South Asian Forum of the Evangelical Allaince Newsletter
Issue 9: December 2012
S outh As i a n F orum of the
connecting, uniting, representing
The South Asian Forum (SAF) is a grouping within the Evangelical Alliance, set up to provide a place for South Asian Christians in the UK to encourage, support and equip each other for mission, and to represent their concerns to government, media and the wider Church. With the support of both individual members and church members totalling more than 20,000 people, SAF is steadily growing. Visit www.eauk.org/saf to get involved in supporting this wonderful
ministry by becoming a member of SAF. Once you become a member, you will receive idea, the Alliance’s bi-monthly magazine, as well as regular newsletters from SAF detailing our progress. If you are already a member of the Evangelical Alliance you can add SAF to your Alliance membership at no extra cost. In this instance please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Exploring prayer with friends of other faiths
Connecting the Dots - the South Asian Diaspora in Europe
A few years ago I was struck by a story of a Hindu whose child was very sick, and on his own he had prayed to Jesus. The child recovered, and soon after that the father became a follower of Jesus.
Europe has become a highway of people from different nations. Some travel through in search for better opportunities, others want to stay. There are large numbers of people fleeing violence or persecution, ethnic conflicts, natural catastrophes, civil wars or anguish in refugee camps, while others are enticed by the appeal of a better future.
Till then I’d never suggested to a Hindu to pray to Jesus, assuming that Jesus wouldn’t respond since they didn’t have a relationship with him.
The South Asian Diaspora is just one of the many groups that have come in the last 60 to 80 years to Europe. As I travel through cities and countries on the continent of Europe, I see and experience the growth of the South Asian Diaspora. We all know that the South Asian community in the UK is well established in areas such as Southall or Bradford.
But now I encourage people to experiment with praying to Jesus. It has led to some interesting results. In an Alpha course we prayed round our group, telling Jesus what was on our heart. One guest, who wasn’t a Christian, returned a couple of weeks later to share how God had worked very dramatically in his life. A “Big Issue” salesman was willing to pray to Jesus about his situation, and when I met him again he told me how he was beginning to see things differently. On an flight I had been chatting to the person in the neighbouring seat about spiritual issues. The conversation moved on, but later he told me some things in his life he was grateful for. So when we reached Heathrow, after allowing him time to sort out some administration, we stood together and he thanked Jesus for those aspects of his life. Usually people are not used to praying and are unsure of what to do, so some gentle coaching is helpful to get them started - I encourage them to tell him what they’ve said to me, and how they felt about it. When I came to faith, I didn’t have a full understanding of the gospel, in fact I didn’t even know if Jesus was God. It didn’t seem to stop him coming into my life in a very powerful way. At the time I did recognise that if he was God I had a duty to treat him with respect and reverence, i.e. follow him. So while I tell people not to worry if they don’t understand or even believe everything we’ve been talking about, I do encourage them to recognise that they should follow Jesus unconditionally if he is God. Now I’m not suggesting that their relationship with Christ has been definitely established by doing this – that’s in God’s hands. But it does provide an opportunity for it to start, and gives them some confidence to pray on their own. When Christians ask me to pray for them, I get them to pray first, and usually their prayer moves into their real concerns, which gives me a better understanding of what to pray. I remember praying with a Christian friend about an issue he was facing. After we finished, I could see from his face that he’d heard from the Master himself. So the process had strengthened his relationship with Jesus, rather than what it often does – build a dependency on us. Suneel Shivdasani works with Christian Vision for Men, helping churches reach out to South Asian men.
