their Outstanding Achievement and Contribution accolade across a four focus areas of: Healthcare; Literary Arts; Performing Arts and; Entrepreneurship.
Two special awards of Lifetime Achievement and Outstanding Friend to the British Sri Lankan were also crowned winners on the night.
The BRISLA 2018 winners:
Outstanding Achievement in Healthcare: Professor Karim Meeran
o sponsored by Research Intelligence Unit
o presented by The Worshipful The Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames
Outstanding contribution to Literary Arts: Mr. Michael Roc Thomas
o sponsored by Olympia Clinic
o presented by The Worshipful The Mayor of Harrow
Outstanding contribution to Performing Arts sponsored by St James’s Place Wealth Management: Miss. Dilini Seneviratne
o Presented by H.E. Sugeeshwara Gunaratna, Sri Lankan High Commissioner to UK
Lifetime achievement award sponsored by Al Rayan Bank: Dr. Desmond Biddulph CBE:
o presented by Wasim Khan MBE, CEO of Leicestershire Cricket Club.
Entrepreneur of the Year: Mr. Des Gunawardena
o Sponsored by Specsavers Opticians
o Presented by Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice Chancellor at Buckingham University
Outstanding Friend to the British Sri Lankan community: The Rt Hon. the Lord Naseby:
o Sponsored by GrowTraffic Limited
o Presented by H.E. James Dauris, British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and Ambassador to Maldives
Dr Sivardeen commented on the Awards evening: ‘These pioneering awards pay tribute to the amazing work and dedication of secret heroes and this evening was about saying thank you and acknowledging the impact they all have.
‘BRISLA was established over four years ago, and we have made great strides in our mission to promote diversity and integration in our community. But there is still a way to go, particularly now in unsettling times ahead of Brexit.
‘The Awards evening also gave us the opportunity to shine a light on our vision for 2019, and galvanise everyone in the room to maintain momentum with their fantastic work to create harmonious, inclusive communities.’
Mrs Chani Simms, secretary of BRISLA added: ‘It has been a very humbling evening to hear people’s stories and learn about their resilience and commitment to create a diverse, united world. Each shortlisted candidate knows that if we are to achieve this, it starts at a grass roots level and it was a delight to see individuals rewarded for their efforts. I applaud and congratulate everyone who made it through to the short-list. You are all winners in my eyes.’
Dr Sivardeen concludes: ‘The best way for our organisation to evolve and learn is to be inspired by others, and the evening delivered this with aplomb. I, with my BRISLA attendees, leave the evening feeling inspired and with a renewed sense of purpose.’
British Sri Lankan Association (BRISLA) chairman Dr Zimar Sivardeen delivered a rousing speech celebrating the unity and diversity of the Commonwealth to distinguished guests at a big luncheon held in London this week.
The event, which took place at the Millennium Hotel in Knightsbridge on Wednesday 11 April, brought together senior figures to highlight the importance of the Commonwealth and discuss ways of tackling current and future challenges facing Commonwealth countries. Many special guests were in attendance and as always our Chairman, Dr Sivardeen reminded everyone how passionate BRISLA are about upholding the shared values of the Commonwealth nations.
Commonwealth Day 2018
The BRISLA luncheon took place almost exactly one month after we celebrated Commonwealth Day 2018, which was held March 12 this year.
The day of observation is an annual opportunity to celebrate the links between Commonwealth communities across the world. Quite a big celebration considering more than 2.4 billion people live in the 53 nations that make up the Commonwealth! It’s around 30 percent of the world’s population.
Traditionally, in the UK, The Union Flag is flown from public buildings on the second Monday in March to mark the occasion. The Queen also makes a special trip with her family to Westminster Abbey, where a service takes place. Elsewhere around the world, many countries celebrate in their own unique ways, but with the common bond that is the Commonwealth.
Each year, BRISLA mark the occasion and the continued unity of the commonwealth with a luncheon.
This year was no different and as Sri Lanka and Britain are both important members of the Commonwealth, we came together in style to celebrate at the Millennium Hotel in Knightsbridge.
Our distinguished guests included; Wing Commander Mike Dudgeon OBE DL, Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London, H.E. Sugeeshwara Gunaratna, Acting Sri Lankan High Commissioner in the UK, Mr Fergus Auld OBE, Head of South Asia Department and India Co-ordinator, Foreign and Commonwealth, Mr Zach Harkenrider, Counselor for Political Affairs, U.S. Embassy London, and former England cricketer Mike Gatting OBE.
The lunch was made additionally special, as Dr Sivardeen had previously been invited to sign the House of Commons Book of Tribute to former South African President, Nelson Mandela, joining the likes of leading political figures and celebrities including former President of the United States, Barack Obama and Paul McCartney.
Nelson Mandela was a key participant of the Commonwealth so Dr Zimar Sivardeen was humbled and honoured to be asked to write a message of peace and love to him.
Here is the message left in the book on behalf of everyone at BRISLA:
“His courage to sacrifice his own freedom for his people and country, and rewrite history, is one of the greatest triumphs of the century. In his honour, we must all remain dedicated to bringing people together to live in peace.”
A Rousing Speech
After lunch was eaten, Dr Zimar Sivardeen gave a powerful and inspiring speech:
‘The Commonwealth advantage – with its shared values, regulatory framework and language – has the potential to increase trade within the Commonwealth, reducing business costs between member countries. Diversity plays a key part in innovation, creativity and divergent thoughts.’
In keeping with this years theme of unity, Dr Sivardeen continued:
‘In the changing times of merging cultures and constantly shifting identities, feeling connected to our history and roots is important. Furthermore, feeling connected to the range of people that surround us today, as well as celebrating the opportunities of the present moment, is equally as vital’
And then to finish off his speech:
‘By standing together we do NOT stand alone’
Dr Sivardeen also emphasised the need to work together with young people to ensure their voices are heard on important Commonwealth issues and highlighted the important positive political, economic and societal contributions being made by women.
Leading figures in the British Sri Lankan community were recognised for their hard work at the annual BRISLA Awards earlier this month. The annual celebration, in its third year was sponsored by Specsavers and Sri Lankan Airlines and held at the historical Lord’s Cricket Ground. We had a great night proudly celebrating the achievements of British Sri Lankans in fields ranging from business through to healthcare.