KISUMU COUNTY, Kenya—Kisumu residents, who tore down a religious monument erected in the center of the lakeside city, claiming it was satanic, were overawed by the color, splendor, 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 colors, carrying revered Sikh leaders as it snaked its way through downtown streets to the Guru Nanak Darbar Temple in Milimani, and back.
Refreshments were available 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. The residents had claimed they would welcome only sculptures of Kenyan heroes in the town. One of the Sikh, Bilayi Singh, said they would build a water fountain instead. He said the Sikh community worships one god, not the devil.