Visit of graciousness

10 October 2007

CANON PETER WILCOX (right) of Lichfield Cathedral tells me he has always been rather uneasy about battle honours hanging in the cathedral, particularly the three Sikh Battle Standards captured by the Staffordshire Regiment during the Sutlej campaign of the First Sikh War in 1845-46. They seemed a bit too close to triumphalism, which he felt had no place in a house of God.

But he felt immensely reassured by a visit of six Sikhs from the Anglo-Sikh Heritage Society, including Colonel Harinder Singh Attari (centre), a direct descendant of General Sham Singh Attari, who was Commander-in-Chief of the Sikh armies during the Sutlej campaign; together with the chairman of the society (left).

Canon Wilcox, who says he had expected to be on the defensive about the presence of the standards, was very moved when the Sikhs agreed that they were of abiding significance to their community, but were glad that they were publicly accessible in a holy place where they were being cherished and cared for. They regretted only that the British soldiers who had died in the battles were commemorated, while the many Sikhs who had been killed were not mentioned.

They still “found some beautiful things to say about the sense of the presence of God in the cathedral”. One of the company said: “Here is a place where you don’t go looking for God because the Lord will find you here.”

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