Bishops support Sikh community over controversial play
The Anglican and Catholic bishops of Birmingham have publicly expressed their support to the city's Sikh community over a play which they say portrays the Sikh religion in an offensive way.
The Archbishop of Birmingham, Rt Rev Vincent Nichols, lent his support on Sunday, and the Bishop of Birmingham, John Sentamu, expressed his sympathy with the Sikh community on Radio 4's Today Programme, on Monday.
On Saturday, Birmingham Repertory theatre had to cancel the production of Behzti - which means dishonour in Punjabi - after several hundred people tried to disrupt the production.
It is written by actress-turned-playwright Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti - herself a Sikh - and is scheduled to run until the end of December.
Mohan Singh, a local Sikh community leader, said: "When they're doing a play about a Sikh priest raping somebody inside a gurdwara, would any religion take it?"
Prior to the opening of the play, the theatre had held talks with the local community to discuss the screenplay. Faith leaders had asked for the setting to be changed from a temple to a community centre, but this request was not granted.
The theatre management complained that the demonstration had forced them to evacuate more than 800 people. They said the play was a work of fiction and not intended as a comment on the Sikh faith.
In a statement, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols said: "In recent weeks the Sikh community has acted in a reasonable and measured way in representing their deep concerns to the Birmingham Repertory Theatre.