People From Everywhere – Our Neighbours, Our Friends: Sikhs in Canada
My eight-year-old grandson got hold of my iPhone, made a vlog (video log) on his own, and left it for me to find.
“Wherever I go I see many of people who I would like to introduce to Jesus. People come to Canada from everywhere. Today, I will tell you about the Punjabi Sikhs. My grandpa always talks to his Sikh friends. He also likes eating their food at the Punjabi restaurant. Like all other people, they need Jesus!”
The Punjabis, from the state of Punjab in India, speak Punjabis. The Sikhs’ religion - Sikhism - is the fifth largest religion with an estimated 27 million followers in India and around the world.
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded in Punjab, India in 1469, by Guru Nanak Dev. Unlike the Hindus who are polytheistic, the Sikhs believe in one God. Their place of worship is called the Gurdwara and wherever Sikhs are, there are also Gurdwara. Inside the Gurdwara they listen to the teachings of their Gurus, pray, and also socialize.
Generally, Christian missions history sees Sikhs as being unresponsive to the gospel. However, historians claim that in the nineteenth century many Mazhabis turned their lives to Jesus. Mazhabi Sikhs are members of a Punjabi caste who abandoned Hinduism and embraced Sikhism. The word “mazhabi is derived from the Urdu language “mazhab” meaning “the faithful.” There are recent reports that many Sikhs are following Jesus in the Indian states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttrakhand; and outside India among those who immigrated around the globe, particularly in Far East Asia, North America, Europe, Australia, and Oceania. Two Sikhs who decided to follow Christ and then became prominent ministers of the Gospel are Sahdu Sunder Singh and Bhakt Singh.
Demographers have been tracking the Sikh diaspora. Canada has been a top destination for Punjabi Sikhs where they have been arriving in great numbers for over 100 years.
The early Punjabi Sikh settlers are credited for being vital to laying tracks for the Canadian Pacific Railway, working in mines, and lumber mills. Known to the British government to be loyal and effective solders, Sikhs have served in Canada’s armed forces from as far back as the First World War. There are now over 600,000 in Canada with largest clusters in British Columbia, Ontario, and Alberta. Many Sikhs serve Canadian communities with their valued skills and high levels of education; many living and working in urban centres. Sikhs are represented at every level of society and are active in municipal, provincial, and national politics. We have Sikh cabinet ministers and leaders of major political parties. Indeed, my grandson is right - people come to Canada from everywhere and they are our next door neighbours.
My friend, J, a 73 year-old Punjabi Sikh, and I have become walking and gym partners. We see each other every other day. One day, I asked him why he regularly visited the gym. His answer was:
“I want to be healthy
and live longer. How about you?”
“Oh, I also want to live longer, and forever?”
“Forever? Really? Tell me more, Tira.”
“J, I’ll tell you more when we are seated at Tim Hortons over a cup of coffee!”
During the recent Lausanne Movement-sponsored Global Sikh Consultation (GSC) held in Edmonton, AB, participants concluded that Sikhs are not on the Global Church’s radar, making them an unreached and unengaged people group. Participants embraced The Edmonton Appeal* and asked the Global Church including mission agencies to pray with them for this great need and opportunity.
I have learned through friendships forged in the community that Sikhs are curious about spiritual realities. They have many questions and are ready to listen. They long for sincere friends. Acts 17:26 states: “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” The Punjabi Sikhs are everywhere and in God’s wisdom, he brought Sikhs to Canada.
I suggest a few steps for local Canadian churches:
- Pray for the hearts of the Sikhs to be receptive
to the gospel
- Build awareness of the Sikhs culture and religious practices
- Develop sincere relationships and friendships
- Train congregations to engage Sikhs in discrete but clear presentations of the gospel
- Mobilize resources for effective evangelistic projects and missions
*THE EDMONTON APPEAL
Over sixty Kingdom ministry leaders and reflective practitioners from ten nations, gathered at the Lausanne GLOBAL SIKH CONSULTATION in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on October 22-25, 2019, issue this urgent appeal to the Global Church.
That Sikhism is the fifth largest organized religion in the world but the Global Church is largely ignorant of its beliefs, culture, and practices.
The Global Church has not made reaching the Sikhs with the Good News of Jesus a priority.
That God’s loving purpose is to see all people including Sikhs experience salvation in Christ and be part of God’s forever family.
That the Church is God’s agent to fulfill the redemptive plan for Kingdom advance.
That the Holy Spirit is alive and active today in drawing all sinners to Jesus.
That God sovereignly performs miracles, healings and deliverances to demonstrate His Kingdom rule and power.
That there is only one true and living God, the Almighty Creator and Sustainer of all things existing eternally in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—full of love and glory.
That all humans are made in the image of God but have been marred by sin since the Fall.
That the living God has revealed Himself through the trustworthy Biblical Scriptures and has fully and finally revealed Himself through Jesus Christ, the Son of God when the Word became flesh. Hence, Jesus was fully God and fully man
That through the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross, He took upon Himself God’s judgement due to all sinners by dying in their place and making the way for us to be saved.
That the gift of personal salvation and the experience of complete forgiveness of sin are only available by God’s grace in Christ through personal repentance of sins and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
That spiritual life in Christ, of holiness and joyful service, is nurtured by the Word of God and empowered by the indwelling presence and transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
That calling of service to others is important but it flows out of one’s relationship in Christ and one’s love for fellow humans.
That fellowship with other followers of Jesus is essential for spiritual growth and balance.
That the Global Church seize the opportunities of evangelising and discipling the unreached millions of followers of the Sikh faith everywhere and develop them to be Great Commission disciple makers.
That the followers of Jesus and congregations will focus and fervently pray for the salvation of all Sikhs.
That relevant demographic research continue to be undertaken to define missiological and evangelistic priorities to reach Sikhs.
That the followers of Jesus be encouraged and equipped to contextually share the Good News of Jesus with Sikhs in word and deed.
That the followers of Jesus will live as authentic witnesses and personally engage with their Sikh contacts and neighbours, and build meaningful relationships with sincere Christ-like love.
That the Good News of Jesus be sensitively communicated in a clear, coherent, consistent, and culturally appropriate manner.
That Sikh Background Believers (SBBs) be developed into Christ-like leaders for the Global Church.
That local churches and ministry agencies will collaborate to develop resources, strategize effective approaches to reach Sikhs with the Good News of Jesus and plant contextual churches.
That those engaged in evangelizing and discipling Sikhs need prayer, patience, and perseverance.
October 25, 2019
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada