15 October 2010
Playwright turned property tycoon to unite South Asian Christians
Did you hear the one about the comedy writer turned property tycoon who gave it up to unite British-born South Asian Christians?
Manoj Raithatha is doing just that. Nowadays Manoj is representing and encouraging unity among Britain's estimated 75,000 South Asian Christians, who hail from the eight countries each with their own set of customs, culture, language and dialect.
Manoj, 38, says it was the near death of his toddler son Ishaan that led him to Christ. This conversion then led him to his current role as National Coordinator for the newly-formed South Asian Forum of the Evangelical Alliance.
The South Asian Forum (SAF) was formed earlier this year by the Evangelical Alliance to unite and support Christians, originally from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, who are now living in Britain.
So how did Watford-born Manoj get involved?
Manoj began his career teaching drama and English at a secondary school in South London before becoming a full-time writer. He went on to write a Bafta-winning TV series 'My Life as a Popat' based on an Indian family living in Harrow. His first play 'BBA and Proud' (stands for British-born Asian) won an Edinburgh Fringe First award at the Edinburgh Festival, and was commissioned to tour UK theatres.
Although Manoj courted success as a playwright, he says it didn't pay well enough to buy him out of a small house in a less-glamorous part of the London borough of Wandsworth into posh neighbour Putney so he decided to hedge his bets as a property speculator.
Manoj set up Summertime Properties as a dealer and landlord. Soon enough he brokered one of the UK's single biggest residential deals by buying Clarence House in Leeds at a cool £34.5m. And, as well as his big-spending in Leeds, Manoj emptied the developers' shelves in London, Bradford and Sheffield, where he bought and sold a block of 140 flats near the city centre.
Miraculously Manoj's business survived the recession, although it is no longer the success it once was. But ultimately it was Manoj's conversion to Christianity in 2008 that was his biggest turning point.
Manoj recalls: "My two year old son was taken to St Thomas' Hospital in London with severe breathing problems. Having been intubated, Christian friends set up a prayer vigil. After five days in the intensive care unit my son suddenly bolted upright in bed. Miraculously he was healed."
Within days, Manoj and his wife Maria visited their local church as a mark of respect to their Christian friends. They continued to attend services and began considering the claims of Jesus Christ. Within weeks, the couple committed their lives to Christ and so joined Soul Survivor Church in Watford.
Manoj says: "It was by God's grace and love that my son now lives and it is also by God's grace that I've been given an altogether new direction in life."
Nowadays Manoj is studying theology at St Paul's Theological Centre, in South Kensington, London, to complement his role working for South Asian-majority churches across Great Britain.
In his new role Manoj hopes to bring together individuals as well as churches with Asian-majority congregations, so that they can more effectively represent their concerns to government and the media, and also encourage and support one another for mission as part of a nationwide church.
Manoj says: '"At one time my main focus was on making money and being successful in business. Nowadays, my ambition is to bring together fellow South Asian believers as well as connect with people of other faiths."
Ram Gidoomal, Chairman of SAF's Steering Group, commented: 'For too long South Asian Christians have not had a voice. But, with the appointment of Manoj, we can look forward to fostering greater unity among churches and representation to the wider community. "
Steve Clifford, General Director of the Evangelical Alliance, adds: "This appointment reflects our commitment to support believers of all backgrounds."
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Notes to Editors
The Evangelical Alliance
We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. We’re here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we're not just uniting Christians within the UK – we are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians. For more information, go to www.eauk.org.