Among the thousands witnessing the April 16 welcoming ceremony for Pope Benedict XVI on the South Lawn of the White House, conspicuous in their brightly colored turbans were two Sikhs.
A mild hubbub during papal visit preparations resulted in U.S. Sikh leaders declining an invitation to take part in the April 17 meeting between Pope Benedict and leaders from several non-Christian religions. The dispute arose from Secret Service concerns over the kirpan, the ceremonial dagger male Sikhs carry as a sign of fullness of initiation to their faith.
The Sikhs at the ceremony weren’t among the leaders who had to beg off from the invitation. Inder Gidh said it was easy for him to get to the ceremony once he secured a ticket. “I work for the Agriculture Department,” mere blocks from the White House, he said. Asked his opinion of the ceremony, he said, “It was great.”
His friend, Baldeu Singh, said the ceremony was “very pleasant.”
“I don’t think there was anything for disputation,” he added, noting that he came to the United States from India in 1970 and has generally felt quite welcome by American society