Keir Starmer, Leader of the Labour Party, visited BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (Neasden Temple) in North West London to partake in the Diwali festival on Monday (13).
During this busy period, the Labour Leader received a guided tour from senior swamis and trustees, interacting with volunteers supporting the temple as it welcomed 60,000 visitors for Diwali celebrations, a press release from the Labour Party said.
Starmer engaged in ceremonial prayers, met members of the Hindu community, and later addressed the congregation, expressing Diwali greetings and acknowledging the community’s contributions to British society.
Addressing a packed room in the temple, Starmer extended his Diwali greetings. He said, “This is my second visit to your landmark Mandir and it’s a real privilege to be one among the 60,000 or so pilgrims you will physically and spiritually welcome this Diwali and Hindu New Year.”
Starmer acknowledged the rare honour of being hosted by His Holiness Tyag-vallabh Swami and participating in the abhishek ceremony. He also commended the tireless work of BAPS volunteers, praising the prasad team, car park and shuttle volunteers, security team, and the shoe team for their care and commitment in making the celebrations a reality.
Starmer emphasised the significance of Neasden Temple, describing it as a testament to a legacy that serves as a beacon of compassion and harmony for everyone, irrespective of creed or background.
Recognising its integral role in the religious and cultural landscape of Great Britain, he highlighted the temple’s philosophy which, he said, “leads the way for community cohesion and peaceful coexistence,” especially in challenging times.
Starmer also acknowledged the broader impact of the community’s immense contribution to British society, citing the construction of a new temple in the Middle East as an additional testament to this spirit.
Additionally, Starmer expressed admiration and respect for the contributions of British-Indians to the UK. He acknowledged their vital role in various sectors, including charitable work, healthcare, arts, business, education, and politics.
He further highlighted the indispensable support provided by the community during the Covid-19 crisis, emphasising the role played by this community in underpinning the NHS and contributing to the broader fabric of British society.
Moreover, he commended the achievement of having the first non-white prime minister with Hindu heritage in the country.
Reaffirming his commitment to addressing Hinduphobia and strengthening the UK’s ties with India, the Labour leader pledged to work towards increased Hindu representation in public life.
He also said he would do everything he could to combat Hinduphobia, emphasising the importance of fostering a robust relationship between Britain and India.
He added, “I see each of you, and every member of the British Indian diaspora, as a vital link in this bridge that unites our two great countries for the betterment of the whole world.
“I want to build a new strategic partnership with India, one rooted in our shared values of democracy, aspiration and respect, that brings the best of our two great nations together in pursuit of our shared interests; for global security, climate security and economic security.”