We are entering that time when planning and theories are transposing into concrete realities.
Last week, two young Sikh students visited my office for an hour and expressed enthusiasm for the new GTU MA degree with a concentration in interreligious studies. One of these women had earned her undergraduate degree in management systems; the other had majored in public health—but both now feel a passionate need to explore their religious tradition as part of their adult identity formation. At the end of a fascinating conversation, I thought to myself, seeds have been planted at the GTU, and they are beginning to grow.
Yesterday, I visited a class on Hindu and Jain ethics that is normally taught by Dr. Purushottama Bilimoria. Teaching class that day was Dr. Nirmal Baid, a prominent Jain leader whose day job is in Silicon Valley, but whose passion is the deep exploration of Jain philosophy and religious ideas. His lecture was about how the Jain view of “self” contributes to their profound commitment to a life of non-injury and non-violence. Dr. Baid is one of the prominent leaders helping the GTU to build a chair in Jain Studies.
Dr. Bilimoria and Dr. Rita Sherma are in conversation with Dr. Thomas Cattoi of the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University about the possibility of teaching a joint class on Christianity and the Dharma traditions in Fall 2016.
These educational activities are surfacing at the GTU today because people are genuinely interested in finding ways to make connections with the new resources and faculty members entering the community.
In our Fall 2015 issue of Currents, you’ll read a piece by Academic Dean Arthur Holder introducing the new doctoral curriculum that will be in effect for students beginning the program in fall 2016. We believe this reshaping of our doctoral program will create numerous synergies among faculty and students and will ignite conversations and research projects that are truly interreligious in nature. We think you’ll be excited to see how this new curriculum offers even greater potential for deepening the kind of interreligious, cross-disciplinary scholarship that has become the GTU’s hallmark in the twenty-first century.
There are many global challenges facing us: climate change, environmental degradation, water resources, economic disparity, conflict. Finding solutions will require the human family to peacefully negotiate how to share and support one another in the midst of difference and conflicting claims. This has been called “sustainability of relationship”—and it’s closely connected to the work we do as we continue to build an educational and working space for all the religious traditions of the world to deeply engage one another.
It feels like the yeast that we have added to the GTU is beginning to yield new types of bread, pita, roti, nan, and pan dulces. Our hope is that you will find your place at the table to feed and be fed.
--Riess Potterveld, November 2015