Sikhs mark 100 years in Kisumu despite statue damage
By JOE OMBUOR
Members of the Sikh community during their centenary celebrations in Kisumu town, Tuesday. [PHOTOS: JOE OMBUOR/STANDARD]
Kisumu residents, who recently brought down a religious monument erected in the centre of the lakeside city, claiming it was satanic, were overawed by the colour, splendour and solemnity rolled out by members of the Sikh community celebrating 100 years of the Siri Guru Singh Sabha Temple in commemoration of which the damaged monument was built.
The city was in a carnival mood, with prayers, song, drum beats and trumpet melodies renting the air as hundreds of Sikh faithful from all over East Africa marched from the historic temple in a road show like no other.
The procession was made up of trucks, tractors and even tankers bedecked with flowers and religious colours, and carrying revered sect leaders as it snaked its way through downtown streets to Guru Nanak Darbar Temple in Milimani and back.
Refreshments were in plenty for everyone present.
Nominated MP Sonia Birdi graced the occasion and delivered a message of reconciliation and respect among all communities for lasting peace.
She urged forgiveness and remission for the people who destroyed the monument that cost the community so much to erect, saying it takes divine intervention for anything to happen.
Ms Birdi praised Kisumu people for maintaining peace and displaying respect for their Sikh contemporaries throughout the procession and ceremonies.
She described the Kisumu event as significant by the way it united the Sikh community.
“This kind of unity ought to be maintained and built on for the greater good,” she said.
“It is high time national education was conducted to enlighten the people on the differences between Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and even Christians. To achieve this, we need mascots to preach the message of peace, love and unity as a prerequisite to prosperity.”
Charanjit Singh Hayer, the chairman of the centenarian temple, which still retains its original architecture, called for unity and understanding irrespective of religion, race or culture.
He lauded the Sikh community in Kisumu for remaining strong in spite of challenges such as the destruction of the historic monument.
A plaque at Kisumu’s Siri Guru Singh Sabha Temple located on Mosque Road indicates that S Attar Singh, whose title is given as Permanent Way Inspector of the Uganda Railway, laid the temple’s foundation stone on December 21, 1913.
The controversial Sikh statue was brought down “for the sake of peace” in the lakeside city. One of the Sikh Sheikhs, Bilayi Singh, said they would build a water fountain instead.
He said the Sikh community worships one god, not the devil.
The residents had claimed they would welcome only sculptures of Kenyan heroes in the town.
CORD leader Raila Odinga had held a meeting with religious leaders to avert a looming religious conflict in the town.
Siri Guru Singh Sabha Temple Sonia Birdi