by LAUREN CODLING
DIWALI celebrations should be an opportunity for communities to unite, the mayor of London said during a special reception at City Hall on Thursday evening (24).
Addressing guests, London mayor Sadiq Khan reiterated that the message behind Diwali was for good to overcome evil and light to triumph over darkness.
The lessons behind the festival, celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs across the world this weekend, are more relevant than ever, the mayor added.
“We know there are some in our communities who seek to divide us and revel in different faiths hating each other,” Khan told guests at the event hosted by Eastern Eye publishers Asian Media Group (AMG). “My message this Diwali – don’t allow anybody to try and divide us.”
He also praised British Asians for their contribution to London, thanking them for their efforts in various sectors such as the NHS, business, fashion and food.
Noting that the entire Hindu population in London surpasses that within France, Germany, Italy, the Netherland and Portugal combined, Khan remarked that one reason the capital was so successful was due to the community.
“The first Hindu’s came to London in the 16th century,” he noted, “and over generations, you have made a massive contribution to our city.”
Deputy mayor Rajesh Agrawal also spoke to attendees, emphasising that the peaceful message behind Diwali was one which “we could all learn from”.
“As we face an increasingly uncertain future and see division and tensions worldwide, it is more important than ever before that we celebrate events like today,” Agrawal said. “We have more in common than what divides us.”
The India-born businessman also addressed the high level of diversity within the capital – noting that there are over 300 languages spoken in London.
“Almost every nationality in the world is present (in London),” he said. “We’ve got great, vibrant communities full of different religions.”
Khan and Agrawal lit special lamps to mark Diwali celebrations along with AMG’s group managing director Kalpesh Solanki and executive editor Shailesh Solanki.
Khan was also presented with the GG2 Power List, which ranks the 101 most influential British Asians in the country. This year, the mayor was ranked in fourth position.
Prior to the speeches, AMG’s digital manager Aditya Solanki took to the stage to welcome attendees and thank them for celebrating the festival within City Hall – “London’s living room”.
The 200-strong event was attended by a variety of guests including Labour councillor Muhammed Butt, fashion photographer Ram Shergill and Emmerdale star Bhasker Patel.