My name is Rupinder, which means ‘Prince of Beauty’, and I come from a Punjabi Sikh family, from Amritsar, Punjab. My father came to the UK in the 1960s and then brought my mother over when he got married a few years later. Although I was born here, I lived in Amritsar with my grandparents for the first few years of my life until it was time to go to lower school. I work in the NHS as a risk assistant in health and safety and am training to be a health and safety officer.

I came to faith almost 10 years ago but the journey to that point took probably twice as long. As a child, I heard about Jesus through school, TV and even Hindi films which had Christian characters such as Amar Akbar Anthony. But I didn’t understand then who He was. A few months after I gave birth to my daughter, I met a young woman who lived an authentic Christian life, and she challenged me by saying she believed in her whole heart that Jesus was the only God and that I should read the Bible to find out for myself. Yet it was difficult to separate culture, identity and faith. 

As a Punjabi Indian, from Amritsar no less, I came from a proud Sikh faith whose gurus and children had defended and died for religious freedom. I, like many other Indians, believed Jesus was a white’ God, for westerners. He was not Indian, he wasn’t our’ God… Like all Sikhs, I believed there was one God but there were different ways to get to Him. Yet I was deeply challenged by the words of John 14:6 that I had seen on bus poster: There is no way to the Father except through me”.

So, for many years I sat on the fence finding out about Jesus but not making a decision… until 2015 when I had a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit during a church sermon where the pastor asked, When was the last time you really needed God?” With the help of my friends, we found a church, got a Bible, studied Christianity Explored and Newness to Life. As soon as I started studying the Bible in earnest, I was convicted about Jesus’s love for me and how He had died for me within a matter of three or four weeks. 

"When I shared my testimony with my family, the fall out was inevitable, and I received messages such as “you’re dead to me” and was ostracised."

Coming to faith hasn’t been easy, but every step of the way I can look back and say confidently that God has never left nor forsaken me. When I shared my testimony with my family, the fall out was inevitable, and I received messages such as you’re dead to me” and was ostracised. Yet God has shown me even with this He has blessed me, since my estrangement has meant that I didn’t have to hide’ or suppress’ my faith like some Punjabi women I have come to know; I have had the freedom to attend any church I want, read the Bible without fear, and pray and worship as I feel led. Where my family had forsaken me, God has shown me unconditional love and encouragement through His word, His Spirit, sometimes through pictures and dreams, and from brothers and sisters in Christ. 

When I accepted Christ into my life, the first thing I did was take off the outward symbol of Sikhism: my kara’ (bangle), and any pictures or artefacts. I had to try and figure out what parts of my culture was acceptable and which I had to put off’ – there are no guidelines; and the opinions and practices vary amongst Punjabi background believers. 

The biggest challenge for me was how to honour my mother when she passed away in 2022 and my family organised a Sikh funeral. Any questions I asked about the religious rites were met with hostility and suspicion. I attended the Gurudwara but made a clear decision not to bow down to the Guru Granth Sahib – the Sikh holy book, which Sikhs believe is the eternal guru’ or teacher, and bowing down is meant as a symbol of honour and the respect it is given an acknowledgment of its authority on a Sikh’s life. This decision angered some family members (after all, if an atheist brother could bow down, why couldn’t I?) while others felt I was being disrespectful and should take the when in Rome’ approach. 

"Walking with people during their hardest times, offering them unconditional love and praying for them has connected me to Punjabi people on a deeper level."

Evangelism to Sikhs is difficult. Many Sikhs will be outraged if they think anyone is trying to convert them; after all it is a faith that was born in defence of religious freedom which is remembered daily in Sikh prayers. From experience, direct evangelism and questioning can lead to not engaging with Christians and refusing invitations to attend church. My witnessing is primarily developing personal relationships and showing love so that through my life they can see how God is working in and through me.

Walking with people during their hardest times, offering them unconditional love and praying for them has connected me to Punjabi people on a deeper level. This has led to open and truthful conversations explaining why I follow Christ, what it means to have a personal relationship with God, explaining why good deeds do not guarantee getting into heaven, but faith in Jesus does. I also use my social media accounts as an extension of my worship and a way to share my faith especially as I know that family and friends, including those living abroad, read my posts. I post about my life and how God has helped and encouraged me throughout my ups and my downs. And when there are big life events or even celebrations such as New Year, I will ensure that my posts either have Bible verses or worship music. 

I joined the South Asian Forum as I felt that it was important for me to get to know believers from South Asian backgrounds and represent Sikh background believers. My experience and knowledge of the Sikh faith has meant I can answer questions truthfully and sensitively to those who are from Sikh backgrounds and support others who reach out to Punjabi people. It is a forum that encourages me as I can see how the Lord has a heart for South Asians and is using us to reach out to our communities. I am looking forward to seeing how SAF will develop and be a more visible presence in our Christian community regardless of church denominations. I am praying that there will be more regional SAF networks and more opportunities to work together. All in God’s timing.

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