Sacred space

I was a panelist for UNITED SIKHS yesterday at a symposium exploring the meaning of sacred spaces in a variety of faith traditions. The symposium was held at the Interfaith Center on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

I spoke in detail about the gurdwara, the Sikh place of worship, and also contributed to the general discussion on the meaning of ‘sacred space’.

Everyone needs space in which to grow personally and some people need space to practice their faith. That space could be something as small as an all-faith chapel in a hospital or as large as a whole country. Some faiths even have a homeland. You could say that the Sikhs had one in the Punjab before it was annexed by the British Empire in the 1800s. But this idea of sacred space becomes contentious sometimes – you need only look to the Middle East or Kashmir, for examples of this.

One of the questions asked at the symposium was how Sikhs deal with potential and actual conflict situations. There are no easy answers. An ideal perspective is one in which we prioritize the need to support everybody’s right to a sacred space, whether Muslim, Christian, Hindu or Sikh.

UNITED SIKHS works to promote inter-faith dialogue by participating in many symposia such as this and also works actively with various faith groups on a variety of social justice issues. For more information on our recent inter-faith efforts see here.

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