Mirpuris (people originating from the Mirpur district in Pakistani Kashmir), form about 70% of the British Pakistani population of about 747,000. The percentage is even higher in northern cities and towns. For example, in Bradford, an industrial town in Northwest England, it is estimated that roughly three quarters of the population are from Mirpur.
The reasons for the large proportion of Mirpuris in the UK is historical. In the late 1950’s & early 1960’s, the Pakistani Government planned the Mangla Dam, which was to be built in the Mirpur area. They asked several thousand locals to leave the land. At that time, the British needed man-power mainly for their textile factories. Many of the Mirpuris moved to Britain and started working in factories, mostly in the so called “black country” and the area of Bradford, England. In some villages, more than half the village population moved to the UK to settle in the industrial towns. This rural, impoverished district provided cheap, unskilled labour for Britain in the 60’s and 70’s.
Most immigrants were from subsistence farming communities and had had little or no schooling. They made a huge cultural and geographical leap to settle in the UK. The profound cultural dislocation experienced by the Mirpuris is hard to imagine. Most Mirpuris speak Pothowari, a language related to Punjabi. The prominent clans among them include Rajputs (Janjua), Sudhans, Khokhars, Gakkhars, Awans, Jats, etc.
One of the things they brought with them was the perception of a long history of dispossession and marginalisation. The partition of India brought terrible bloodshed along with the division of Kashmir between Pakistan and India. (This was the issue cited until very recently as the most pressing political priority in the UK by the majority of British Muslims). Three of the suicide bombers of the London underground bombings in the summer of 2005 were originally from this region of Pakistan.
The Mirpuris are still a very unreached people group. There are only a handful of known believers among them in Britain. Some of them have experienced much persecution and suffering. The home of one believing family was even set on fire fairly recently.
* Pray that more British Christians would see the need to reach out to the Mirpuris, and that many more would get involved in praying for them. Pray also that Christian workers from around the world would be willing to come and minister among them.
* Pray for the few cross-cultural workers that are ministering among them, that they would have wisdom to know how to effectively reach them. And, that they would see a spiritual breakthrough among them soon.
* Pray for the few Mirpuri believers, that they would be protected, and that they would be able and willing to share the Gospel with their family and friends with cultural sensitivity and insight. Pray also for the establishment of fellowships of Mirpuri Muslim background believers.
Video: Homeless Portraits