The recipients of Hofstra University’s 2014 Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize will lead a conversation about interfaith cooperation with the campus community Tuesday, April 8, followed by a dinner honoring them at the Garden City Hotel that night.
Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh, chairman and spiritual leader of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewa Jatha, one of the United Kingdom’s largest Sikh charities, and the Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson is president of Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City, will discuss “Interfaith Cooperation Today: Christian and Sikh Values” from 5-6 p.m. in the Middle and East Plaza Rooms of the Student Center.
The event will be moderated by Dr. Balbinder Singh Bhogal, Sardarni Kuljit Kaur Bindra Chair of Sikh Studies and Associate Professor of Religion at Hofstra University. Admission is free and open to the public.
Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh was awarded a Papal Knighthood in 2012 for his work on Roman Catholic-Sikh relations and for his enthusiastic commitment to working for peace among people of all faiths. Bhai Sahib is chairperson and spiritual leader of the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ), which has centers in England, Kenya and India.
As president Auburn Theological Seminary, Henderson leads a seminary that was founded in 1818 to prepare Presbyterian ministers and has evolved into a center for training leaders from many faith traditions who seek interfaith solutions to complex world problems. She is the first woman to receive Hofstra’s Guru Nanak Prize since the award was created in 2008.
“These two individuals have an unshakeable belief in the power of faith, compassion and cooperation to improve lives,” President Rabinowitz said. “They work every day to advance the idea that the first step towards peace, social justice and other humanitarian goals is to understand, respect and celebrate each other’s differences.”
Dean Bernard Firestone of Hofstra’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences said this year’s pool of nominees was very strong. “We were gratified and honored to have an extraordinary group of nominees,” he said.
The $50,000 prize is bestowed every two years to recognize significant work to increase interfaith understanding. A formal award presentation is planned for Spring 2014. The first Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize was awarded in 2008 to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso. In 2010, co-recipients of the prize were the organization Religions for Peace and Rabbi Arthur Schneier. In 2012, Dr. Eboo Patel, president and founder of Interfaith Youth Core, received the award.
“I’m honored to join the esteemed leaders who have received this award in the past,” Dr. Rhodes Henderson said, “and admire their courage in inspiring others to be vulnerable for the sake of true dialogue and sharing.”
“At Auburn Theological Seminary, we are creating opportunities for faith leaders to come together to further the multifaith movement for justice and for young leaders living in regions of conflict to join together in peaceful dialogue,” she said. “I am so grateful for this recognition.”
Dr. Rhodes Henderson is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) who has been president of Auburn Theological Seminary since 2009, where she has created new partnerships and programs to promote multifaith understanding, including a worldwide youth leadership initiative, and a “MountainTop” convening of nearly 100 national faith leaders. She also served as executive vice president for the seminary from 2000-2009.
She also helped open up the institution’s Board of Directors to Muslim, and Jewish, as well as Christian members. She is a member of the Advisory Board for the Many Institute of New York University.
Dr. Rhodes Henderson is a regular contributor to the “On Faith” forum in the Washington Post, and has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and on NPR’s “On the Media.”
Bhai Sahib stated: “To be recognized for the prestigious Award that carries Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s revered name, is an overwhelming privilege and an honor. I thank Hofstra University for bestowing this recognition upon a humble soul like me. The Sikh Gurus’ consistent and eternal message comes abundantly alive with the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s emphatic command: ‘maanas ki jaath sabae ek hee paechanbo’. This recommends all peoples of this planet to perceive the entire human fraternity as one global family, within which, interfaith harmony is a pre-requisite for international peace. ‘To be religious, is to be inter-religious’.”
As chairperson and spiritual leader of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, Bhai Sahib is actively involved with other international interfaith trustees in promoting the establishment of a Museum of World Religions in Birmingham, England. He is also working on an international “Charter for Forgiveness” supported by the Fetzer Institute in Michigan and the Guerrand-Hermes Foundation for Peace in Britain. For the past 37 years, the Sikh Gurudwara he serves has held bi-annual, eleven unbroken days of continuous prayers, invoking God’s blessings for all of humanity, to co-exist in love, peace and harmony.
In 2012, Bhai Sahib addressed the United Nations General Assembly during World Interfaith Harmony Week. He is a member of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders, member of the European Council of Religious Leaders, as well as a trustee of Religions for Peace International and one of three Presidents of its British chapter.
The Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize was established in 2006 by Ishar Bindra and family and named for the founder of the Sikh religion. It is meant to encourage understanding of various religions and encourage cooperation between faith communities. Guru Nanak believed that all humans are equal, regardless of color, ethnicity, nationality or gender.
In September 2000, the Bindra family endowed the Sardarni Kuljit Kaur Bindra Chair in Sikh Studies at Hofstra University in honor of the family’s matriarch
Tejinder Bindra, who is also a member of the University’s Board of Trustees, noted when the award was inaugurated that Guru Nanak espoused a message of universal brotherhood at a time of increasing religious intolerance during 15th and 16th century India. “It is in this spirit that the Guru Nanak Prize was initiated,” Bindra said. “If one can experience that universality then there is absolutely no room left for differences in race, color, caste, creed, religion or gender, and then as the Sikh scripture tells us ‘I see no stranger’.”
“The awardees may or may not be Sikh and may represent any of the multitudes of faiths or, for that matter, even no particular faith at all,” he said. It is their dedication that brings humankind to their shared destiny, common purpose and roots that they honor.”