Around 38,000 people from 100 countries have descended on Hadeeqatul Mahdi – formerly Oaklands Farm – near East Worldham for Jalsa Salana, the 51st annual convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
The highlight of the three-day event, which began today and continues until Sunday, is a human chain – led by His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the worldwide spiritual head of the community – linking everybody on the site, and two million people watching live on television around the world, in a commitment to peace.
A key feature of the opening ceremony was the flag raising, in which His Holiness raised the Ahmadiyya flag and Rafiq Hayat, the community’s UK president, raised the British flag to emphasise that its members consider themselves both Muslim and British.
As well as listening to the speakers, visitors are enjoying various exhibitions.
The convention is run by 6,000 volunteers, with only marquee contractors being paid. The community has 28 days to construct, stage and dismantle it. The rest of the 210-acre site is still a farm.