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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 March 2008, 16:24 GMT
Sikhs not to attend Pope meeting
By Frances Harrison
BBC News

Sikh ceremonial dagger
The kirpan, or ceremonial dagger, is worn by many devout Sikhs
Sikh representatives will not attend an inter-faith meeting with Pope Benedict XVI when he visits the US next month.

They say this is because the Pope's guards in the US will not allow them to wear their "kirpan" ceremonial daggers.

Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist representatives are meeting the Pope in Washington.

The kirpan must be worn by all baptised Sikhs (Khalsa), after an order issued by the faith's leader Guru Gobind Singh, in 1699.

Sikhs are being replaced by representatives from the Jain religion at the ceremony.

The problem is the kirpan - the Sikhs' ceremonial dagger which they wear as an article of faith that literally symbolises the Sikh commitment to resist oppression and injustice.

A statement from the World Sikh Council said they were disappointed the secret service had not been able to respect the religious rights of Sikhs.

They said they were not able to attend if it meant renouncing a fundamental tenet of their faith.

A spokesman for the secret service has been quoted as saying they understood the dagger was a religious object for Sikhs but by definition it was also a weapon.



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