Prof. Tarunjit Singh Butalia

Prof. Tarunjit Singh Butalia

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Dr. Tarunjit Singh Butalia, an Indian American faculty member at Ohio State University, was presented with the 2016 Luminosa Award for Unity during an award ceremony held Sept. 18 in the Focolare’s little city of Mariapolis Luminosa in Hyde Park, New York.

Butalia is one of the pioneers in Catholic-Sikh relationships in the U.S. He was invited by Pope Benedict XVI to the October 2011 prayer ceremony, commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the first World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, Italy, on Oct. 27, 1986.

He is a trustee of the Sikh Council for Interfaith Relations, Parliament of the World’s Religions, North American Interfaith Network, and a special advisor to Religions for Peace – USA.

In his acceptance speech, Singh emphasized that faith always has a special role in the American society, a nation of immigrants. However, while former waves of immigrants seamlessly assimilated after a few generations, many immigrants from the last 50 years — like Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, Jain and Baha’i’s — want to maintain their religious identity.

Thinking of this context, he shared several steps to help open one’s mind in favor of dialogue. First, recognize that one’s faith is not the only true one. Also, he suggested that people consider the failure of the concept of America as a “melting pot” where differences are regarded as not important

Instead, he said that the “tossed salad model” recognizes pluralism, where each part maintains its identity and yet remains part of the harmonious whole.

“We have to focus on building relationships,” he said. While this is not yet unity, “we are at the point where we can honestly talk about our differences and celebrate them.”

He then invited the 130 participants of the award ceremony to “listen more than we speak” and to never compare “the best in our religion with the worst of the other.”

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