image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

When Conversions to Christianity in Panjab Can Become a Law and Order Issue For the State

(Continued from last week)

The methods used by Christian preachers to seek converts in Panjab, continue to cause concern. The topic was broached in this column last week. However, column space allowed only a pointed treatment of the topic and some responses compel me to continue with some clarifications this week. There was a suggestion that by expressing concern about the possibility of breakdown of law and order in Panjab, I was pushing the responsibility of the state to control conversion rather than suggesting what the Sikh intelligentsia and the custodian of Sikhism should do.

Admittedly, that too is an important issue for the Sikh intelligentsia and the custodian of Sikhism, but that is not the topic under discussion. The topic is the possibility of law and order breakdown due to what is called aggressive evangelism i.e. seeking converts from other religions by any means fair or unfair. Videos from Panjab clearly show local disturbances caused by Christian conversion activity in villages. Prevention of law and order breakdown is a matter of state concern and the state can become involved at some stage.

The methods which Christian preachers have used and justified to covert diverse populations of the world to Christianity over the centuries are well recorded. For example, the Doctrine of Discovery was issued by Pope Nicholas V in 1452 to justify the occupation of lands discovered by Europeans, and the large scale killing of non-Christian people found in North America, South America, Africa, Australasia, Asia, etc. It provided the moral justification to European rulers and a get quick business to greater riches. So many millions of people were killed and habitations wiped out around the world that it led to a mini-ice age, as forests, jungles, and trees took over previous habitations of people.**

However, times have changed and so have methods of seeking converts to Christianity become more devious and subtle. This time, Panjab has been targeted for conversions.

Let us be clear about the Sikh position. Sikhs have preached the egalitarian Sikh way of life but never actively sought converts as a religious objective, nor accepted targeted conversions by any other religion which uses direct or indirect coercion, material incentives or deceptive methods. Some worrying disturbances in Panjab villages suggest that unscrupulous Christian pastors do cross the line sometimes. That can become a matter of state concern if Sikh history is heeded.

Some Islamic rulers during the Mughal raj, used all sorts of material incentives, positions and privileges and coercion in their attempts to convert the Indian sub-continent to Islam but the Sikhs intervened and toppled the evil empire. The Shaheedi of Guru Tegh Bahadur bears witness to that historical fact that Sikhs will oppose any form of pressure or incentives, direct or indirect, to secure conversions as a religious objective. In short, actively targeting communities and individuals to change their religion or way of life is against founding Sikhi principles.

From a Sikh perspective provocation by Christian pastors through distortion of Sikh literature, terminology and deception through Sikhi bana, continues. Videos from Panjab show rather aggressive confrontations between Sikh villagers and visiting Christian groups distributing literature from door to door. The possibility of breakdown of law and order is real. That should be a matter of concern for both, the central Sikh institutions and the state.


Gurmukh Singh OBE

Principal Civil Servant retd (UK)