United for peace and against violence
"It's a joy to see so many people here today, not only from Leicester - but from across the country.
We're so lucky, here in Britain, to be able to practise our different faiths in relative peace, harmony and tolerance.
It's something we tend to take for granted
But we must also acknowledge that there are a few deeply misguided people who don't believe in mutual respect.
We saw that here in Britain on the 7th of July last year and, tragically, we saw it again in India just ten days ago.
Of course, our hearts go out to the injured and the bereaved.
But we need to do more.
The world is now a very dangerous place and there are no limits to the harm that some people are prepared to inflict on others.
We must stand firm - and stand together - in the face of terror.
And, at the same time, it's all the more important that we have people, such as Bapu, spreading the message of peace.
The lessons of the Ramayana are timeless and go far beyond the sub-continent of India.
It offers something for all of us to learn - devotion to duty, integrity and the pursuit of truth.
And of course, every year at Diwali, Hindus in Britain and throughout the world celebrate the triumph of good over evil.
Hindus - a successful and vital part of Britain
Being here today not only reminds me of the lessons offered by Hinduism as a faith, but also of the example set by British Hindus themselves.
It's hardly surprising that British Hindus have been such a successful part of our nation.
After all, the values you brought with you when you arrived here are those traditionally associated with Britain: tolerance, honesty, enterprise, and respect for the law.
Indeed, in your desire to live independently of the Government while never shirking from contributing to the community, you embody the British ideal of balancing freedoms with duties.
You have also helped to strengthen some values which have at times seemed to be in decline, such as commitment to the family.
It is a commitment at the heart of my approach to politics.
But the Hindu community isn't just a part of this country in a strictly demographic sense.
It's much more important than that.
You're a vital part of the Britain that we're building together.
I believe that we're a dynamic nation with a famous past and a brilliant future.
Who can look at the next generation and not feel optimism and pride?
Of course, life is never perfect and, as we build, I know there are things that worry you.
Too often, politicians seem to believe that British Hindus have no problems or concerns, and can therefore be ignored.
In a sense, you're victims of your own success.
Everyone knows that British Hindus are good citizens.
In your everyday lives - within the family, at work and in the community - you're making real those famous words of Gandhi: "We must be the change we want to see in the world."
But there are difficulties.
Many British Hindus are confronted by failing state schools and make tremendous sacrifices to send their children to private schools.
They want the education system to be improved so that such sacrifices are optional. So do I.
Many British Hindus run small-businesses and are frustrated not only by taxes and regulations, but also unfair competition from big businesses.
They want Government to do more to help small businesses, which are the real drivers of economic growth and jobs. So do I.
And many British Hindus live in towns and cities and are particularly affected by crime and anti-social behaviour.
They want a state which performs its core duty of keeping its citizens safe. So do I.
Of course, these concerns are shared by Hindus and non-Hindus alike.
Perhaps a good definition of integration is having the same problems as everyone else!
The importance of integration
And I want to say something this morning about integration - about how we build stronger, more cohesive communities. It is a vital task.
British Hindus are truly British, but have achieved this without giving up their religious and cultural traditions.
And if you prefer to be referred to as British Hindus or British Indians rather than as simply Asians, we should welcome that as a positive thing.
Out of a misplaced sense of politeness, politicians have too often spoken of ethnic and religious minorities as though they are independent blocs who share nothing with the so-called "host" nation, other than the same set of borders.
Politicians may have adopted such a tone to avoid offending anybody, but the effect was that many minorities who were keen to integrate got the impression that they could never truly be British.
That is wrong. It is time for a different approach - one that talks about the country we are building together.
In fact, few nations are more suited to making a multi-ethnic society work than Britain.
After all, Britishness evolved, in part, as a way of uniting the ethnically different nations of these Isles under a common civic identity.
It's time for that idea to be renewed.
Britain should not just be, in the words of the professor Lord Bhiku Parekh, a community of communities.
There should be over-arching values which unite every individual and give meaning to our citizenship. These values need to be re-inforced through institutions and shared culture and experiences.
Those values - of hard work, tolerance and family - are ones you and I share.
They are transmitted from parents to children and within communities.
This happens spontaneously through human interaction and, of course, government cannot, by itself, impose values on people.
Nevertheless, at a time of rapid change we all have a shared responsibility to consider what needs to be done to bind the nation together.
How to encourage integration
In particular, we should encourage our young people to see Britain - and each other - in a positive light.
Our experience at school helps shape our values and behaviour, and we have a responsibility to make sure that our education system instils the right values, and encourages the right behaviour.
I've argued that government's number one priority in education should be to enforce greater academic rigour throughout the system.
But it's not just the formal curriculum that shapes children's values at school. Schools provide opportunities for social mixing: the chance for children to make friends from different backgrounds.
But in some inner city schools today, opportunities for social mixing are limited or even absent.
Government can do something about this.
We can promote school exchanges that introduce children to other young people from different backgrounds - to make those personal, emotional connections that are at the heart of civilised relationships and a sense of community.
Many schools already run exchange programmes, although often the focus is international rather than within the UK.
I'd like to see school exchanges within Britain as a standard part of the educational experience for every child.
And we should provide opportunities to people when they leave school too.
I am always struck when asking anyone of my father's generation who did national service by the fact that they tend to reply in a similar way.
It was something we all did together, irrespective of who we were, where we lived, where we came from, or what god we worshipped.
Today, University is our closest equivalent, with each campus becoming a melting pot mixing together all the elements of our country.
But can that ever be enough?
Isn't there more we can do to enable young people to come together and give service to their country?
Now I am not arguing for a return to national service. But there are examples of organisations that encourage community service.
What they do for young people and with young people is inspiring.
That's why I have argued we need a national school leaver programme.
Lasting a few months, bringing young people together in groups from totally different backgrounds and different parts of the country, combining personal development and community service, it could play a real part in building our new home together.
I'm passionate about its potential to bring our country together and give every young person in Britain a sense of purpose, optimism and belonging.
But I didn't sit down in my office and write a blueprint for how it would work.
I brought together the real experts, leaders in youth work from over twenty different voluntary organisations.
We discussed my proposal.
They gave their views.
And now they're in the driving seat.
A new charity has been set up, called the Young Adult Trust.
It has adapted my initial suggestions.
And a pilot programme will soon be underway.
I've played my part, helping to secure funding and bringing the right people together.
But I'm not pretending I've got the answers.
My job is to give a lead, not to take control.
As we bring Britain together so we can start to bring the world together, united in our common humanity.
That is something that Bapu understands better than almost anyone.
And so I'm grateful that you have allowed me to be with you for a short time this morning. I wish you well for the remainder of the Festival."