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Indian Sikh leader concerned over conversions to Christianity

Bishop says Catholics are not involved in conversion in Punjab but sources say Pentecostal churches are thriving
Activists from Sikh organizations shout slogans after offering prayers at the Golden Temple on the 38th anniversary of Operation Blue Star in Amritsar on June 6

Activists from Sikh organizations shout slogans after offering prayers at the Golden Temple on the 38th anniversary of Operation Blue Star in Amritsar on June 6. (Photo: Narinder Nanu/AFP)

Published: June 08, 2022 04:26 AM GMT
Updated: June 10, 2022 06:44 AM GMT

A Sikh head priest in northern India’s Punjab state has called for a stop to religious conversions of his community members to Christianity, especially in sensitive border areas along Pakistan.

Giani Harpreet Singh, the acting jathedar of Akal Takht, was speaking at the 38th anniversary of Operation Blue Star — an Indian army operation to flush out separatist Sikh terrorists of the Khalistan movement in 1984 — at the Golden Temple in Amritsar on June 6.

Singh said: “Today, we [Sikhs] are facing a lot of challenges. Christianity is being spread in Punjab on a large scale to weaken us religiously. Churches and mosques are being built in large numbers in the villages of Punjab, which is worrisome.”

The head priest appealed to Sikh preachers to launch a drive to counter the growing trend of conversion. There are about 25 million followers of Sikhism around the world and Punjab is a Sikh-majority state.

The rate of conversion to Christianity is on the rise in recent decades and it is said that Christians now constitute 10 percent of Punjab's population of 28 million.

“Let us strengthen Sikhs in villages again. The border belt is affected the most. Special attention needs to be paid there. This is the time to shed comforts of life and work tirelessly in this direction,” Singh said.

“We have been living in peace and harmony and want to continue the same for the better future of the state and welfare of all"

Bishop Agnelo Rufino Gracias, the apostolic administrator of Jalandhar Diocese, said Catholics do not indulge in any kind of conversion activities.

“We have been living in peace and harmony and want to continue the same for the better future of the state and welfare of all,” the prelate told UCA News on June 7.

Bishop Gracias said he was unaware of any other Christian group carrying out religious conversions, but reliable church sources agreed with the charges made by the Sikh leader.

“Many Pentecostal churches are thriving in the villages and this is causing concern among the majority Sikh population in Punjab,” one source told UCA News. “Even the Catholic Church was worried as many Catholics were joining the Pentecostal groups.”

When asked about this, the prelate said that nobody can be stopped from preaching as it was their constitutional right.

Delhi High Court on June 3 said that “it is the right of an individual to profess any religion, religion of his birth or religion that he chooses to profess. That is a freedom guaranteed in the constitution.”

The division bench of Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva and Justice Tushar Rao Gedela made the observation while hearing a petition filed by a leader of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seeking a direction to the federal government for enacting a law banning religious conversion.

The court said that laws to prevent illegal and forced conversions were already in place and reiterated that changing one’s religion was not prohibited under law.

The court, however, posted the petition for further hearing on June 25.

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1 Comments on this Story
JEFFREY RAM
Like the Hindu extremists, the Sikh extremists also want to imprison the oppressed Sikhs in their religion without trying to solve the problems of poverty, inequality, injustice, and exploitation. People wish for spiritual comfort, solace, and peace that they are not getting from their religions and Gods.
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