A young girl lights candles at a Kabul temple during the annual Diwali celebration, among the most important festivals of the year for Sikhs and Hindus. (Photo: Lorenzo Tugnoli/The Wall Street Journal)
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN, January 14, 2015 ( Rawa News): Rawail Singh, a leader of Kabul’s Sikh community, is a big supporter of recently sworn-in President Ashraf Ghani. But despite Mr. Ghani’s pledge to make Afghanistan more inclusive, Mr. Singh says he worries that his tiny religious minority could disappear as more Sikhs and Hindus leave their homeland because of persistent discrimination. “If the new government of Afghanistan doesn’t pay attention to this issue, obviously one day there will be no Sikh or Hindu left in Afghanistan,” he said.
Islam is Afghanistan’s official religion. Though the country’s constitution recognizes the right of members of other faiths to practice freely, and many moderate Afghan Muslims embrace diversity, Sikhs and Hindus say they often face intolerance of their religious practices and customs here.
One autumn evening, Sikhs and Hindus lit candles as they gathered in a temple in Kabul for Diwali, the festival of lights that is their most important annual celebration. Every year, members of the community say, attendance at Diwali dwindles. So does their population in the country. No official data exists, but community members say they are down to around 7,000 people, the majority of whom are Sikhs, from roughly 200,000 before the country’s civil war began in 1992.