23 June 2014

Windrush Day shows how migration keeps faith alive in Britain

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Faith leaders and descendants of the ‘Windrush generation’ gathered in London today to mark Windrush Day, an event which casts a spotlight on the positive contribution immigrant groups have made to Britain’s faith community.

Windrush at Olympic Opening Ceremony
Windrush at Olympic Opening Ceremony

Windrush Day celebrates the anniversary of the MV Empire Windrush docking at Tilbury on 22nd June in 1948, in which 493 passengers were transported from Jamaica to the UK. This year’s gathering took place at Windrush Square in Brixton, London, and featured a special ‘Windrush Prayer’. Previous Windrush events have occurred at churches and other sacred spots, with faith communities being instrumental in both the history and promotion of the day.

According to new analysis, immigration has increased the presence of faith in Britain, slowing down the shift towards non-belief among white Britons. On top of increasing the diversity of faiths in Britain, immigration has had a significant effect on the prevalence of Christianity: between the 2001 and the 2011 censuses, the number of white British people identifying as Christian fell by nearly six million (5,837,701); yet this fall was significantly offset by nearly two million (1,741,940) new Christians from outside the White British group.

Speaking at the event, Reverend Sivakumar Rajagopolan of the London Baptist Association, a committed advocate and organiser for Windrush Day, said:

“Immigration from the Windrush generation and from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean since then, has made a major contribution to the continuing presence of faith in Britain.”

In addition to honouring faith, the Windrush has become a symbol of migration to Britain and the economic and cultural contribution that migrants have made ever since. It was featured in Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics. Patrick Vernon OBE, founder of 100 Great Black Britons, was the first to call for a national celebration of Windrush Day. For Vernon, Windrush Day matters because it “reminds us that Britain has been and will always be a nation of migration, home for political refugees and asylum seekers.”

Rajagopolan echoed Vernon’s sentiments, adding that Windrush Day allows us to “celebrate the contribution that people from other countries have made to our nation – not just to religion but to commerce, culture and public life.”

“As we prepare to mark the centenary of the first world war, we are also taking this opportunity to remember the hundreds of thousands of soldiers from the Caribbean, Africa and undivided India who gave their lives in the defence of this country,” said Rajagopolan.

Read Patrick Vernon’s thoughts on the importance of Windrush Day in full here.

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