by PR, Nazarene Theological College, Manchester
Welcome to this month’s edition of the Global Prayer Digest (GPD), which focuses on the city of Manchester, England. We hope to give you a snapshot of the city, its people, and spiritual climate. Manchester itself has aspirations of becoming a world-class city with a thriving business community and artistic, cultural and creative neighborhoods. As the regional center of the area, the city has several key things that promote growth, including its universities, a knowledge-based economy, the airport, and cultural and sporting activities. One of the main assets of the city also is the diversity of its residents.
The city of Manchester is just one borough out of the 10 boroughs that make up Greater Manchester. This area has a population of over 2.6 million people with ethnic minority groups consisting of 11.09 percent of the total population. There are over 200 languages spoken in Greater Manchester. The top 15 most spoken languages are English (92 percent), Urdu (01.23 percent), Polish (0.83 percent), Bengali, Punjabi, Gujarati, Arabic, Farsi, French, Somali, Kurdish, Portuguese, Cantonese, Spanish, Pashto, Italian, Greek, Czech, German, and Pakistani Pahari (with Mirpuri and Potwari).
From humble beginnings in Roman times, Manchester’s population grew rapidly during the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. It peaked at a population of over 750,000 in the 1930s. Towards the end of the last century, Manchester suffered a massive decline in its manufacturing base and severe population loss. Between 1951 and 2001, the population of the city fell 39.9 percent, from 703,100 to 423,000. It fell to just over 400,000 in the 1990s, but is now at a 40-year high with 514,400 residents. The 2011 Census data showed that Manchester was the fastest-growing city in the UK during the decade.
Greater Manchester’s Muslim Communities
There are almost a quarter of a million Muslims living in Greater Manchester, and their heritage is from almost every nation in the Muslim world. However, different communities tend to congregate in certain areas. Asylum seekers are often dispersed all over the region, and sadly they are often moved about before they can develop close relationships with their neighbors. They come from every trouble spot in the world, and they are at various stages in their asylum process. These refugees include Kurds, Sudanese, Iraqi Arabs, Libyans, Pakistanis, and many others, with the most recent being the Syrians. Many churches are reaching out to these refugees with ESOL classes (teaching English) and friendship. They also try to gently share with them the good news of God’s love in Jesus. With five universities a the total of over 120,000 students collectively, Greater Manchester has the largest concentration of students in Europe. The universities provide large numbers of overseas students, and there are teams working with them to provide friendship and the gospel message, often to people from countries where the gospel is prohibited like Saudi Arabia.
The settled Muslim communities in Greater Manchester mainly have their origins in the Indian sub-continent, although there is a small and long-settled Yemeni community in Salford. The recently settled communities are of Afghan, Somali, and Ethiopian origin, while the majority of the longtime residents are from Mirpur in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. Manchester’s boroughs of Rochdale, Bury, Oldham, and Tameside have Mirpuri and Bangladeshi communities. The Muslim communities in Bolton borough are both from Mirpur, but they also include a significant number of Indian Muslims from the state of Gujarat. In Trafford the Muslim community originates from three villages in Surat in Gujarat state in India. Each group comes with its own culture and has its own customs. Some are settling down well, while others are experiencing identity confusion and disorientation. In addition to these communities, in the hills above Bury in the former Holcombe Hall area is Darul Uloom Al—Arabiyyah Al-Islamiyyah, which is the oldest Muslim theological college in Great Britain. This college trains imams in the very conservative Deobandi tradition. How to reach these peoples who make up the majority of the Muslims in Greater Manchester is a major challenge.
There is also much to celebrate as teams of believers share the love of Jesus with other unreached groups in Greater Manchester. Foreign students coming from Iranian communities attend discipleship groups. Afghans, Libyans, Kurds, and Kuwaitis also have become new believers.
• Pray that these discipleship-making movements will grow in numbers and in spiritual maturity.
• Pray that the Somali community will soon experience meaningful spiritual engagement.
• As you read through and pray each day for those who have yet to know Jesus in Greater Manchester, pray for unity and an awakening of God’s people to reach out to their British Muslim neighbors, and their immigrant Muslim neighbors. Pray that they will reach out to Muslims with love and without fear.
• Pray that the church would increasingly reflect the demographics of the area and be willing to pay the cost of moving out of a comfort zone into the learning zone of engagement with those in the local community.
•Pray that the Word will spread quickly; (2 Thessalonians 3:1b “Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you” (NIV).
• Manchester was famous for its innovations during the Industrial Revolution. Pray that the church in Greater Manchester would overflow with creativity and warmth for those around them.
• Pray for a change in the spiritual atmosphere across Greater Manchester through prayer walking and prayer cells. Pray that the changed spiritual atmosphere will affect each of the 10 boroughs.
• Pray that Greater Manchester will soon “boast” of house churches led by Muslim background believers and be a beacon of hope to other cities in the UK.
For more information about the Mirpuris of Britain, order the Mirpuris of Britain Prayer Guide, £3.50
post: Word of Life, PO Box 14, Oldham, OL1 3WW
by Keith Carey, Managing Editor, GPD
Dear Praying Friends,
One of the best things about composing an editorial for a GPD after the different writings have been submitted is that I can better understand the big picture for the month. In this issue we are praying for Manchester, a large city in England. I kept finding that Manchester’s fine universities have attracted people from all over the world. Some of the world’s most unreached peoples such as the Maldivians come to Manchester to get a college education. Unreached Arabs from Yemen, Oman, and all over the world also attend these universities.
What will they take back to their home countries? Will they return disillusioned with the so-called “Christians” that they have met who live as if God doesn’t exist? I’m sure that in many cases this happens.
But there are groups like South Asian Concern that do whatever they can to help these unreached Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs to have a chance to respond to the gospel.
Over 200 years ago Englishman William Carey stated that such people have not rejected the gospel; they simply have had no chance to respond to it. To give them this opportunity, Carey went to Bengal, India, where he spent the rest of his life spreading the gospel to unreached people groups. If he were alive today he would be delighted to know that many of these same people could be reached in his home country. What an opportunity!