Introduction / History The United Kingdom, which consists of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, contains a variety of peoples from Asian and African nations who have settled there at some point in history. Most of these groups have been somewhat absorbed culturally and linguistically into the lifestyles of those native to the UK. Some have immigrated there to escape the harsh lifestyles of their countries, while others have come in search of better educational or economic opportunities. Still others have come as a result of the past colonial rule of the UK over their countries. One thing these eight groups have in common, however, is their desire for a different or better way of life, and their willingness to obtain it.
Although the groups' traditional cultures differ greatly, they have been influenced by the English so much that few of their original cultural traits still exist. They have taken on western dress, speak the English language, and strive for the western level of success. Yet, most have retained their traditional religions. (The Burmese are Buddhist, the Bengali are Muslim or Hindu, and the other groups are Muslim.)
What are their lives like? Most of the immigrants to the UK are concentrated in large cities such as East London, Birmingham, Liverpool, and Glasgow, where they face problems such as crime and drug abuse. As minorities, they also struggle with prejudice, discrimination, and violence that are directed toward them. Many still feel connected to their mother countries and stay in contact with their relatives there. Although they are battling with being minorities in the UK, they also have a sense of pride in their new country, enabling them to survive and, to some extent, succeed.
The minority groups of the UK hold a variety of occupations, primarily in the cities. Most have wage-paying jobs in factories that manufacture metals, machinery, engines, textiles, flour, or chemicals. Others have become small business owners. Because of the geography of the UK, many live close to ports, where they work in shipbuilding and repair. In recent years, the Bengali and Sylhetti Bengali have successfully begun a number of coffee shops in the cities. Many Sylhetti families have also opened Indian restaurants.
Because these minority groups are considered citizens of the UK, they follow the rules and laws laid out by the national government. Local councils are responsible for providing such services as garbage disposal, water supplies, and street cleaning. They also administer the police and fire services, as well as education, housing, and certain health services. The UK is a monarchy where the supreme power in the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the government is in the Crown (Queen Elizabeth). Although the Crown has the ultimate power, a parliamentary system however manages day to day legislative and judicial matters.
There are many schools throughout the UK. Since education is both free and compulsory for all children between the ages of 11 and 16, even the minorities are required to attend school. However, many of them only receive a fair education, since most do not advance to secondary schools or universities. Islamic schools in the area provide for most of the education they receive. There, they are taught the law of Islam, which is based on scriptures in the Koran (Islamic holy book).
Early male immigrants commonly married their English or Irish girlfriends, most of whom converted to Islam. However, in recent years, especially after World War II, the wives of immigrants were able to join their husbands. Many even were able to bring along their entire families. As a result, marriages outside of their own groups declined. Polygamy (having more than one wife) is practiced by many of the Muslim immigrants. However, according to Islamic law, they may not have more than four wives.
What are their beliefs? Most of the minorities in the UK are Muslim. Islamic religious organizations have opened up in many of the cities, permitting them to join their fellow Muslims in clubs and leagues. The opening of a Muslim University in the UK increased the number of devout Muslims. Today, there are 1,800 mosques and 3,000 Islamic schools in England alone.
The Bengali Hindus believe in an endless number of gods and goddesses, and shrines are set up for their worship. The Burmese Buddhists follow the quest for "ultimate peace," or nirvana. Many of their houses contain statues of Buddha, "the enlightened one," whom they worship.
According to the religious beliefs of these groups, death is not a threat to those who have done good deeds. The Hindus and Buddhists view death as a passing from one life to another, while the Muslims see it as an entry into heaven.
What are their needs? Despite the abundance of Christians and churches in the UK, these groups remain virtually unreached with the Gospel. Muslim communities are highly organized and press constantly for legislation to favor Islam. Christians have been apathetic or fearful of witnessing to Muslims and conversions have been few. Increased evangelism efforts must be made if these groups are to be reached for Christ.
Prayer Points * Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agencies that are focusing on the minority groups of the UK.
* Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film and Christian television and radio programs among each of these groups.
* Ask God to raise up loving Christians in the UK who will not be afraid to share the Gospel with the minority peoples.
* Pray that these peoples will begin to look for true acceptance and inner peace through Jesus Christ.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin interceding for these groups.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth churches among each of the minority groups.