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Bravery of migrants who fell to protect us

Talking Point | Published:

Express & Star columnist Beverley Momenabadi asks whether people pause reflect on the sacrifice immigrants made to defend Britain.

Unveiling of the Lions of the Great War statue in Smethwick

In the era of Brexit rhetoric, where the favourite phrase seems to be ‘take back control’, has left a sour taste in many people’s mouths about immigration.

Many people have started to question, what contribution immigrants make to Britain?

Some people suggest nothing at all, others are comforted that immigrants offer their skills in areas such as healthcare within our NHS.

But have we paused to think about the great sacrifice immigrants make to defend and protect Britain and British people?

After all the Government announced that those inward migrants from the Commonwealth can join our armed services, without having five years of residency.

As we approach Remembrance Sunday, it becomes even more significant that we never forget the incredible sacrifices that people (of all faiths and races) made to defend and protect our country.

This weekend we saw the UK’s first full statue of a South Asian First World War soldier unveiled here in the Black Country.

We also learned last week about how the Baitul Atta Mosque here in Wolverhampton is helping to raise £500,000 for this year’s Poppy Appeal.

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These are proud and historic moments for the Black Country.

Earlier this year on Armed Forces Day, co-hosted by the City of Wolverhampton Council and Interfaith Wolverhampton, it brought home to me the role of faith in our Armed Forces.

The event provided the community with the opportunity to learn about the wide-range of faith communities within the Armed Forces, from Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Jews, Jains, Muslims to non religious.

It showed the fantastic work that faith communities outside of the Armed Forces are doing to support our men and women in defence.

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The facts and figures left me feeling ignorant. We have over 4,000 Buddhists serving in defence, we have chaplains from all the faith groups listed providing crucial pastoral support.

Having attended the event, I left feeling confident. Confident in answering the question ‘what do immigrants contribute to our country?’ Well, pictured in this column, to the left of me is Chaman Sandhu who is a Sikh, who has served five years in the Army.

On my right is Squadron Leader Amir Khan, who is a Muslim who has served in the RAF for 34 years with a tour list longer than my arm which includes Turkey, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo to name just a few.

Beverley with Chaman Sandhu and Amir Khan at the event

I was also left with a sense of personal responsibility. A vicar at the event pointed out to me, that it is easy to blame the media or politicians for the information about immigration, but we all have a personal responsibility to act in a way which spreads the message of love and unity and have an open heart and mind.

Let’s celebrate our multi-faith forces, who make incredible sacrifices in the name of our country.

But, most of all, let’s put politics aside as we approach Remembrance Sunday. Give thanks, because without the sacrifices of those who have gone before us, we would not be able to enjoy the freedoms that we have in Britain today.

  • Beverley Momenabadi is a Labour councillor in Wolverhampton

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