Parliament of World Religions – Toronto, 2018

By Vidya Pradhan

One of the great paradoxes of the world is that while all religions preach peace, religious strife has been the cause of untold human suffering around the world throughout history. Just this week in the United States, one of the most diverse countries in the world in terms of religious orientation, we awoke to the sad news of an attack on a synagogue. Over the last few years, other religious minorities in this country and around the world have also been subjected to hateful acts and rhetoric, belying much of the progress we thought we had made in working towards a progressive, global world.

In this environment the 2018 Parliament of World Religions in Toronto from November 1 -7th seems necessary and urgent; we need the guidance of world religious, secular, and thought leaders to confront the challenges of our time and, more importantly, set an example for the harmonious co-existence of different faiths in a turbulent world straining under the cultural pressures of globalization.

Over 6,500 persons of faith and conscience from over 200 faith traditions and 50 countries will come together to learn about each other, share their passions, and find ways to work together to build more peace, justice, and a sustainable world.

The Sikh community has been intimately involved in the preparation and hosting of this event. A Parliament Sikh Task Force was established as early as February 2017 to plan Sikh participation under the leadership of Dr. Satpal Singh of Buffalo, NY as Convener and Dr. Tarunjit Singh Butalia (PWR Trustee) as Secretary. The charge of the task force was to coordinate and implement the active participation of the worldwide Sikh community at the upcoming parliament through significant international Sikh presence and engagement and presentations at plenary and parallel sessions focused on interfaith and intra-faith issues.

More than 50 concurrent Sikh panelist sessions are being presented at the Parliament with about over 10 Sikh sessions per day of the parliament. Some such sessions are –

– Persecution of religious minorities

– Faith, Secularism, and Democracy

– Seminar on Forgiveness and Reconciliation

– Role of Religious Leaders in Alleviating Violence against Women

The Sikh Foundation, based in Palo Alto, has been invited to present on “Diversity and Inclusion in Arts and Museums” because of its tremendous contributions towards making Sikh art and artefacts accessible to both the Sikh and non-Sikh communities. Art is a universal language that has the potential to bridge gaps of understanding between communities while simultaneously creating a sense of pride and purpose within its own cultures.

Sonia Dhami, Executive Director of the Sikh Foundation, will be moderating this panel and speaking on the efforts of the Foundation to bring Sikh art to mainstream American museums as well as the Foundation’s mission to assist in the preservation and curation of important monuments from Sikh history. Her presentation will stress upon the potential of the arts to empower the youth, nurture interfaith understandings, and counter hate and prejudice to bring about a positive change in our communities through sharing our artistic heritage.

Her co-panelists in this endeavor are Amardeep Singh and Pardeep Singh Nagra.

Amardeep, author of Lost Heritage – the Sikh Legacy in Pakistan, has crisscrossed the length and breadth of Pakistan documenting the lost heritage of the Sikhs. Amardeep will talk about the pluralistic learnings from the explorations of the Sikh Legacy remnants across Pakistan and the importance of monument conservation in preservation of cultural legacy.

Pardeep Singh Nagra, is the Executive Director of the Sikh Heritage Museum in Mississauga and Manager of Employment Equity at the Toronto District School Board. He is a trainer and consultant specializing in employee engagement, inclusive workplace strategies, equity, and diversity work.

To watch several sessions of the event, and to get more information about the Parliament of World Religions, check out https://parliamentofreligions.org/ . For Sikhs, the Parliament is an extremely valuable opportunity to show Sikhism’s commitment to equality and respect for all and the community’s interest in living peacefully and in harmony with others.

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