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FACES OF FAITH Jesus, Krishna, and Muhammad meet on Ealing Road 1

NADJA WOHLLEBEN


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Diwali ceremony at Shri Vallabh Nidhi temple. Diwali, the “festival of lights� is one of the most important Hindu, which is celebrated each year for five days. The Hindu community in London comes together to perform traditional dances and rituals, 3 such as the lighting of small clay lamps filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil.


Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe. Saint Augustine

First page: A community member praying during Sunday night service at Methodist Church Ealing Road.

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PHOTOS AND TEXT: NADJA WOHLLEBEN

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walk along Ealing Road in Wembley, Middlesex (UK), is a journey through different cultures: on this bustling street a Mosque, a Baptist chapel, a Methodist church, a Gospel centre, and a Hindu temple all stand within 100 yards. Most people know Wembley as the area in London with the famous sports stadium. What some people don’t know is that Wembley is also a place where multiculturalism is in peak action. 52% of Wembley’s population today were born abroad, that is more than anywhere else in Britain (source: BBC). Here immigration has led to a unique, colourful mosaic of cultures: you find a Sri Lankan with a Polish delicatessen shop, a Kenyan running a halal Chinese restaurant, and an African police officer who speaks Hindi. On the bus ride towards Ealing road I see a woman in a red sari sitting next to a woman in a black abaya with a headscarf and a niquab covering her face. One of the major components for successful integration of immigrants is granting them their religious freedom and providing them with establishments of their faith. It is through faith that people of the most different backgrounds come together in union: White British Christians chant gospel in Hindi (with English translations) with their fellow Indian community members at the Gospel centre, Sudanese Muslims kneel in prayer shoulder to shoulder with their Islamic Pakistani fellows at Wembley Central Mosque. In October/November 2012 I spent a couple of weeks exploring spirituality with the different religious communities along Ealing Road. I was born in Cologne, Germany to Christian parents, but I’m not baptized and I favour no faith. Yet I was fascinated and moved by how the members of each religious community welcomed me with open arms. As a complete stranger I walked in and was treated almost like a family member: “We are all brothers and sisters”, Preacher Dora Staples from Methodist Church Ealing Road told me. And so I chanted, prayed, danced, and dined with the different communities. During these practices I realized that through religion people do not only seek contact with their God(s), but belonging within their community. Surrounded by candlelight and the smell of incense I encountered kindness and humbleness. Sometimes the community members were in an almost trancelike state, absorbed by their communication with the transcendent. The powerfulness and beauty that lies within the expression of their credence deeply impressed me. No matter how diverse the beliefs of Christians, Hindus, Moslems, or any other creed may be, the members of all religions are united in their faith. Their world rotates around one centre, a higher power, a transcendent entity – God. Faith is global. Like language, belief exists in every culture. And as I should witness, faith has the power to unite the most diverse ethnicities in harmony. The mission of the religious communities along Ealing Road is not just to worship the divine, but also to practice humanity and give people a feeling of belonging, regardless where they come from.• 5


Above: Dora Staples is a preacher at Methodist church Ealing Road. When the church was built in 1927, Mrs. Staples was 3 years old. Ever since she visited several times a week. When she was 15 years old, Mrs. Staples began to teach children at the church’s Sunday school. “Auntie Dora”, as most community members still call her, says that giving a helping hand to anyone in need was her greatest call in life. “God always finds a way to make things right”, she assures.

Pray, and let God worry. Martin Luther

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Below: Pravinkumar D. Patel volunteers at Shri Vallabh Nidhi temple on Ealing Road. A retired banker from Mumbai, Mr. D. Patel lives in London since 39 years. He says that by working for the temple he wants to help people, make them realize that they belong somewhere, even when they feel lost at times.

God has no religion. Mahatma Gandhi

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Above: Mohamed Madar, a community member at Wembley Central Mosque after the noontime prayer.

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Above: Imam Abdul Sattar, the Minister of Religion at Wembley Central Mosque is from Pakistan and lives in London since 15 years. “We pray for god to forgive us and ask him to secure us a place in heaven�, he says.

Faith is a knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof. Khalil Gibran

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Above: Community members reach out for a blessing at a lighting ceremony during Diwali celebrations at Shri Vallabh Nidhi temple.

Faith is the daring of the soul to go farther than it can see. William Newton Clarke

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Above: At Baptist Church Ealing Road the mainly Afro-Caribbean community chants gospel wholeheartedly: “Through gospel the human soul can get in direct contact with god”, Winston Millwood, the church’s secretary says.

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Above: Sixteen-year-old Mahdi Khamari visits Central Mosque Wembley to pray whenever he can. He was born and raised in the UK, his parents are immigrants from Algeria.


Above: Najeb Sulimankhil (16) was born in Pakistan, but his parents are from Afghanistan. He lives in the UK since five years, and says he often misses his country. His dream is to live in Mecca and pray all day for lost souls.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Above: Nitish Patel, an Evangelist preacher at Gospel Hall Wembley was born in Calcutta, India. He migrated to the UK 44 years ago and works for Gospel Hall Wembley since 24 years. Mr. Patel established a monthly Gospel service in Hindi with English translations. “We want to facilitate the communication between our community members”, he says. The community attending the service at Gospel Hall is mainly Hindi, but some white Caucasians also participate. “We want to learn some Hindi in order to understand our Indian brothers and sisters better”, community member Alexander Stanley says. “The concept of community means that there are few distinctions, we are all one”, he adds. “We want to show people that there is love and compassion, even if they cannot see it in their daily lives.

Have faith in God; God has faith in you. Edwin Louis Cole

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Above: After the Saturday night service community members at Gospel Hall Wembley dine together. Each member brings a home cooked meal along.

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Above: Ena Smith praises the Lord during a Sunday night service at Methodist Church Ealing Road

Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe. Voltaire

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Right: Community members praying during Sunday service at Baptist Church Ealing Road.

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Shanta Ben Makwana (63) is from Gujarat, India. She migrated to the UK 16 years ago with her husband and son. They live in a small two-bedroom apartment right off Ealing Road. Mrs. Makwana believes that religion is all about humanity: 18 “Religion is about helping each other, and learning from each other.


Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies. Mother Teresa

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FACES OF FAITH. JESUS, KRISHNA AND MUHAMMAD MEET ON EALING ROAD  

A walk along Ealing Road in Wembley, Middlesex (UK), is a journey through different cultures: on this bustling street a Mosque, a Baptist ch...