News Story

Mormon and Sikh Friendships Nurtured in Abbotsford

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their Sikh neighbours are developing a strong interfaith relationship building bridges of understanding and cooperation.

On 1 May 2013, Sikh women in Abbotsford, British Columbia, hosted Latter-day Saint women for a cooking class and taught them how to make samosas — traditional fried Indian pastries filled with spiced vegetables or meat. Women from the Church will reciprocate by hosting the Sikh women for a series of classes on cooking, crafting and emergency preparedness.

Cultural exchanges and friendly cooperation between the two faith groups, whose worship centres sit on adjacent properties in Abbotsford, occur frequently and are encouraged by the Abbotsford Building Connections (ABC) initiative, instituted in 2011 to encourage interfaith relationships.

However, the relationship between the neighbouring groups began in 2000 when architect Carson Noftle, a member of the Church, was hired to design the Sikh temple in Abbotsford.

The local Sikhs needed municipal approval to rezone the property (situated opposite a large Church meetinghouse) for the temple and were met with opposition from the community.

“We could get no support from any other local churches, with the singular exception of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” said Noftle.

To indicate the Church’s support for the Sikh temple, Brian Leavitt, a local Church leader at the time, attended a public hearing addressing the issue and wrote a letter of endorsement.

“Our Sikh neighbours were very impressed by that gesture of goodwill,” Noftle said.

The hearing lasted 12 hours over three days, and many opposed the re-zoning application; however, in the end, city councillors voted in favour of allowing the Sikh community to build the temple.

Since then, the Abbotsford Sikhs and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have fostered a relationship of understanding and have participated in several interfaith initiatives.

When the Church initiated its annual B.C. Thanksgiving Food Drive in 2011, the Sikh community participated by placing collection boxes at the temple and contributed between 300 and 400 pounds (136–181 kg) of food. The Sikhs participated again in 2012, and their contribution was equally significant.

Leaders of the two faiths organized an opportunity for local members to tour both worship centres. On 15 April 2012, nearly 150 Church members toured the Sikh temple in small groups and approximately 100 Sikhs toured the Church building.

“The tours were very well received by both sides,” said local Church leader Daniel Bill. “It was enlightening to see many of the similarities in our beliefs. Everyone developed a better appreciation for each other.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encourages respect for the diverse beliefs and contributions of all the world’s faiths. 

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