image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

The Rise of Christianity in Panjab

         On 18 November, 2010, S Ravinder Singh of Khalsa Aid wrote on a global forum, Gurmat Learning Zone (GLZ): The Christian Missionaries are misrepresenting Gurbani and using this to convert the rural Sikh population of Punjab. Almost 10 years later, on 18 January 2020, S Tarlochan Singh, Ex-MP and Indian Minorities Commissioner, reminded us again on GLZ that Churches are opening almost everywhere they have even opened up in villages. Gurbani scholar, S Rawel Singh wrote on 20 January 2020: The Christian missionaries consider poverty a gift of God for it is there that they focus to proselytise.

The rise of Christianity in Panjab is a challenge for Sikh institutions and parcharaks. Over 20 years ago, late Sardar Gurbachan Singh Sidhu, main founder of The Sikh Missionary Society UK, raised the same concern about the conversion activities of Christian missionaries in the UK: at university campuses and from door to door, targeting the vulnerable and the gullible youngish Sikh youth. He wrote his first comparative study, Sikh Religion and Christianity and invited me to revise and write the Foreword. One reason for the study was the distortion of Sikh ideology by Christian preachers. According to S Gurbachan Singh, Christian missionaries make highly misleading statements about the contents of Sri Guru Granth Sahib and historical events leading to the revelation of the Khalsa.

     When Ravinder Singh raised the alarm about Christian activities in Panjab in 2010, he spoke about the highly misleading Christian literature in Gurmukhi, which was being widely distributed. I recall joining him on a Sikh TV show and S Gurbachan Singh Sidhu called in to give his own views. Based on his tour of Panjab villages, Ravinder Singh revealed that the Christian Missionaries were misrepresenting Gurbani and using this to convert the rural Sikh population of Punjab. That had been going on for many years. He expressed grave concern at the lack of action by the Sikh institutions ( SGPC ) who were set up to counter such propaganda and to promote Sikhi as a positive way of life. Now, ten years later, Sardar Tarlochan Singh has repeated the same message. To quote: The growth of churches in Punjab villages has been going on for the last 50 years. Perhaps 25% of villages in Majha and Doaba are already having churches and good number of devotees. They are all recently converted. We are harping on the so called activities of RSS but have never looked towards the silent onslaught of Christians.

       One reason given for conversions to Christianity is that the so called low class Sikhs were not allowed to participate in Gurdwara. Similarly, they were not allowed in temples by Hindus. They had only one choice: to become Christians and to become acceptable human beings.

This is not the first wake-up call for Sikh institutions, missionary parcharaks and Sikh charities. We should not waste massive resources on new Gurdwaras or replacing Sikh heritage buildings. Major initiatives are needed in Panjab (and elsewhere in India) to reverse the conversions and bring back the disadvantaged to the Sikhi fold. This can only be done through Sikhi parchaar and practise of human equality and through educational, medical and a whole range of welfare services.

Gurmukh Singh OBE