A Global Issue: Religious Persecution

By earning refugee status, Afghan Sikhs will be allowed to stay in a new country permanently and start a new life....

Jewish people are a minority in Austria and are often subject to target. They face many attacks on a daily basis. In August 2020 a Syrian immigrant attempted to assassinate the president of a 150-member Jewish community and graffitied the synagogue with pro-Palestinian slogans. In fact, in several rural areas of Austria, Jewish people are banned from making hotel bookings and standing on public premises.

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The most recent attack on the Jewish community happened a few months ago on Monday, November 2nd 2020 when an Islamic terrorist opened fire near the Stadttempel synagogue killing five and sending 14 to the hospital. This historical synagogue was the only one to survive the Nazi bombardments during World War II.  I was lucky to get the chance to visit this very synagogue during the summer of 2019 (see picture above). As I walked through the bucolic cobblestoned streets of Austria with a GPS in hand, we finally reached the synagogue. We talked to a short brown-haired man and asked him if we could enter. However, he denied because there was a naming ceremony going on inside. Although we weren’t able to go inside of the synagogue, the women that talked to us outside of the synagogue were warm and welcoming. When I heard about this attack, I was saddened to hear that this minority was being disproportionately targeted and the government was taking no action on this matter.

This attack reminded me of the July attack on Gurdwara Guru Har Rai Sahib Ji in Afghanistan on March 25, 2020. Gurdwara Guru Har Rai Sahib Ji is a historical gurdwara located near Shorbazar in Kabul, Afghanistan. ISIS attacked the gurdwara with grenades at 7:45 AM where 200 Sikhs were praying. The shootout lasted six hours and 80 Sikhs were taken hostage. A total of 25 Sikhs were killed which included a child and eight were wounded. If you are interested in learning more about the gurdwaras in Afghanistan, Pritpal Singh Ji has recommended to me his documentary Mission Afghanistan on YouTube in which he visits his home in Afghanistan and shows the various historical gurdwaras and mandirs. If you are interested in the journey of Afghan Sikhs, you can watch Hindu Kush to Thames on YouTube which is another touching documentary by Pritpal Singh ji. 

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We can see examples of resistance to religious persecution in Sikh history. May 1st marked the 400th birthday of Guru Tegh Bahadur ji. Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji saved Kashmiri pandits from being forcefully converted to Islam by Aurangzeb who was the king of India at that time. This shows that religious persecution happened in the era of the gurus and even today in society. It is our duty as Sikhs to try to follow in the steps of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji and take a stand against religious persecution.

We can even see countless incidents of religious persecution in my birthplace of the United States. On April 15th 2021, a white 19-year-old male killed eight people at a local FedEx. Four out of the eight people killed were Sikhs including Amarjeet Kaur Johal (66), Jasvinder Kaur (50), Jaswinder Singh (68), and Amarjit Sekhon (48). In fact, 90% of the workers at this FedEx facility are members of the Indianapolis Sikh community. Further investigations into the motive of the shooter unearthed that he had ties to white supremacy. Such violent hate crimes and religious intolerance against the Sikh community are not new, and have been occurring since the inception of Sikhi. Religious intolerance is not something that ended with the Gurus. Whether it be with Sikhs in America or in Afghanistan, it is a reality that we live in every day.

Afghan Sikhs have faced countless attacks similar to the Kabul gurdwara attack in 2020 in the past few decades. This has resulted in a mass exodus of Afghan Sikhs from their native land. A community that once consisted of a quarter of a million is now reduced to merely 200 people. However, their problems are not solved after they flee Afghanistan. They face many problems regarding finance, assimilation, housing, and refugee status. By earning refugee status, Afghan Sikhs will be allowed to stay in a new country permanently and start a new life. You can help the Afghan Sikhs by sending a letter to your local politicians urging them to provide refugee status in the United States. I have written a draft of this letter which can be found on my website:

Protect Afghan Sikhs

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