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California Priest Leads Prayers to End Religious Violence In India

Christian congregants “regularly pray for a Sikh man and his plight in India”

Roseville, CA: July 29, 2015 – While California-resident Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa nears day 200 of a hunger strike in Punjab, India, Roseville priest Father Joshua Lickter leads his Christian church in prayers for this starving Sikh man and other persecuted minorities in India.

“We believe that what affects one community in India affects us all,” says Fr. Joshua, priest at Incarnation Anglican Church. “All of humanity shares the image of God and Christians need to take it seriously when individuals bearing his image are oppressed anywhere.” In prayers for the 83-year-old American Sikh, he asked that God’s “hand would be upon him as he stands against the oppression that he sees in India right now.”

Back in May, Fr. Joshua joined leaders in Northern California’s Sikh community to host a town hall meeting with Congressman Tom McClintock at the Roseville Sikh Gurdwara. Since then, Congressman McClintock joined with five other Californian congressional representatives to demand “the Indian government abide by its international human rights commitments… and ensure that these rights are safeguarded for political prisoners and all citizens in India.”

“I am often asked by people, why would you, as a Christian congregation, regularly pray for a Sikh man and his plight in India.” Fr. Joshua explains, “The image of God, in many people, is being oppressed in India. It doesn’t matter if they’re Sikh, or if they’re Christian, or if they’re Muslim, or if they’re Buddhist. It doesn’t matter what their background is — they are being oppressed because they believe differently.”

Responding to reports that hunger-striking Khalsa is in failing health and once again detained by Indian authorities who want to end his political protest, the Anglican priest took his prayers from inside his church to social media through videos on Youtube and Facebook. Khalsa, who lives in Lathrop, CA, is on a hunger-strike to protest for political prisoners in India who have completed their sentences but are not being released.

Fr. Joshua sees similarities between the plights of Indian Christians and Sikh political prisoners. He believes both often face the same caste discrimination and political persecution by the predominantly Hindu government. Last month, at a conference in Stockton, he warned that minorities in India are “oppressed because the Indian government embraces a belief system that dehumanizes entire people groups.”

Home to nearly 60 million Christians, India’s religious nationalism is considered by various religious liberty advocates as the leading source of Christian persecution. Although anti-conversion laws criminalizing freedom of conversion encourage violence against religious minorities like Sikhs and Christians, Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to nationally implement such legislation. Meanwhile, minorities are seeing their places of worship vandalized as their already impoverished communities are discriminatorily denied essential services like government food subsidies.

Standing behind his church’s altar, Fr. Joshua prayed: “Lord, we ask that you would be with Bapu, that you would strengthen him, as he hungers, as he allows his body to hunger because so many other people right now are hungering for justice.”

Father Joshua Lickter pastors Incarnation Anglican Church in Roseville and is part of the Diocese of Churches for the Sake of Others in the Anglican Church in North America.

Organization for Minorities of India was founded in 2006 to advance individual liberties of Christians, Buddhists, Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, and all Mulnivasi people of South Asia by encouraging secularism, progressive human rights, liberation of oppressed peoples, and universal human dignity. We believe in cultivating an appreciation for personal liberty, individual sovereignty, and the truth as counter-measures to corruption, discrimination, and persecution.

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