Sikh-Catholic Consultation Discusses Four Levels Of Dialogue

June 1, 2012 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON—Representativesof the World Sikh Council-America Region (WSC-AR) and the Secretariat forEcumenical and Interreligious Affairs (SEIA) of the U.S. Conference of CatholicBishops (USCCB) met May 18-20 in Washington. The purpose of this gathering wasto discuss the four levels of dialogue as presented in the document Dialogue and Proclamation, issued by thePontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in 1991. The meeting was chairedby Satpal Singh, Ph.D., chairperson of the WSC-AR, and Anthony Cirelli, Ph.D.,associate director of SEIA.

Theretreat consisted of four sessions, each dedicated to a specific level ofdialogue: theological exchange, life, religious experience and action.

Thefirst session addressed the dialogue of theological exchange. The Catholicperspective was presented by Pim Valkenberg, Ph.D. of The Catholic Universityof America (CUA). In his presentation, he articulated the basic form of thisdialogue as it appears in Dialogue andProclamation and then discussed where such dialogue is producing tangiblefruits, most notably the Building Bridges Seminar and the Catholic-Muslimforum. From the Sikh side, Kuldeep Singh, Ph.D., pointed out that theologicalexchange is understood in the Guru Granth to be an “intentional engagement withthe theological traditions of cultures.” Sikhs, he asserted, who are committedto overcoming religious prejudice, are thus required to engage in this type ofexchange.

RavinderSingh and Karen Korol of CUA led the second session on the dialogue of life.Singh’s presentation identified active and intentional learning about thepractices and experiences of the other as key to any successful dialogue oflife. Only in this context, Singh said, will “the fragrance of spirituality” asunderstood by Guru Nanak emerge among peoples and create greater harmony andpeace. In her presentation, Korol appealed to salient passages in the papalencyclical Redemptoris Missio and anecdotesfrom the life of St. Francis of Assisi to articulate her own position that effectiveinterfaith dialogue of life should include a willingness to learn of, andcultivate compassion towards, the sufferings of the other.

Thethird session addressed the dialogue of religious experience and was presidedover by Daniel Tobin of CUA and Simran Jeet Singh of Columbia University. Tobinfocused on Christian forms of prayer, including the Our Father, lectio divina,liturgical prayer and charismatic prayer. Singh focused on models of religiousexperience, which he identified as falling into two distinct categories: livedrevelation and scriptural revelation. For Singh, the lives of the gurus serveas models for lived revelation. He cited the poetic and musical character ofthe Guru Granth Sahib as an example of scriptural revelation in that itsparticipatory nature produces a religious experience.

Thefourth session addressed the dialogue of action and was presided over byKirsten Evans of SEIA and Savraj Singh. Evans asserted that dialogue of actionseeks the development and liberation of peoples that is brought about throughinterfaith collaboration in the areas of service and advocacy. These areasrepresent “the space where two (i.e. religions) come together, converge onvalues and engage the world.” She added, “The unifying principle in a dialogueof action is this place of convergence, which is beyond any particular belief.”Singh’s presentation focused on the notion of saiva, or selfless service, in the Sikh tradition that originateswith the public meal that Guru Nanak instituted, which included those at thelowest order of the caste system in India.

Inaddition to the leaders and presenters, the following attended the retreat:Bishop Barry Knestout, auxiliary bishop of Washington; Father John Crossin,executive director, SEIA; Father Don Rooney, ecumenical officer for the Dioceseof Arlington, Virginia; Father Avelino Gonzalez, ecumenical officer for the Archdioceseof Washington; Neil Sloan, doctoral candidate, CUA; Jon Douglas Anderson, doctoralcandidate, CUA; and Rebecca Cohen, graduate student, CUA.

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Keywords:Catholic, Sikh, guru, dialogue, levels, religious experience, action, TheCatholic University of America, Secretariat of Ecumenical and InterreligiousAffairs, U.S. Conference of Cathlolic Bishops, USCCB, U.S. bishops, World SikhCouncil-America Region, WSC-AR, Anthony Cirelli, Satpal Singh

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