image caption: Gurmukh Singh

Christians Use Wrongful Means to Seek Coverts (Jathedar Akal Takht Sahib)

In Punjab, the symbols of Sikhism are used to confuse rural Sikhs, Sabu Mathai Kathilita wrote a whole book with strategy for converting Sikhs. He proposed using terms such as Satsangs, Langars, Jesus Gurdwara, name of Satnam Waheguru for God and Satguru for Jesus. (Dilpreet Kaur quoted by Global Sikh Council.)

Speaking on Bandhi Cchor Divas, Jathedar Akal Takht Sahib expressed concern that Christians were using wrongful means to convert people to Christianity. For the Sikhs, that has been a matter of concern in the UK and other diaspora countries also. The problem is not the good work done by charities inspired by religious teachings. It is good that all religions should help the disadvantaged and address social injustices and disparities between the rich and the poor. The problem is not the Christian aid projects in Panjab. The problem is the glaring deception being used in seeking converts.

Regrettably, sometimes, social divisions and disadvantaged groups are created by the religions themselves as they have been interpreted and practised over the centuries, I hasten to add. Sikhs too need to ask themselves how Sikhi has been practised in Panjab. Guru Nanak Sahib condemned false practices of the Brahmin and the Mullah. We have only to look at the colonial era of slave trade when Christianity was also being spread through not just preaching but also use of colonial power. Suffice to say, the largest world religions cannot be very proud of some chapters of their history. Whole civilisations have been destroyed in the name of religion. Sword has been freely used to convert and to subjugate people.

It is good that today there is more enlightened, tolerant and compassionate interpretation of the core message of each religion. Such interpretation was promoted by Guru Nanak Sahib. The Guru first challenged the oppressive caste system through the egalitarian Sikh institutions which attracted converts to Sikhi in large numbers. Conversions to Sikhi have always been through inner awakening and appreciation of Sikhi pillars of Naam, Kirat and Wand Shako way of life. Otherwise Sikhi never sought converts as a religious objective.

The problem is misinformation about Sikhi being spread in Gurmukhi by zealous Christian missionaries who look like Sikh parcharaks, use Sikh names including Singh and Kaur. They even misquote and misinterpret Gurbani and use Sikhi word-concepts as mentioned above.

In response to misleading information about Sikhi being spread by Christian preachers targeting young Sikhs, in 1997, late S. Gurbachan Singh Sidhu, wrote his first comparative study Sikh Religion and Christianity. (He invited me to write the Foreword and also to co-author the next book, Sikh Religion and Islam.) Drawing on Gurbani and Sikh history, a paper about Sikh charities which I was invited to review recently, gives constructive Sikhi definitions of Nam-Dan-Isnan and priorities between short term and long term projects. There is need for such Sikhi education to prioritise charity work.

Our central Sikh institutions seem to have forgotten the philanthropic work of the Gurus which also built Panthic organisation for doing Sarbat da Bhalaa. To some extent the just cause of Indian farmers led by Sikhi values of Sarbat da bhalaa have shown the way.

Finally, let me stress that the Sikhs are not against any religion but they are against misleading tactics to attract converts by deception.

Gurmukh Singh OBE

Principal Civil Servant Retd