News Plan to end Sikh-Christian ‘conversion’ rift in India

Plan to end Sikh-Christian ‘conversion’ rift in India

Delhi-based Concerned Citizens Group is hoping to involve AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal in talks between the two faiths

Activists from Sikh organizations shout slogans after offering prayers at the Golden Temple on the 38th anniversary of Operation Blue Star in Amritsar on June 6

Representatives of different faiths in New Delhi have begun work to establish peace between Christian and Sikh minorities at loggerheads in Punjab over religious conversions.

The growing number of churches and churchgoers in the Sikh-majority state in north India has led to sporadic friction with Sikh religious organizations who accuse Christians of using forceful and fraudulent means of conversion.

A C Michael, convener of the Concerned Citizens Group in New Delhi said in a press note issued on Aug. 12 that the group at its recent meeting decided to meet Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who is also the founder and leader of the Aam Adami Party (AAP) that rules Punjab.

The interreligious group “feels that the good offices of Mr. Kejriwal could play an important role in bringing about a much-needed peaceful atmosphere between two clashing groups as Mr. Kejriwal enjoys the goodwill of both communities,” Michael said.

AAP’s Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann had called the latest attack on a church “unfortunate” and assured he will not allow anybody to disturb the communal harmony in the state.

In the attack on Aug. 31, masked men had vandalized a church in Tarn Taran district, on the border with Pakistan, and set the pastor’s car on fire.

A day before the Tarn Taran incident, Giani Harpreet Singh, head of Akal Takht, one of the highest seats of power for the Sikhs, had condemned alleged forced conversions by Christian groups and demanded a law against such activities.

Earlier, a group of armed Nihang Sikhs reportedly disrupted an event organized by Christians at a village in the Amritsar district on Aug. 28.

The group in Delhi in their attempt to build peace brought together representatives of Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims to work out an action plan.

It also proposes to have Christians, both denominational and non-denominational groups, initiate a dialogue among themselves.

The group also has plans to visit Punjab for a dialogue with all affected people and to undertake a fact-finding mission to establish the truth behind the alleged religious conversions in the state.

The meeting in Delhi was attended by members of Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Christian communities.

Among Christians, there were representatives of Catholics, Church of North India, Church of South India, Marthoma, Methodist, Evangelical, Pentecostal and other independent Churches.

Some of the members of the Concerned Citizens Group are also in touch with the federal government’s National Commission of Minorities, which “has been making serious efforts” to bring together the Sikhs and Christians for a dialogue, Michael said.

About 58 percent of Punjab’s 28 million people are Sikh, while 39 percent are Hindu. Christians make up a minuscule 1.26 percent, according to the 2011 Census data.

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