Identity is important for everyone. Most of us question at some point who we are and why we are here.
For diaspora communities their South Asian identity is often bound up with ethnicity, culture and religion.
These are important factors for many people, but tend to take on more significance for those who are away from their country of origin or who belong to a minority ethnic group. The simple question ‘where are you from?’ can cause angst. Is it a polite question asking where you live? Are they implying that you’re not from here because of your ethnicity? Or is it simply because they’re interested to hear about your ethnic origins?
“It’s particularly complicated if you’re on holiday. When people ask where I’m from, I feel like I need to give an explanation of my answer ‘England’ in response to their confused expressions.”
For the South Asian diaspora, ethnic, religious and cultural identity can be a way of connecting with their heritage and family ‘back home’. This is why you find enthusiastic support for the Indian cricket team from people who were neither born nor raised in India. For some, to play down these aspects of their South Asian identity would be a betrayal of their roots.
Others feel that people should identify more with their country of residence, especially if they are citizens of that nation. So while they may incorporate aspects of the ‘home’ culture into their lives, they believe their ultimate loyalties should be to the country in which they live.
Second and third generation diaspora feel the pressure of getting the balance right more acutely than older generations. While many are proud of their cultural heritage, some have never even been to their countries of origin. It can also be difficult balancing traditional beliefs and values with life in increasingly secular societies. What is considered normal for their classmates or work colleagues might be unacceptable to their family – drinking and dating being prime examples.
There is of course much more to a person’s identity than ethnicity, culture and religion, but these are likely to continue to be important for the South Asian diaspora for a while.
What’s the most important aspect of your identity?
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UK: South Asian Concern is seeking to appoint a Mission Co-ordinator with ‘a heart for South Asians around the world and a passion for transformation of individuals and communities across South Asia and the South Asian diaspora’. Pray for the right person. prayermate.net/feeds…
Sri Lanka: Although it was the most peaceful presidential election in recent history, the result is worrying for minority communities which includes Christians. Pray for sustained peace and a government that will exercise justice for the marginalised. prayermate.net/feeds…
Pakistan: Gospel work is growing in Marwari communities near Bahawalpur. Pray for those who faithfully lead this busy work. Thank God for a good number who have been baptised recently and pray for others who are drawing near to God’s kingdom. prayermate.net/feeds…
Union of Evangelical Students in India: The Students Volunteer Programme is run in partnership with all the Indian missions in more than 1300 locations under India Missions Association and Interserve. Pray that many students will join to participate . prayermate.net/feeds…
India: KCH is praying for a Nursing superintendent to join. Also pray for the hearing of its appeal regarding Income Tax demands, which is going on at present. prayermate.net/feeds…
India: Kachhwa Christian Hospital asks us to pray that more patients would come to the hospital rather than go to quacks and that all the staff will be able to express the love of Jesus in their interaction with the patients. prayermate.net/feeds…