Christa Kelly, Staff Writer
Dr. Rahuldeep Singh Gill, a theological author, tenured professor and interfaith strategist, visited Augsburg on Oct. 3 as part of the University’s convocation speaker series. His message, both powerful and at times humorous, addressed the importance of interfaith communication.
It was immediately clear that Dr. Gill understood the timeliness of his message of unity by stating, “In this polarized world, we are missing the bridging … to live in the society we live in, we need some bridging.”
As a devoted Sikh, community is a part of Dr. Gill’s belief system. He stated that reading the Sikh’s sacred texts and poems was an experience of “mystically connecting with 25 million other Sikh’s … that ties you to a larger community.” He also pointed out that one’s community is much more than those who share similar views, adding that we should be connecting with the larger world.
Dr. Gill discussed the deep ties of community and religion and stressed that building community is a large part of vocation. Still, he acknowledged that community building isn’t easy.
“What do we do in this context?” he asked. “What do we do about polarization in this very polarized context?”
He answered his question by turning to the life stories of three of history’s most influential men: Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. All, he explained, lived and died for those around them.
Referring to Bonhoeffer specifically, Gill’s said that he left Nazi Germany after his dissenting writings were putting him in danger. However, after only two weeks in New York City, he felt the overwhelming need to return to his country.
“Why?” Gill asked. “To suffer with others. To live for others, to exist for others. Because it’s what Christ would do.” This, Gill explained, is the foundation of vocation: “To exist in spite of other people, alongside other people and for other people.”
Gill clarified that martyrdom is not what he’s advocating. “I want you all to live. To live a quantity of life that is long and a quality of life that is beautiful.” Yet he explained that it’s important to think about death. “It’s in the face of death that we lay our moral horizon. Some of us are more aware of that than others. The clock is always ticking … I don’t say this to be grim, but rather, to say what it is to live.”
Dr. Gill is one of those who is more aware of the ticking clock. He told the audience that all three of those great leaders died at 39. “Three weeks ago, I turned 39,” he announced. “It gave me great pause … knowing that time is running out, there’s a fierce urgency of ‘now.’” He acknowledged that the ticking clock can be frightening but urged the audience to not fear. He compared the future to a door.
“Sometimes I think the best we can do is expect ourselves to walk through that door with the best that we have on any given day.”
This article first appeared in the Friday, October 12 edition of The Echo.