Queen highlights respect and understanding in Commonwealth message

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The Queen has highlighted how respect and understanding for one another are the cornerstones of peace in her annual message to the Commonwealth.

On Commonwealth Day, the Queen has used her address to the family of nation's 2.4 billion citizens to promote this year's theme - "a peace-building Commonwealth".

With instability found across the globe, the Commonwealth's theme reaffirms its charter principle that "international peace and security, sustainable economic growth and development and the rule of law are essential to the progress and prosperity of all".

The Queen's message will form part of the annual Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey being held this afternoon and attended by the monarch, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry, Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex.

In the message, printed in the event's order of service, the Queen writes: "The cornerstones on which peace is founded are, quite simply, respect and understanding for one another. Working together, we build peace by defending the dignity of every individual and community.

"By upholding justice and the rule of law, and by striving for societies that are fair and offer opportunities for all, we overcome division and find reconciliation, so that the benefits of progress and prosperity may be multiplied and shared.

"As members of the Commonwealth family, we can find much to be thankful for in the inheritances we have received from those who came before us. Through consensus and co-operation, great things have been achieved."

The monarch's words have been echoed by Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Scotland in her Commonwealth Day message read at flag-raising ceremonies around the Commonwealth.

She said: "By linking governments and institutions - both public and private - and bringing together in a spirit of goodwill people of all ages and from all walks of life, Commonwealth gatherings and networks lay foundations of respect and understanding that enable lasting peace to be built."

During the service, former Olympic heptathlon champion Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill will process the Queen's Baton for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, escorted by Australian and UK athletes including double Olympic gold medal cyclist Victoria Pendleton.

The baton will be launched on a global relay from Buckingham Palace by the Queen this morning.

Joseph Muscat, the prime minister of Malta and chair-in-office of the Commonwealth, will give a reflection in the Abbey, and there will be performances from Australian heartthrob Cody Simpson and Maltese poet and writer Immanuel Mifsud.

Guests among the 2,000-strong congregation will include Baroness Scotland, alongside high commissioners, ambassadors and dignitaries, senior politicians from across the UK and Commonwealth, faith leaders and 800 school children.

Commonwealth Day will begin with the Band of the Coldstream Guards and the Commonwealth Youth Choir debuting a piece of music composed to mark the 65th anniversary of the Queen's accession to the throne.

The performance will take place during a flag raising ceremony at Horse Guards Parade to mark the start of celebrations worldwide.

Later this evening, Charles and Camilla will be guests of the Secretary-General at a reception at Marlborough House, the home of the Commonwealth's civil service.