Holding fierce pride in their identity, Sikhs have for decades been seen as ?off-limits? by the missionary machine but not anymore. In a alarming trend, evangelism has begun to tread on the Sikh faith as well.
Every aspect of Punjabi society is being overwhelmed with this new wave of assertive Christianity. Besides nationwide programs in Hindi, Punjabi television channels have been deluged by Christian programs even though the Christian population of Punjab is less than 1%. Taking aim at Sikh youth, animated films and children?s books on Christianity are freely distributed by missionaries.
Because of the strong adherence to tradition by Sikhs, missionaries have attempted to repackage Christianity. Jesus is called ?Satguru?, church is referred to as ?Satsang? and choir singing is called ?Kirtan?. Choir boys in Punjabi churches wear turbans to attempt to minimize the variation between Sikhism and Christianity. However, despite these attempts to disguise Christianity as a version of Sikhism, missionaries still cannot hide their intent: to destroy the Sikh faith.
An advertisement placed in a Punjabi newspaper, featuring a converted couple. Note that the male is portrayed wearing a traditional Sikh turban to woo Sikh converts.
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While there have been some cases of genuine conversions, economically disadvantaged and illiterate Sikhs often complain that missionaries are using extortive practices such as bribing them with material possessions to change their religion. A young boy whose friends had converted to Christianity explained, “When I asked the boys as to why they have converted to Christianity, they said they had been given cash and free education. In our village alone, 5 to 6 people have converted and, of course, their generations to come would also be Christians.”
Gurbachan Singh Bachan, former Secretary of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee and a proud Sikh, says “People who are converting from Hinduism and Sikhism to Christianity are those who have lost understanding of their own religion? Khalsa [Sikh] institutions and the Government need to educate the people about the values of a religion, and tell them that all religions are equal and no religion teaches us to fight with each other.”
Such provocative evangelism in Punjab does not always go unnoticed by the local community. The Open Door Church run by Pastor Harbhajan Singh, a landlord who converted to Christianity from Sikhism, has aggressively converted over 2,800 members of the Khojewala village community. In February of 2004, Singh made derogatory remarks against several Sikh gurus including Guru Granth Sahib. This led to several protests by Sikh youths in front Singh?s church in the. The conflict was ultimately resolved by police intervention and an unconditional apology by Harbhajan Singh. Meanwhile, Christian media painted this incident as an example of ?Christian persecution.?
A recent study showed that at least 800,000 are converted to Christianity every year throughout India. In the coming years, this number can significantly increase with attacks on the Sikh faith.
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Below is a translation of a book published, by the missionary organization, Operation Mobilization (disguised as a Hindu group with the acronym OM) ? the same group that purchased a cruise ship to convert upper class Indians. The passages below are a story of a man who is portrayed as a hero for rejecting his Sikh faith, cutting his hair and ultimately converting to Christianity.
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Chapter 3: Having long hair on head was the most important sign out of five signs for Sikhs in Punjab. He knotted his hair in a bun on his head. He was nothing without steel bangle, half pant, comb, and a small sword that provided his identity. His holy book ?Granth? had an instruction for him to never cut his hair, and like a devoted Sikh he never cut his hair. Though, his beautiful beard was very uncomfortable in summer and dusty environment. Without being cut, his long hair on head dignified him. A Sikh who had cut his hair was then not called a Sikh. He was boycotted from his religion, society, and family.
Whatever Sundar did was seen as resistance of shock by his father, Sher Singh, and after that Sundar had seen such anger from him that he had never seen before. His father became very angry and kick him out of the house without hesitation, saying that he was now not a member of this family. He brought bad name to the family. He was removed from his Caste; he had no right to live in the courtyard of the Singh family. He had to go out immediately.
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Page 30: Sadhu Sundar Singh: ??.ended that made his relative clearly angrier. The pressure coming from various sources undoubtedly could not mislead the internal determination of this 15 years old boy. But they could be sufficient to make the boy quite.
But as far as Sundar was concerned, it had opposite effect. As he studied the work of good news and Christian converts, and read about that extraordinary messiah whom he had seen from his own eyes. How he endured pain with insult and how his pupils were really happy to be found qualified to bear insult for the sake of his name. Then, a desire also arose in Sundar to endure pain for messiah. One day, by a program that would separate him, he would not only show that he has attained youth but also fulfill the primary requirement of being Sikh. He could not participate in this program and he did not want to. He did not want to do this to deny his Caste or Clan. He wanted to deny Sikh religion. Even after his infatuation was broken when he was studying at a school in Ludhiana, he faced threatening calls, anger, and bad behavior from his father and elders of the family. He knew that no one could erase the memory of that living God. It was that messiah that vouched for his sincerity and he also needed to do that. To make it clear to his family and to make them understand, he left Sikh religion for good; and that he has seen Jesus Christ and was determined to follow him. He needed to do something to make it clear. While he was thinking, he came to know a way by which he can do that. By a simple work he would show that he was freeing himself from all customs that bounded him to his Caste. This was a simple work but would have sharp reaction and he realized that it would bring him more trouble, more than he hasn?t faced yet. But whatever may be the result, he has decided to do that. He cut his hair by scissor.
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Page 32: To satisfy your soul: In comparison with this big world, human heart is a small thing. Although the world is very big, but is incapable to satisfy this small heart. At last, ever growing soul of human being and his capabilities can only be satisfied in God. Just like water that does not rest until it reaches its level, a soul, in the same way, also does not rest until it retires in God. – With and without Christ.