Conferences, Lectures, Workshops
Sikhism and Inter-Religious Dialogue
A Joint International Conference at the University of Birmingham
Prof. Gurharpal Singh,
Nadir Dinshaw Chair in Inter-Religious Relations
Dr. Jagbir Jhutti-Johal,
Lecturer in Sikh Studies
Department of Theology
University of Birmingham (UK)
Dr. Arvind-pal Singh Mandair
Sardarni Kuljit Kaur Bindra Chair in Sikh Studies
Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies
Hofstra University, New York (USA)
25 October 2003
The Department of Theology at the University of Birmingham is one of the leading centres for the study of religion in Europe. Through the generous support of the local Sikh community the department has launched a new programme in Sikh Studies. To inaugurate this programme the department is holding an international conference on Sikhism and Inter-Religious Relations.
Against the predictions of secular modernity religion has emerged during the last two decades of the 20th century as a force that cannot be ignored. The unprecedented "return of religion" has provided an important challenge to an increasingly globalized condition of mankind. In seeming anticipation of this condition there has been a growing concern for different religions to understand one another, for practitioners and non-practitioners of various religions to assess religious beliefs and practices that are mutually held or shared. In short, there is a greater need now, perhaps more than ever before, for inter-religious relations, dialogue and shared activity as imperatives for living in a religiously pluralistic and multicultural environment.
Yet despite the commendable efforts and obvious success of various "interfaith" movements around the world to create a space for inter-religious relations, there is also now greater awareness of the nature of the dialogue and representation entailed in such an enterprise. It seems that the framework of such dialogue follows the geo-ethico-political standpoints either of the dominant "world religions, or the secular multiculturalist agenda of Western democracies. Consequently the so-called "non-Western" religions have largely been passive respondents in the entire enterprise. This is particularly the case for minority religions such as Sikhism. As a result Sikh representation in inter-religious dialogue has largely echoed and endorsed the existing standpoint of the dominant political and religious cultures without articulating or reflecting on the complexities of the contemporary Sikh position.
This conference will examine the relationship between contemporary Sikh self-representation and the demands for developing inter-religious relations. At the same time it will explore new mechanisms and pathways for generating more sustainable forms of inter-religious relations. The organizers seek proposals on the following themes:
- Contemporary and historical framing of Sikh responses to religious pluralism in India and the diaspora.
- Building inter-religious relations within the framework of multiculturalism.
- The role of education in fostering inter-religious understanding.
- The impact of the media on inter-religious relations.
- The interface between religion and politics; the role of spiritual and political leadership today.
- State of Sikh/inter-religious dialogue around the world. Actual dialogues between Sikhs and Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims etc.
- The notion of "dialogue" from a Sikh philosophico-theological perspective.