BY GORDON E. PIFHER, president of British Columbia Conference
eaching out to neighbors to share with them the message of Jesus’ love isn’t restricted to just the person who lives next door—or to those who might look, dress, or believe as we do. The gospel commission of Jesus includes everyone, and for Adventists living in British Columbia, Canada, this means also seeking out and witnessing to the almost 200,000 Sikhs living in the region.
The British Columbia Conference has begun the process of training local church members to reach out to Sikhs. Mary Pillai, an administrative assistant in the conference’s Ministerial Department, recently organized the first Seeking Sikhs Committee. The group has so far met twice at the Surrey Adventist church, in the southwestern region of the province, which holds the most concentrated population of Sikhs in Canada.
The committee’s main focus is to develop resources to help church members grow friendships with their Sikh neighbors. Providing a link between the different cultures are Adventist Sikh families serving as members of the committee. Some of these members are from Punjab, India, and have worked in the Sikh culture for many years.
Why a Seeking Sikhs Committee in BC?
The Sikh population worldwide totals some 23 million, and it’s one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in some British Columbia communities. Many Sikhs are found to be devout spiritual people who are willing to learn more about their Creator God.
As a result of the Seeking-Sikhs initiative, committee members have come to know Sikhs as an industrious and family-oriented group. When you touch the life of a Sikh, you touch a family that extends all the way to Punjab, where 90 percent of the Sikh population still lives. Adventist Church members have found many Sikhs to be searching for spiritual non-Sikh friends to help them and their families face the tremendous challenges they experience in adapting to Canadian culture.
What Do Sikhs Believe?
|PRAISING GOD: Sikhs worshiping in their temple. [Photo: iStockphoto.com]
Sikhs originated in the 1500s in Punjab, northern India. Their culture grew up in a region dominated by Hindus and Muslims.
The word “Sikh” means disciple. “Guru” means teacher. And their holy book is called the Guru Granth Sahib, which includes the teachings of their first teacher and the writings of nine special gurus.
Unlike some of their neighbors, Sikhs reject idolatry and caste. They believe in one God, who, they feel, gave them their teachings. Sikhs identify five special evils: ego, anger, greed, attachment, and lust, and believe dedication to daily devotions attains salvation and a personal union with God.
In witnessing to Sikhs, the committee members have found that emphasizing the common beliefs and lifestyles of Adventists and Sikhs is the best approach. These include:
- Believing in one God.Adopting a healthful message—Sikhs are generally vegetarians who neither smoke nor drink.Maintaining a disciplined approach to having personal devotions at least twice each day.
- Encouraging generosity—Sikhs actively join with Adventists in programs defending fellow human beings andhelping those in need.
- Fostering spiritual devotion—for 48 continuous hours each week, Friday through Sunday, many Sikhs spend time reading the writings and singing the songs written by the gurus.
- Sikhs don’t aggressively attempt to proselytize, but they are interested in mutual understanding. They also don’t appear to feel offended when invited to join Adventists in their worship services.
Our Lord asks us to share the Advent message will all people. We may not totally understand the cultural and spiritual practices of others, but we shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to them.
So, go ahead—make a friend for God. It could change your life, as well as theirs.
What Would Jesus Really Do? News Commentary
By Bettina Krause, special assistant to the General Conference president for Global Initiatives
CNN recently invited a panel of guests from a variety of faith traditions to identify a Christian agenda among today’s political and social issues. The guests ranged from retired Roman Catholic Archbishop Theodore McCarrick to evangelical “megachurch” pastor Paula White. Each used Scripture to draw conclusions about how Jesus would act within today’s cultural and political milieu.
Rick Warren, author, pastor, and founder of Saddleback Church in southern California, concluded that Jesus would spend a lot of time with HIV and AIDS patients—“the lepers of today.” Baptist pastor Jerry Falwell, the outspoken head of Liberty University, defended the Iraq War, saying God is a God of “just wars.” Some guests reminded viewers that Christ’s message was primarily spiritual and that entanglement with politicized issues could be dangerous.
What is a “Christian issue?” What public policy concerns overlap so significantly with core Christian values or beliefs that they should prompt us to speak out or take action?
Like it or not, the media is already defining for us what is and isn’t a “Christian issue.” Recent front pages of United States’ newspapers have included reports on the ongoing bloodshed in Darfur, scientists’ predictions that climate change will disproportionately impact the world’s poorest regions, and the celebration of homosexual “marriages” at Disneyland. It’s not hard to guess which story was the only one that prompted reporters to seek a Christian angle.
As followers of Jesus, Adventists have much to say about marriage and the family; but also about poverty, injustice, and violence, in all their forms. Even about being better stewards of creation. As God’s ambassadors, the issues we choose to publicly address shape society’s perception of the God we serve.
For many, our words and actions will be the only answer they ever receive to the question: “What would Jesus really do?”