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Common Era (CE) is the calendar system commonly used in the Western world for the year number part of a date. The year numbers are the same as those used for Anno Domini (AD); in both systems the current year is 2017. The CE and AD systems both started with the year 1. Neither system uses a year zero (0). Common Era is abbreviated as CE, and is also known as Current Era and Christian Era.
Before Common Era (BCE) is the system for the years Before the Common Era. BCE uses the same numbering as BC or Before Christ. "CE" and "BCE" are placed after the year number. Thus we read "Right now our year is 2017 CE" or "Artaxerxes III of Persia was born in 425 BCE."
The year-numbering used in the Gregorian calendar is based on a sixth century estimate for the year Jesus was born. The use of Anno Domini (Latin for "in year of the/our Lord") has been used with the Western calendar since about that time. The use of Before Christ and the abbreviations AD and BC came somewhat later. The Gregorian calendar is an internationally recognized standard and has become the most widely used calendar in the world, used by both Christians and non-Christians. Use of Common Era notation (CE/BCE) does not make use of religious titles (Lord and Christ) for Jesus that are part of in the AD/BC notation. Usage of Common Era notation began about 1615 among Christians in Europe, and has been growing among non-Christians and among Christians who desire to be sensitive to non-Christians.
Many faiths and countries have their own calendars, in which the year, the month, and the day may differ from the designation on the Gregorian calendar. For example, Muslim countries use the Islamic calendar which counts years since the first Hijra (when the prophet Muhammad went from Mecca to Medina). Late in 2017 CE, the year 1439 AH using the Islamic calendar will begin. On the Hebrew calendar, a new year coincides with a day from September 5 to October 5, with the year 5778 beginning in 2017. Writing dates as "Common Era" makes it possible for non-Christian people and cultures to adopt the Gregorian calendar in common, without attaching an expression of faith in Jesus.