DELHI, India (BP)–“There is but one god. True is his name, creative his personality and immortal his form. He is without fear, sans enmity, unborn and self-illumined.”
This plausibly may sound like worship of the God of Christianity, but then comes these words: “By the Guru’s grace he is obtained.”
Drawn from the “Guru Granth Sahib” –- the book which Sikhs consider the holy and inspired words of their gurus — this passage is recited regularly by devout Sikhs, and they sing it aloud at their gurdwaras, or temples.
Most Sikhs, however, have never heard about the gift of grace offered to them through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Jatt Sikhs (pronounced jut SIKS) make up 42.5 percent of the population of the Indian state of Punjab and are the least evangelized people group among the Punjabis of India.
“When I learned that the Jatts were the largest of the Punjabi-speaking people groups in India and one of the least reached, I got a real burden for them,” said Irene Wayne*, the Southern Baptist strategy coordinator for the Jatt Sikh people group.
“They are so key to reaching all of the Punjabis of India,” she added.
Oct. 3 is the third annual Day of Prayer and Fasting for the Jatt Sikhs.
“Prayer has to undergird everything we do,” Wayne said. “I view the prayer supporters as a key part of the team. ‘The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful'” (James 5:16 HCSB).
Christians among this people group already have seen a difference since missions strategists initiated the day of petition and intercession for the Jatt Sikh on the first Wednesday of October two years ago.
“Prayer is saturating the hard ground so that the seed of the Word can take root,” said Sydney Singh*, a Jatt Sikh-background believer. “Prayer supporters are helping us and are part of this whole mission.”
“Jatt” refers to an Indian caste, and the Jatt Sikh people are those who follow the Sikh religion. The majority of the 11 million Jatt Sikhs in India live in Punjab, a state in northern India. Traditionally, Jatt Sikhs are farmers and landowners who tend to be influential in their spheres of life.
“They are very hospitable. I’ve found my Jatt Sikh friends to be quite friendly,” Wayne said. “It is impossible to know them and not like them.”
The Jatt Sikh cultural identity also can act as a barrier to their acceptance of the Gospel. Jatt Sikhs take great pride in their Sikh heritage and traditions and never come to see that Jesus is different from their own gurus, or teachers. They do not understand that He came to die for them. To them, Jesus is a foreign guru.
“Society is so mixed with the culture,” Sydney said. “One barrier is the belief that ‘Christians are not people like us.’ For them, Christianity is so different from their culture.”
Wayne said that one friend has told her, “Your way is good for you, and our way is good for us.”
“They view Christianity as a foreign religion that has no bearing on them as followers of the Sikh religion,” Wayne said.
Sikhism teaches that there is one god. Sikhs follow the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev, the first guru and founder of Sikhism, along with the nine Sikh gurus who followed him and the Sikh scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib, which they consider the final and living guru.
Barriers are being overcome as Christians use references to grace in the Sikh scriptures as a bridge into conversations about how Jesus is the way to grace and salvation. Also, Jatt Sikh-background Christians are implementing a “satsang” style of worship that more closely relates to their culture. Satsang, which literally means “true company,” is a lecture and reflection style of worship. Someone reads a Bible passage and then the group discusses it.
Along with the prayers of intercessors, these new methods are bringing a growing number of Jatt Sikhs to a saving knowledge or Christ.
“We’ve really seen more happen over the past couple years since there has been global, focused, intentional prayer for the Jatt Sikhs,” Wayne said.
Sydney agreed. “Three years back there was no revival of sorts among the Jatt Sikhs, but now people are becoming aware of the Jatt Sikhs and more are working among them, and more Jatt Sikhs are coming to faith,” he said. “People are getting to know this people group because they are praying for them.”
The need for prayer for the Jatt Sikhs is still great.
“The primary prayer need is for the Jatts to hear and respond to the Good News of Jesus,” Wayne said. “Along with this, a real need is prayer for faithful men and women who have come to the Lord to be bold in sharing their story with others, and for more house churches. Also for men of peace who will become the ones sharing and starting new house churches.”
*Names changed for security purposes. Kari Wynn is a writer stationed in south Asia. For more information about the Jatt Sikhs of India, visit www.go2southasia.org/peoples/p_jatt_sikh.html.