But what about places like northern Italy where there are 60-70,000 Sikhs living in the countryside, working on farms producing Parma ham and Parmesan cheese? It is estimated that there are about 23 Gurdwaras in Italy of which most are in northern Italy. The Sikhs in Italy are the second largest community in Europe, after the UK. There is no witness to them and no known Punjabi believer in that region. There are other places in Europe such as Athens with its massive growth of South Asian refugees and irregular immigrants stranded on the streets. In fact there are now more than 1.3 Million South Asians living on the continent of Europe mostly unnoticed by the general public. Most of these people still follow the religion of their ancestors back home. “So why are you interested in the South Asian Diaspora in Europe?” is a question that I am asked quite often. To cut a long story short it was during a mission trip to Africa when God showed us the South Asian community living in Nairobi. He later called my family and I to live and work for nine years in Nairobi. During that time I was already connected to South Asian Concern (SAC) in the UK and after our return to Germany it was quite natural to strengthen the contact with SAC as I was certain that God wanted me to mobilise the churches and mission organisations in Europe to reach out to these ‘hidden’ and mostly unreached South Asian immigrants on the continent of Europe. Over the last six years, a small network has developed in partnership with SAC on the continent. It aims to strengthen the workers, research opportunities and connect resources and needs. I have come to realise that nothing happens without prayer and networking. For that reason it will be beneficial for both sides to link the work on the continent to the much broader work of the South Asian Forum in the UK. It is my vision and prayer that through networking and partnerships, the Kingdom of God will grow among the South Asian Diaspora in Europe. For more information please use the following e-mail: email@example.com Thomas Hieber, Berlin.
SAF profiles its work, partners and resources in the quarterly Newsletter and on our website www.eauk.org/saf
Sanctuary was born out of a small group of people praying and doing various events among British Asians in Birmingham. The desire was to see something fresh emerge where Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus as well as non-South Asians could explore a fusion of eastern and western Christianity in a non-threatening environment.
Outlook Trust came into being in November 1992 following a vision from God, which our founder Miss Rhena Taylor received from Him. The mission of Outlook was to do evangelism among the over-55s and ever since, our number one aim and priority has been to proclaim Christ, his death and resurrection among the older generations.
A team was formed by Pall Singh which proceeded to draw out the values and the ethos of Sanctuary from some words given in prayer by God. Hence, the focus of Sanctuary is unconditional love, acceptance and forgiveness to people of all faiths. In order to help people feel safe and secure, lighting is low and there is space for private meditation and prayer. The team works hard in ‘creation’ of the atmosphere, yet keep the ‘service’ simple and un-cluttered with plenty of space to connect with God and hear His word. Below is a reflection on Sanctuary by a student on a missional placement with us this summer in Birmingham. “Coming to the Sanctuary on placement from St John’s Theological College was a magnificent experience. My first impressions were of uncertainty because it was quite different from my normal experience of worship.To be honest, though, it was profoundly intriguing. I entered in to the spirit of things, which was made easier by the informal café style setting, eastern adornment and background music. This created a relaxed atmosphere. It was a very authentic spiritual environment. Sanctuary is the kind of place I would love to bring my friends, particularly those who are on a spiritual journey yet perhaps couldn’t relate to a “normal” church setting. The décor and the symbols helped create the atmosphere and provide a great space for contemplation, a perfect environment to perhaps clear the mind from the week’s clutter. Particularly helpful to me on a spiritual level was the quietness and the opportunity to pray, and if desired the chance to light a candle or put a pebble in the water to symbolise my prayers. This time of quietness was also a wonderful opportunity to meditate on the thoughts the leader had shared. There was a real sense of reverence which, I’m sad to say, can often be lacking in many western churches. I also got the sense that Sanctuary is a very inclusive community of faith seekers and that people who attend, and are willing to get involved, are encouraged to take part in what goes on there, whether that be leading prayers, sharing a testimony, serving food or sharing some spiritual reflections. I was left with the profound sense that Sanctuary is the type of place which nurtures people who are on spiritual journey, people who are perhaps exploring alternative means of connecting with God. Sanctuary’s service on Sunday was a warm, welcoming and friendly event that seemed to manage the variety of people well yet also create a real sense of family. This was highlighted in my experience throughout the week as I spent time eating and fellowshipping with the larger ‘Sanctuary Family’, as they refer to it. I particularly enjoyed all the lovely Asian food. The whole Sanctuary experience was quite moreish and I can say with certainty, I will visit and take guests to visit and share the experience whenever I am in the Birmingham area.” Our prayer is that Sanctuary will continue to attract people of all faiths who are seeking God in a place of peace and prayer meditation. May they become followers of Christ without losing their British Asian identity. Sanctuary meets at St Martin’s Church in the Bull Ring Birmingham City Centre on Sunday afternoons 4.30pm. More info on our website: www.eastandwest.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org Pall Singh, Sanctuary Team Leader, CMS Mission Partner.
