One of the greatest challenges for any Sikh family is preservation and protection of our religious rights, and our practices. Sikhs have come a long way in this country to do both of these things, but in many ways, our people are preyed upon by missionary activities of other faiths. In the Yuba City, California area, home of one of the largest Sikh populations in the United States, such activities are being celebrated:
The Rev. Masih, 36, was born a Christian in Punjab, Pakistan, and lived there until he moved to the United States a decade ago. He planted himself in Dallas, Texas, where he worked as a missionary and focused on converting Muslims.
He has been preaching since he was 15 years old, first reading at youth Sunday school and moving on to Sunday sermons. Eventually he graduated from a Pakistan seminary and became an ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church of Pakistan.
He’s hoping to do similar outreach as he did in Texas with Yuba-Sutter’s Sikh, Hindu and small Muslim populations.
“We want to lift up Yuba City’s community,” he said.
Sikhism teaches that all religions are equal paths to God. So, I won’t begrudge anyone of Sikh or Indian origin converting to another faith of their own volition, if that is the path that the individual feels would allow them to pursue their spirituality in the best way.
And, while it would be easy to do so, I’m also not going to take any of the quotations from the story about “outreach” out of context. However, in the interest of interfaith dialogue, cooperation and respect, I find these missionary activities and the motivations behind them to be disrespectful to their communities.
A recent article in the Huffington Post by Suhag A. Shukla, of the Hindu American Foundation, discusses missionary activities of US-based organizations in India. One excerpt is particularly relevant:
The world community has for too long turned a blind eye to aggressive and predatory proselytization and resulting conversions that have been carried out for centuries in Asia, Africa, North and South America, the Middle East and Europe. This collective complacency is counter-productive to peace and has bred a resurgence in international campaigns which harass, intimidate, and exploit the most vulnerable segments of society by, among other ethically questionable methods, conditioning humanitarian aid or economic, educational, medical or social assistance upon conversion; overtly denigrating other religions to seek converts; and intentionally promoting religious hatred, bigotry (hate speech), and violence. Conversions gained through such means must be recognized for what they are — unethical, fraudulent, forced, coerced, or provoked.
Let people decide what faiths they wish to pursue without manipulation. To enact subtle coercion in the interests of conversion has nothing to do with God. You cannot purport to espouse the virtues of humility, respect, and peace when your eyes are constantly directed to flocks beyond your own.