Southern Baptists minister to Sikhs following temple shooting in Wisconsincomment (0)
August 16, 2012
The morning of Aug. 5 was not the typical scene for one Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., near Milwaukee.
Seven people, including the gunman, were shot and killed at the suburban temple in what officials have called a case of domestic terrorism, according to ABC News. Oak Creek police shot Wade Michael Page, the gunman, who then shot and killed himself. Page was known to have ties to white supremacist groups, but his motive remains unknown.
In the wake of one of the greatest tragedies to hit the Sikh community in North America, Southern Baptists have an unprecedented opportunity to reach out to their Sikh neighbors with the gospel, said Aslam Masih, North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) national coordinator for Muslim people groups and South Asians.
“We have an opportunity now to turn this very sad situation into a life-changing encounter with the gospel for Sikhs throughout North America,” Masih said.
Masih estimated there are more than 1.1 million Sikhs on the continent. Many of those Sikhs are concentrated in major metropolitan areas like New York City, Vancouver, Toronto, Los Angeles and Chicago. Yet, Masih said, Southern Baptists have no churches specifically focused on reaching Sikhs with the gospel. Masih expressed hope that Southern Baptists with a passion to reach Sikhs will partner together to start new works among them.
Masih said he has already seen ministry opportunities emerge. He mentioned one Sikh temple next door to a Southern Baptist church in Baltimore. On Aug. 6 Masih talked with the pastor, who told him about his struggles to build a relationship with the neighboring temple.
Masih then, with the pastor still on the phone, called the temple’s priest and, in his own Punjabi language, expressed his sorrow over Sunday’s tragedy. He asked for the opportunity to bring local Southern Baptists — including members of the neighboring church — to visit the temple and to give the Sikh community a tour of a Southern Baptist church. He said the temple leadership enthusiastically agreed — and even volunteered to bring the food. Both sides will have an opportunity to share what they believe, and Masih plans to share his own testimony. He also plans to leave them with a film on Jesus in their Punjabi language.
Masih noted that believers who feel led to reach out to Sikhs in their community should start by building bridges — much like what happened in Baltimore.
“When we start with us and what we believe, they’re not going to listen,” Masih said. “When you talk about them, they’ll listen. That’s how you build a bridge. Show an interest in their lives, and you’ll build a relational bridge.”
Masih said the Trinity and the Incarnation are two beliefs that will be real stumbling blocks to Sikhs as evangelicals share Christ with them. Sikhs take a very strong belief in the unity of God from Islam and often struggle with Christian explanations of the Trinity.
Sikhs also see God as more of an abstract principle that cannot be defined by a human incarnation and have trouble understanding the incarnate Jesus.
For more about how you can get involved in reaching Sikhs near you — or elsewhere in the United States and Canada — visit namb.net/mobilize-me.