South Asian communities are becoming more visible than ever in multicultural Europe.

"Vanakkam"- that’s how Arumugam Paskaran, the priest welcomes all visitors and the faithful to the Sri Kamadchi Ampal Temple in Hamm, Germany. In Tamil„Vanakkam“ means „greetings or greet one another“. The Sri Kamadchi Ampal Temple has been in Hamm since 1989. The first years the temple was situated in the west of the town, but in 1997 the Gods and the Temple moved to Hamm-Uentrop.

In July 2002 a big new Temple was opened and blessed, accompanied by special rituals. The Temple is set out strictly according to religious rules. The Goddess looks from the central shrine to the east, towards the rising sun. Every year in May/June around fifteen to twenty thousand visitors come to the annual public procession including worshippers from other parts of the continent. The statue of the Goddess, Sri Kamadchi, will circulate the Temple in the nearby streets on a special chariot. She cannot only be seen by many people, but also blesses the town and its citizens according to Hindu belief.

This is just one of several places in Germany and Europe where the South Asian culture and religion is displayed in public. Another one is the Tamil procession in Kevelaer, near the border of the Netherlands. The annual Tamil pilgrimage brings yearly 12-15 000 Catholic and Hindu believers to the ‘Gracechapel‘ in Kevelaer which is linked to the worship of Mary.

The Tamil pilgrimage in Kevelaer started in 1987 when 50 Tamils from the town of Essen in North Rheine Westphalia travelled for the first time there. Prayers that have been answered, peace of mind and our traditions are some of the reasons why so many Tamils meet there every year. In a short span of time it has become the largest gathering of Tamils outside of India and Sri Lanka. Nowadays busloads from London, Paris and Copenhagen as well as Holland and Belgium come to this annual event. For many of the Tamil refugees it has become the highlight every year as they meet friends from other parts of Europe and Germany.

Ask most Parisians about an area called “Little Bombay” and they will know that this is where large Indian communities live. They will tell you of women in colourful saris, sidewalks crowded with market stalls selling curries, exotic vegetables, silks, and the fragrance of spices in the air. Many people in Paris however fail to grasp the remarkable diversity of the Indian community in Paris. Among the some 46,000 immigrants originating from the Indian sub-continent and settled in the Parisian region, only a fraction is natives of India. Bengalis, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Punjabis, and Sri-Lankan Tamils form culturally and socially distinct groups are in Paris. Different languages and dialects are spoken. Differing customs are practised. Of these communities, the largest and most visible is the Tamil.

I could go on talking about Zurich, Vienna, Roma, Lisbon, Oslo, The Hague and other cities on the continent of Europe. One thing that all of these places have in common: South Asian communities that are largely unnoticed by churches and mission organizations. A group of people and practitioners, with an interest and focus on work with the South Asian Diaspora on the continent are keen to see that change. Through research, information, prayer and networking they want to see that these communities have a chance to see and experience the Gospel lived out in ways that are meaningful and relevant to the South Asian cultures.

So how many South Asians are in Europe? We are still in the process of gathering data but the numbers are steadily growing and so do the places where they move to. Cities like Warsaw, Prague and Budapest in Eastern Europe are the latest. Currently we are trying to connect with people working in cities like Copenhagen, Zurich, Roma or Bergamo. Somebody with his local church in North Eastern Italy facilitates outreach to the hundreds of Bangladeshis who work in the local ship yard of Monfalcone (province of Gorizia).  Please pray for these individuals that God would strengthen them and connect them to the wider body of those concerned with the South Asians on the continent of Europe. Pray for more workers to come to Europe and that we would find connections to those already at work.