Jathedar says Christianity ‘spreading’, wants Sikhs to get weapons training
Sikhs are facing challenges in Punjab as Christianity is being spread on a large scale in the state, Akal Takht’s acting chief Giani Harpreet Singh said on Monday.
Sikhs are facing challenges in Punjab as Christianity is being spread on a large scale in the state, Akal Takht’s acting chief Giani Harpreet Singh said on Monday, while making an appeal to various Sikh institutions to open shooting ranges for youngsters to train in modern weapons.
Claiming that churches and mosques were being built in large numbers in rural areas, the acting jathedar appealed to Sikh religious leaders and preachers to launch a drive to counter the trend of conversion, especially in border areas.
“Today, we 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 for us,” said Singh, who is the acting head of the Akal Takht, the highest temporal authority of the Sikhs. He was addressing the community at an event organised to mark the 38th anniversary of Operation Bluestar at the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
“I appeal to Sikh preachers to launch a drive against this on a large scale and counter this trend of conversion. Let us strengthen Sikhi in villages again. The border belt is affected the most and special attention needs to be paid there,” he said. “ This is the time to shed comforts of life and work tirelessly in this direction.”
Operation Bluestar was conducted by the army on June 6, 1984, to flush out militants from the Golden Temple complex. Elaborate security arrangements were put in place on Monday to ensure that the event passed off smoothly.
Although some separatist slogans were raised by supporters of radical Sikh outfits and the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), no untoward incident was reported during the jathedar’s address.
“If we are strengthened religiously, we will gain strength in other fields, too. Being weak religiously will keep Sikhs away from ruling. The qaumi (community) spirit must be instilled in youngsters. This is a community of lions created by Guru Gobind Singh,” Singh said. “The government has turned Amritsar into a fortress to contain Sikh people, but a Sikh never attacks any innocent person or without any reason.”
Singh, who on May 23 asked every Sikh to keep licensed weapons “in these uncertain times”, appealed to Sikh institutions to open shooting ranges to train youngsters in operating modern weapons. “We should open modern weapon training centres. There should be no hesitation in doing so. Other people are training their people in this regard secretly, we will do it openly,” he said.
The acting chief also paid tribute to Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and others killed in Operation Bluestar.
Several Christian leaders rejected Singh’s conversion remarks, saying such statements could lead to disharmony.
“This is not true. People have the right to preach any religion. The statement of the Sikh religious leader has not come at a right time,” said Pradeep Kumar Samantaroy, bishop of the Diocese of Amritsar. “We are all talking about religious harmony in the country. No conversion is taking place.”
The apostolic administrator of the Jalandhar Diocese, Agnelo Rufino Gracias, seconded the bishop. “We are Catholics. We don’t convert people. It’s a country where people are free to preach. There is no conversion going on. Only dormant Christians have become active and have started practising the faith,” said Gracias.
People from all faiths come for prayers but that does not mean they are being converted to Christianity, said a spokesperson for pastor Ankur Narula of Khambra Church in Jalandhar. “It is sad that a Sikh religious leader of such a stature is issuing such statements that can lead to disharmony,” he said.
(With inputs from Hillary Victor in Mohali)
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