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Sikhs appeal American Government to help rebuild the Sikh Shrine in Baghdad


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    Washington, April 16, 2008 - U.S. Sikh leader Dr. Rajwant Singh met Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and requested him to rebuild the Sikh shrine in Baghdad which was destroyed by extremists, three years ago. Dr. Rajwant Singh was invited by President Bush to attend the welcoming ceremony of Pope Benedict at the White House. The ceremony was attended by several top religious leaders and political leaders of America and Dr. Rajwant Singh was one of the few religious leaders invited to sit close to the dais while the Pope and President Bush delivered their remarks. Vice-President Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and several cabinet members were present at the occasion.

    The Gurdwara (shrine) in Baghdad was built marking the visit of the Sikh Founder Guru Nanak to Baghdad in the early 16th century. During his visit he had dialogue with Muslim holy man, Bahlol Dana, and this meeting represented the first talks between the two religions. This shrine has been in existence for long time and it has been cared for by Iraqi Muslims. Recent visits by the Indian press revealed complete destruction of the shrine by the bombs planted by extremists. The original Sikh gurdwara was built alongside the tomb of a Muslim religious leader, which has suffered no damage. This shrine was built by Sikh soldiers who fought alongside the allied forces of World War I.

    The Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, promised to look into this matter. Dr. Singh informed Secretary Gates about the reverence Sikhs have for this shrine .He said “This shrine has lot of reverence in the minds of all Sikhs and it is their desire to see that the Pentagon offers all the required assistance and resources towards the restoration of this important site. This spiritual site is a symbol of interfaith harmony and dialogue. It is a model that needs to be promoted throughout the world and particularly in that region. Iraqis have always been tolerant of other religions and have shown respect for all communities especially of the Indian heritage.”

    Dr. Rajwant Singh met with other top political leaders and brought the subject of rebuilding the gurdwara to their attention. Dr. Singh talked to Senator Ted Kennedy who took notes and promised that his staff assistant would look into this matter and take ation. Dr. Singh also had talks with Congressman Steny Hoyer, powerful House Majority leader, who asked Dr. Singh to set up a meeting with his staff regarding this matter. Dr. Singh said, “I am pleased with the response from all of the leaders on this issue.”

    Dr. Singh added, “Sikh community in the U.S. and India is eager to help rebuild this shrine but this task cannot be achieved without American involvement. Pentagon can help facilitate this operation and provide the security needed. Indian Government also would be willing to join in this process since there is emotional attachment of so many Indians to this sacred site.”

    He added, “Sikhs are proud to be Americans and they are an integral and productive part of the American society. Many Sikhs are serving proudly in Iraq and Afghanistan. We pray that this sacred site be restored as soon as possible and we are sure that our national leaders will support its restoration.”

    From left to right Mrs Gates, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Dr. Rajwant Singh and his wife, Dr. Balvinder Kaur.

    Dr. Rajwant Singh and Senator Kennedy

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