Young, Asian and ...'Maths Whizz, aged 10, gains GCSE A grade'

Have you ever seen a headline like that and immediately guessed that the child is South Asian?  Government statistics show that on average, South Asian students are more likely to achieve 5 GCSE grades A* - C than all other ethnic groups, except Chinese. A significant proportion goes on to university, with British Indians more likely to have a first degree than white Britons.

Young Asians are excelling in industry,   the professions and increasingly the arts. The proliferation of Asian 'Rich Lists' is testament to their financial success. Not so long ago, the appearance of Asians on television was a novelty. Now, any comedy or drama worth its salt has at least one Asian character.

In many ways the future looks bright for young Asians in Britain, a result of their own determination and their parents sacrifices.

Of course, this is not the whole picture. While some young Asians take confident strides forward, others struggle, living in deprived areas with limited opportunities, leaving them increasingly frustrated. In some Asian communities, unemployment is four times the rate for white British people.

This is one reason for the dramatic rise of Asian crime in parts of Britain, prompting the Metropolitan Police to set up a specialist team last year to deal with the growing number of young South Asians involved in hard drugs, guns and gangs. The Met's Assistant Commissioner  cited another reason for this upsurge - the widening gap between older Asians with traditional values and the younger generation. One Sunday newspaper claimed there had been a 'massive communication breakdown' between the generations.

Radical Islam is becoming increasingly attractive to a number of young British Muslims from all spectrums of society, sometimes without the knowledge of their immediate family.

These are extreme situations, but it is important to be aware of the issues facing some young Asians if we want to reach out to them effectively. How would we engage with disillusioned young Asians tempted by lucrative careers in the illicit drugs trade?

The majority of young people we know may not find themselves in such bleak circumstances, but there are other issues they face, not least the pursuit of material wealth at the expense of spiritual health.

Many young British Asians struggle to balance traditional home lives with the demands of living in a secular culture with very different values and priorities. Some do not feel comfortable talking to the older generation about such issues, for fear of being misunderstood.

["There are some things my parents wouldn't understand. The pressures they faced when they were young were different to the ones I face now in this country, so rather than have an argument I just don't talk to them about these things"]

Christian parents and leaders need to be aware of the pressures and temptations young Asians face from the media and their peers, and specifically address these in relevant ways, discipling them so that they can make Biblically - informed choices. It is important to recognise that some of the needs and preferences of the younger generation are different to those of the older generation.

["I go to the Asian Fellowship to please my parents. I do enjoy some of the songs, but there is never anything new. As a young person, I just feel like part of the furniture. I think I may gradually stop going next year."]

It can be a challenge knowing how to communicate with young people in a relevant way.

9Javan have been working with young Asian Christians for the past few years and have organised a number of successful events across the country. Their vision is 'to help inspire, develop and equip the next generation of Asians in their Christian walk by all possible means'.

["In my experience 9Javan is a really good event that talks to youth in clear and understandable ways… The actual meeting is effective... because the music has been suited for those of a younger generation and the talks are done by people who have experience".]

(c) Concern July 2005, South Asian Concern