Rishi Sunak becomes Britain’s first Hindu prime minister. At 42, he is the youngest prime minister appointed in the last 200 years and he is also the first person of color to hold the highest office in the UK. This is a historic moment in Britain’s politics as Sunak symbolizes Britain’s growth as a multicultural and multi-faith society, reports The Guardian.
Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, a UK-based think tank focusing on identity and race, revealed that Sunak’s victory “simply would not have been possible even a decade or two ago.” He added, “It shows that public service in the highest office in Britain can be open to those of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds. This will be a source of pride to many British Asians – including many who do not share Rishi Sunak’s Conservative politics.”
It shows that public service in the highest office in Britain can be open to those of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds. —Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, a UK-based think tank
Sunak is a practicing Hindu and he will lead a predominantly Christian country in Europe. Though rarely talking about his faith, he said it “gives me strength, it gives me purpose. It’s part of who I am.”
Danny Webster, director of advocacy at Evangelical Alliance, lauded Sunak’s appointment as it show’s Britain’s diversity. In an interview with Premiere Christian News, he commented, “I think it’s important actually to recognize that as a nation, we celebrate freedom of religion and belief.”
He said, “I think it’s important that we’re able to recognize different people’s religious beliefs and how they practice it. I also think we should be encouraged that people are free to practice different beliefs, but in the same way, that we should stand for the freedom to practice our own.”
The new prime minister gave his first address on October 25 where he vowed to fix the economy and pledged to serve with integrity and humility. “When the opportunity to serve comes along, you cannot question the moment, only your willingness,” he said.
John Stevens, National Director of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, wrote an article reassuring Christians of the appointment of a non-Christian as prime minister. He believed that “a competent unbeliever might be better for the country than an incompetent nominal believer.” In the article, Stevens wrote that, “Evangelicals in the UK are a small minority, and a PM from another minority community might be more sympathetic to our concerns.” To prove his point, he identified former prime ministers, including Winston Churchill and Clement Atlee, who were not Christians but expertly served the country.
Sunak was named the next prime minister on Diwali, also called the Festival of Lights, which is one of the most important festivals within Hinduism. It is celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains all over the world. Some commented that Sunak’s selection was significant since India recently celebrated 75 years of independence from British colonial rule.
Sunak’s premiership made it into the front pages of most Indian newspapers. Social media and TV stations in India were filled with news of the appointment and congratulatory messages for the next prime minister, according to Religion News Service.
“Today, as India celebrates Diwali in its 75th year as an independent nation, the U.K. gets an Indian-origin Prime Minister. History comes full circle,” lawmaker Raghav Chadha tweeted.
Prime minister of India Narendra Modi congratulated Sunak on Twitter. “Special Diwali wishes to ‘living bridge’ of U.K. Indians as we transform historic ties into modern partnership.”