Indian Christians feel unwelcome in UK churches

Last Updated: Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - 18:25

London: Indian-origin Christians who feel
unwelcome in mainstream churches in Britain are forming their
own small churches where they sing and pray in Hindi,
Gujarati, Tamil and Punjabi to the accompaniment of `dhol` and
other instruments.

Ram Gidoomal, a prominent member of the Asian
community and chairman of the South Asia Forum, told PTI that
there were at least 200 such small churches founded by
disenchanted Christians across Britain as a response to
feeling of rejection.

He said there were nearly 75,000 Christians with
origins in the Indian sub-continent in Britain, and many of
them felt unwelcome in mainstream churches.

New migrants add to the congregations, particularly
those from Kerala.

"It is important that mainstream churches welcome
those who come from different cultures. There are churches who
allow a song or two in Hindi or Tamil, but there are many
Asian Christians who feel unwelcome," Gidoomal, who
unsuccessfully contested the London mayor election in 2000 on
a Christian People`s Alliance ticket, said.

In Wolverhampton alone, there were 11 such small
churches catering to Christians who did not find the right
atmosphere and welcome in churches of the Church of England
and other denominations.

For example, the congregation in one `Tamil church`
in east London grew from about 20 members to over 1,000
recently, Gidoomal said and added that often priests and
church representatives from India are invited by these
congregations.

He said: "We are saying that Asian Christians do
exist and they are not a small number. The South Asia Forum
has been set up to connect different Asian Christian groups
and to represent them in interaction with the government and
the mainstream churches."

Gidoomal added: "Asian Christians want to join
mainstream churches but if they are not welcome they will then
form their own fellowship. It is sad and it is a pity that
those who are meant to be united by one faith appear then to
be divided, that really is a tragedy."

In the Asian Calvary Church in Wolverhampton, the
service is in Punjabi and many prayers are sung to the
accompaniment of traditional Indian instruments such as `dhol’
and harmonium.

The trend of setting up small, language or
region-specific churches presents a new dimension of the
experience of Indian Christians in Britain.

There are examples of new Christian migrants from
India boosting the falling strength of congregations in
Staffordshire, while in some churches in Wales and England,
priests from Mizoram and Kerala have been invited due to
shortage of priests in Britain.

Recent Indian priests to move to Britain include
Reverend Kesari Godfrey from the Church of South India, and
Reverend Hmar Sangkhuma from the Diocese of Mizoram.

Attendance in churches has been progressively
dwindling in various parts of Britain.

The 2001 census showed that fewer than one in 10
people in Wales regularly attended church or chapel.

In Staffordshire, recent migrants from various
countries, including India, are helping boost congregations.

The Holy Trinity Church in Stoke hosts two groups of
worshippers from North Staffordshire`s Malayali community.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - 18:25

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