Norman Critchell has been director of Outlook Trust since October 2009 and comes with 30 years of mission experience, a large part of this being mission and outreach to the Asian communities and involvement with Asian Christians in their mission and ministry. Norman and his wife Denise served in St Paul’s Parish in Slough and then the Lord broadened out their work through the Salem Project, which grew nationally. In 1999 Denise was ordained and moved into parish ministry and Norman continued with Salem’s mission until 2007 when he sensed the Lord was leading him into other areas of ministry. Following diagnosis of prostate cancer and treatment and a time of working as an itinerant evangelist, he was appointed as director of Outlook and ever since has been thrilled with the way that everyone connected with the organisation seeks to share the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ with older people. Regularly people become Christians because a Christian went with the good news to someone from these generations, who generally are ignored by the wider society and seen perhaps as of lesser worth because they are older. One of Norman’s burdens is to challenge and encourage the wider Church to integrate the gifts and experience of older Christians much more into the life and ministry of the Church and for older and younger Christians to work together to build God’s Kingdom. Now he would like to encourage and challenge Asian Christians, fellowships and churches to do the same. It is so easy to focus on younger people and have a desire to reach them for Jesus and overlook the millions of older people who also need reaching for Jesus. Older and younger Christians working together, Norman believes, would accomplish much and would truly reflect the Kingdom of God. Norman would be very happy to help any individual Christian, or church, or Fellowship to explore mission and ministry among over55s. May the Lord abundantly bless you as you serve Him where you are. Norman Critchell, director, Outlook Trust. The Wycliffe Centre, Horsley’s Green, High Wycombe, Bucks, HP14 3XL 01494 485222 email@example.com www.outlook-trust.org.uk
South Asian Forum of the Evangelical Alliance
Become a member - www.eauk.org/saf
Mahabba, which means ‘love’ in Arabic, began in Oxford in 2005 in weekly united prayer meetings, praying for God’s blessing on Muslim people. After two years, we began to see Muslims coming to Christ: small numbers, but the beginnings of a movement, with about 75 coming to the Lord in the last four years. This caused it to grow from a local network into a national and international relational network, supported by a public website: www.mahabba.co.uk which then leads to a secure website. It is not an agency, but rather a prayerbased relational network. Mahabba seeks to change the attitudes as well as the spiritual environment in cities, as many people have prejudices about Islam, responding with fear instead of love. So, championed by the local leaders in Oxford, we developed the Friendship First course to help ordinary Christians understand Islam and make friends with Muslim people. We held ‘Meetings for Better Understanding’ with local mosques to form strong and loving relationships with Muslim communities. We then partnered with Al Massira (a new resource similar to Alpha for Muslims) and ‘Move-in’ (intentionally moving Christians to live in Islamic neighbourhoods), and out of the strong prayer base, other Spirit-inspired activities emerged: prayer walking the Islamic area, a Book Table, Jesus film distribution, reaching asylum seekers, Muslim background believer (MBB) gatherings, summer outreaches to Muslim visitors to Oxford, gatherings of young students called to the Muslim world, and plans to open a centre for headling in the name of Jesus with the backing of the Imam (to name a few). Mahabba Networks have an ethos of motivating, and mobilising ordinary Christians to be part of loving and praying communities, seeking to invite Muslim people into believing relationships with Jesus. It is also committed to assist them in mentoring and multiplying dynamic communities of disciples.
S outh As i a n F orum of the
connecting, uniting, representing
wishes you a merry Christmas