Christmas and the turn of the year is a special time; a time of celebration, a time to give thanks and a time for reflection. A time to celebrate the love and friendship of family and those close to us, to celebrate our achievements, both as a community and individually with those who have helped and supported us along the way. Christmas is also a time to look back over the year that will be drawing to a close.
For the Virgin Islands, 2016 was certainly an eventful year. One of the highlights for me were thecelebrations of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s 90th Birthday,a unique moment for all of us who form part of Her Majesty’s Realm and for the Virgin Islands,the additional celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Her Majesty’s first visit to the Territory.
I was delighted to see the enthusiasm with which so many people, young and old, joined in the many events that formed part of these celebrations, from the re-enactment of the annual Salt Breaking Ceremony and the traditional gift of a pound of salt from Salt Island, followed by the Road Shows to the schools where some of those who have received honours from Her Majesty (and there are many in our community) explained what it means to them. The wonderful special edition of stamps celebrating Her Majesty’s style and elegance, the very popular special edition car license plates, and the souvenir bookletwere fitting mementos of this special year. The celebrations concluded with the traditional Queen’s Birthday Parade, our largest ever, the fabulous Beacon Lighting Ceremony and fireworks and the Queen’s Ball at the Government House.
I would like to say a special thank you to all those from across all our communities who made these historic celebrations possible.
Christmas is also a time to remember those whoare less fortunate than we are and how we can make a positive change in their lives. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the many organisations and individuals in the BVI who throughout the year contribute their time, energy, and skills for the betterment of our society.
Amongst others I would like to say thank you to the Cancer Society, the Rotary Clubs, the Lions Club, the BVI Red Cross, VISAR, the BVI Diabetes Association, HIV/AIDS Foundation, the Humane Society, the Family Support Network, The Youth Empowerment Project, Follow the Movement, The Eslyn Henley Richez Learning Centre, the Rainbow Children’s Home, the Autism Centre and to all those who have supported these groups through fund-raising or donations. Thanks also to the many businesses across the Virgin Islands who donated prizes for all those fund raising events.
The traditional values of giving, sharing, and caring are a part of what makes the Virgin Islands special. One of the famous sons of the Virgin Islands,the late H Lavity Stoutt, reminded us all of the need for vision, but he was also someone who understood the need to hold firm, without indulging in polemics, in defending the values of the Virgin Islands community.
2016 has been a challenging year across the world for those who seek to uphold the values of humanity. Many hundreds of years ago we were urged that “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers” “show kindness to ... the neighbour that is a stranger… and to the wayfarer,” 
As we have seen on our televisions and in the media every day, these words are perhaps even more important in facing the challenges of today’s globalised world;not only for leaders at all levels of society—global, regional, national, or local—but also for opinion formers and commentators, business leaders, public officersand ordinary men and women. All of us are called to defend the universal values of tolerance, respect for and generosity to others that have been recognised for countless generations and to speak up against those who seek to undermine those values.
As a prominent NGO in the UK has asked in an Online video,“What if goodwill to all men wasn’t only for Christmas?” It is a thought to ponder as we look forward to whatever 2017 will bring.
 Old Testament Leviticus 19:34 and Exodus 22:21
Holy Koran 4:36
The turn of the year is the moment when we reflect and give thanks to those who serve and who protect us, especially those in the Police, Justice and Disaster Management, the emergency services, the healthcare profession, and those who work to build a brighter future for our children through education. As the head of the Public Service, I would like to express a special note of thanks to those who have chosen to serve our community as a career. The 2016 Public Service Excellence awards vividly illustrated the level of dedication shown by many of our public officersover many years; a standard that all should aspire to and for which the Virgin Islands can be rightly proud.
John Duncan, OBE