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This Press Release may be read online at: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-02-04-2005-00.htm

Press Release: Saturday, 2nd April 2005,        20th Chayt (Samvat 537 Nanakshahi)


2nd April  2005,London : 25 million Sikhs around the world remember
the intrepid Pope John Paul II for his support for human rights when
their religious freedom was attacked last year and twenty years earlier.

`Last year Pope John Paul II threw his weight behind Sikhs to oppose
the French government's ban on religious signs, including the Sikh
Turban, at schools, saying ''the government cannot be an arbiter in
any religious matter.'', said Sameep Singh, inter-faith Director of
UNITED SIKHS, a  global human development organisation that works for
the betterment of Sikhs globally.

''In other words, Governments should respect dignity of the human
person and of his inalienable rights among which his right to adhere,
practice and propagate his religion is fundamental. No Government
should interfere with the inner core of any religion,'' the Pope had
said in a message.

The Pope's message came after the Sikh community sought his
intervention to oppose the French ban on the Sikh turban, an
expression of the Sikh identity and faith. UNITED SIKHS led a petition
campaign seeking the intervention of world leaders to persuade the
French government to abandon its plan to pass the ban-law.

Pope John Paul II said in a message, ''In recent times, we have
witnessed in some European countries an attitude that could endanger
the effective respect for religious freedom. Everyone may agree to
respect the religious sentiment of individuals but the same can not be
said of the religious factor, that is the social dimension of
religions. It is nothing other than respect for all beliefs on the
part of the State that assures the free exercise of ritual, spiritual
and cultural and charitable activities by communities of believers.''

The Pope said a healthy dialogue between the Church and the State
would encourage harmony in society.

 "The Pope's contribution to interfaith dialogue made him a veritable
saint-soldier whose influence on spiritual and temporal matters was
phenomenal," said Sameep Singh.

Twenty years earlier, when the Sikhs' holiest shrine in Amritsar,
popularly known as the Golden Temple, was attacked by the Indian armed
forces, the Pope did not mince his words in support for the human
rights of thousands of innocent worshippers who had been killed during
the attack.

"In these days, the news has followed the ever more serious events in
the state of Punjab. I do not want to go into the delicate and complex
motives behind these disturbances in a great nation. But the sad fact
is that the place where so many people met a tragic death is a temple
where men gather in prayer.

"I address an immediate sentiment of human pity for all the victims
with a call that a way to resolve the current strife can be found in a
mutual understanding..." Pope John Paul II said.

Issued by:


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