I caught up with Harish Patel recently, and asked him to share a little of his ministry in the Southall area of West London amongst the mainly South Asian community in that diverse area of London right on the doorstep of Heathrow Airport.
Southall is a large suburban district of west London, England, and part of the London Borough of Ealing. It is situated 10.7 miles (17.2 km) west of Charing Cross. The population is around 90,000 and 43.4% of residents were born outside of the UK.
The area is primarily a South Asian residential district, sometimes known as "Little India". In 1950, the first group of South Asians arrived in Southall, reputedly recruited to work in a local factory owned by a former British Indian Army officer. This South Asian population grew, due to the closeness of expanding employment opportunities such as London Heathrow Airport. The most significant cultural group to settle in Southall are Asians. According to the Commission for Racial Equality, over 55% of Southall's population of 70,000 are Indian/Pakistani.
There are 10 Sikh Gurdwaras in Southall. The Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, which opened in 2003, is one of the largest Sikh gurdwaras outside India. There are also 2 large Hindu temples and three Mosques. There are more than 10 Christian churches including 5 Anglican, 1 Roman Catholic, Baptist, Methodist and several Pentecostal or Independent.
In addition, the signs on the main railway station are bilingual in English and Gurmukhi, which is one of the written scripts of Punjabi.