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Jan 3, 2009

The History Of Jain Community In East Africa

At the turn of this century Jains from Gujarat emigrated first to Kenya, and then later on to Uganda and Tanzania. To this day we will find Jains Schools, Jains hospitals and Jain community centers in major cities throughout East Africa. It was the pioneering efforts of early Jains, their tremendous spirit and co-operation, which enables such a tremendous success of the community both materially and spiritually. It is often said that we rarely learn from the lesson of history or that, as times move on, we forget the virtue of our forefathers. We are therefore excited to report on an interesting development in our history. The effort of the pioneers in East Africa have not only been sustained , but that history has been transported to a new continent, this time to Australia. Ever since Asians were kicked out of Uganda in 1972,there has been concern in East Africa that the future for Asians living in these countries is risky. As a result there has been a steady flow of migration away from East Africa. Some of the early pioneers of this migration were Mr. Kanti Shah, Mr. Ramesh Shah and Aniket Shah, who tired to attract people to go to Australia. Among the people who decided to migrate to Australia were Mr. Amu and Mr. Neeta Vaghji Nangpar Shah, who went to Perth in 1994. Mr. Vaghji Nangpar Shah is a great pioneer of Jain Heritage. He single handedly establish the Aradhna Dham near Jamanagar, Gujarat. Amu set up in business in Perth and at the same time begin to help other Kenyans and Jains who were emigrating to Perth. He would help them with setting up in business, finding jobs, home and schools for the children there. Very soon a community was created out of scratch. Perth is a beautiful costal city with warm weather throughout the year, plenty of beaches and greenery - a paradise in many ways.

In 1994 some 10 families had settled in Perth, and in 1995 this number had gone to 30 families. Dr. Paresh Mehta was instrumental in setting up regular satsangs at a community center ,and at the end of each meeting, the Jain women provide a delicious vegetarian dinner for the whole community. There were initial difficulties , but these were tackled by the mutual support and the community spirit. In fact ,many Jains living in Perth, today said their transition were very smooth, and they do not feel that it has been a struggle. The children were settled very well in the schools. Mr. Amu Shah predict that another 15 families will migrate there this year and Perth is destined to become an important Jain city. In addition, there are 20 overseas Jain students in Perth, and more coming each year, who are also in close touch with the local community.

The Jains from East Africa were able to migrate to a new continent and settle down very comfortably without losing much of their community spirit. Instead they enhanced this spirit once in Australia. History repeated itself as Amu and Neeta were the second generation East Africans who were born and raised in East Africa. They learned from the values of their parents and reinvigorated these values in a new environment . This suggest that their is a great hope for the future of Jainism - its ancient history can be transported in the future through our efforts. It is good to see Jains rise to the challenge.

From Jain Spirit

1 comment:


Nice work for community.

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