by Inni Kaur
On Sunday, January 14, 2007 the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan in conjunction with the Interfaith Center of New York presented a talk ‘By the Book’. Application and interpretation from the four scriptures: Christianity, Judaism, Islam and the Sikh faith. Representing their faiths were Reverend James Parks Morton, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Rabbi Rolando Matalon and Prof. Manjit Singh. Tim McHenry, Producer of Programming at the Rubin Museum moderated the event.
Prof. Manjit Singh, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Rev. James Park Morton, Rabbi Matalon Photo by Joe Mondello
Rev. James Park Morton, founder and president of The Interfaith Center of New York and Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine, spoke extensively on ‘the battlefields.’ I was intrigued by his choice of words. I realized the battlefields he was referring to were the battlefields in Christianity—as to which Bible was authentic, the suppression and the burning of the various Bibles over the centuries and the autocratic power of the Church. I had not realized the deep divisions that exist in the Christian world. His honesty, frustration and sadness of what his faith was facing was touching. He held my total attention when he said, “Can we learn to live with each other - respect each other without trying to convert each other.” Powerful words’ coming from a man whose faith states that ‘Jesus is the only way to salvation.’
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder and CEO of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA Society) and Imam of Masjid Al-Farah, a mosque in New York City, spoke eloquently about the Day of Judgment, Paradise and the relationship between God and man. He emphasized that good deeds and righteous actions were needed to enter Paradise. However, his description of the Day of Judgment was a little confusing. Was the Day of Judgment, the day of death or some other day asked Tim McHenry? I felt his answer was a little rushed and lacked conviction. His description on the role and status of women in Islam was the weakest link in his talk.
Rabbi Matalon from the Congregation of B'nai Jeshurun on Manhattan's Upper West Side spoke passionately and articulated at length about the interpretation of the Torah and its ever-changing nature. The need to interpret the Torah for the situations that we face in the 21st century. I listened as a student grasping for knowledge at the feet of a beloved teacher. Hearing him go into details of the numerous types of interpretations made the mind boggle. How was an ordinary individual going to understand the message and meaning from the Torah left me bewildered?
Prof. Manjit Singh, Director of Chaplaincy Services and university lecturer in Sikhism at McGill University in Montreal, spoke on the Sikh Scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, its history and its contents. He shared with the audience Guru Nanak’s message regarding the status of women. The three speakers were visibly shocked to hear that during the period of the third Guru women were appointed to preach. He mentioned that the language used in the Guru Granth Sahib was user friendly. His answer to the question of Paradise attracted a murmur of approval from the audience, “Paradise is on earth and is attained by truthful living. He quoted Guru Nanak, “Truth is highest, but higher still is truthful living.”
Tim McHenry did a wonderful job moderating the event. He shared quite a few quotes of Guru Nanak, much to the delight of the Sikhs in the audience.
Organized by the Rubin Museum of Art with the support and participation of The Sikh Art & Film Foundation and the Sikh Foundation I See No Stranger: Early Sikh Art and Devotion exhibit is on view from September 18, 2006 – January 29, 2007.