Surjit Singh Lecture in Comparative Religious Thought and Culture

Watch the 2022 Surjit Singh Lecture

Dr. Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, Alice Drysdale Sheffield Professor of History and Director, Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Texas, Austin, presented the GTU's annual Singh Lecture in Comparative Religious Thought. Dr. Cañizares-Esguerra's lecture is titled “The Virgin Mary as Warrior: Marian models of women’s religious experience in colonial Latin America.” View the preview video below, or watch the full lecture here.

The Graduate Theological Union has long been a leading center for ecumenical theological education and for interreligious dialogue and understanding. The annual Surjit Singh Lecture in Comparative Religious Thought and Culture builds on this tradition by fostering interreligious and cross-cultural communication and understanding, without compromising the integrity and essential telos of a religion or a culture.

This endowed lectureship brings to the GTU a distinguished scholar/church leader to address religion and culture from a cross-cultural perspective.

About Surjit Singh
The late Dr. Surjit Singh was professor emeritus of Christian Philosophy at the San Francisco Theological Seminary. He was dean of the seminary from 1972 to 1978, and was professor at the GTU from 1962 to 1988. Before arriving in the Bay Area in 1951, Dr. Singh served as a national secretary of the Student Christian Movement of New Zealand, India, Burma and Sri Lanka. He has also served as professor of systematic theology and philosophy of religion at United Theological College, Saharanpur, India. His publications included Prophetic RealismPreface to PersonalityChristology and PersonalityCommunism, Christianity, Democracy; and A Philosophy of Integral Relation.

Selected audio and/or video recordings and other files for these events can be accessed through the GTU Archives in the Hewlett Library.

Past Lectures

Spring 2021
Navigating Topographies of Belonging and Difference: Contemporary Shared Sacred Sites in the Mediterranean
Dr. Karen Barkey
The Haas Distinguished Chair of Religious Diversity at the Othering & Belonging Institute and  Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley
Watch the Lecture

Spring 2020
Rethinking the Study of African Indigenous Religion in the 21st Century
Dr. Jacob Olupona
Professor of African Religious Traditions,
Professor of African and African American Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Watch the Lecture

Spring 2019
How Religious Education Can Make America Great: Reflections on Diversity, Tribalism and Interfaith Leadership
Eboo Patel
Founder and President, Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC)
Watch the Lecture

Spring 2018
The Surjit Singh Lecture for 2018 was cancelled. Dr. Saba Mahmood, professor of anthropology at UC Berkeley and a long-time friend of the GTU, had been invited to be the speaker. Despite her battle with pancreatic cancer, Dr. Mahmood accepted the GTU's invitation and had hoped to offer the Singh Lecture as a capstone to her renowned academic career, but was unable to do so. Dr. Mahmood passed away on March 10, 2018.

Jeffery LongFebruary 22, 2017
A Jain-Inspired Approach to the Diversity of Worldviews
Jeffery D. Long
Professor of Religion and Asian Studies, Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, PA  
Watch the Lecture

May 25, 2016
Toward a More Perfect Union: The Contribution of Judith Berling to Religious Pluralism in Theological Education
The Revd. Dr. Philip Lauri Wickeri
Advisor to the Archbishop on Theological & Historical Studies
Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui (Anglican-Episcopal)


April 10, 2015
Interreligious Relations as Friendship: Mahatma Gandhi and Charles Freer Andrews
Anantanand Rambachan
Professor of Religion, Saint Olaf College
View the PowerPoint Presentation
Watch the Lecture
Watch Indian Kathak Dance performance


February 21, 2013
Spirtual Other/ Spritual Self: Models of Transformative Interfaith Work
Jennifer Howe Peace
Assistant Professor of Interfaith Studies, Andover Newton Theological School
Read the Transcript
Watch the Lecture

February 28, 2012
Can Religion Survive the Challenge of Human Evolution?
Robert Bellah
Elliot Professor of Sociology Emeritus, UC Berkeley
Read the Transcript
Listen to the Lecture
Listen to the Q&A

Kate McCarthyApril 12, 2011
Being Interfaith Now: New Dimensions in American Religious Pluralism
Kate McCarthy (Ph.D. '94)
Associate Professor of Religious Studies, CSU Chico
View the PowerPoint Presentation
Read the Transcript
Listen to the Lecture

Anri MorimotoApril 13, 2010
The Theology of Forgiveness in a Comparative Perspective
Anri Morimoto
Professor & Chair, Department of Philosophy and Religion, International Christian University, Japan

Listen to the Introduction by Jeffrey Kuan (PSR)
Listen to the Lecture

Shibley TelhamiApril 29, 2009
The U.S. and the Muslim World: Rethinking the Discourse
Shibley Telhami
Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, College Park
Listen to the Lecture
Listen to the Q&A



April 17, 2008
Islam, Love, and Justice: A Message of Hope in a Conflicted World
Omid Safi
Associate Professor of Religious Studies,University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

November 8, 2006
Sacred Sites in Changing Landscapes: Shamans and Commercial Shrines in the Republic of Korea
Laurel Kendall
Curator, Division of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History

Felix Wilfred

November 2, 2005
The Galileans of the South: The Untouchables and Christianity
Felix Wilfred
Chair, Department of Christian Studies, University of Madras, India
View Photos from the Event

November 3, 2004
Ecumenical Religious Art: The Reign of Akbar in Mughal India
Joanna Williams
Professor of History of Art
University of California at Berkeley

Dr. Williams’ lecture discussed Akbar, the remarkable Mughal Emperor who ruled at the same time as Elizabeth 1 in England, and was open to all the religions that he encountered in India: Hinduism, Jainism, Christianity, as well as various forms of Islam. He was also a great patron of painting, which reflects both his ecumenical ideas and a certain skepticism about dogma. Williams is the author of The Two-Headed Deer: Illustrations of the Ramayana in Orissa.

November 5, 2003
Through the Gates of the Alhambra: Revisiting the Question of Islam and Pluralism
S. Nomanul Haq
History of Art and Asian and Middle East Studies
University of Pennsylvania

Zhuo XinpingNovember 6, 2002
The Chinese and Religion in the Context of Globalization
Zhuo Xinping
Director and Dean
Institute of World Religions and the Center for the Study of Christianity at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing

Dr. Nancy Scheper-HughesNovember 7, 2001
The Genocide Continuum: Peace-Time Crimes and the Violence of Everyday Life
Dr. Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Professor of Anthropology
University of California at Berkeley

Pandit Chitresh DasOctober 1, 2000
Sound and Motion as Human Unifiers: A Lecture-Demonstration
Pandit Chitresh Das
Chhandam School of Kathak Dance, San Rafael

October 1, 1999
Religious Pluralism in America: A New Assessment of the Issues
Diana L. Eck
Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies at Harvard University, and director of the Pluralism Project

Veer Bhadra MishraOctober 1, 1998
Cleansing the River Ganges: Ecology and Religious Practices
Veer Bhadra Mishra
Professor of Hyrdaulic Engineering at Banaras Hindu University and mahant of Sankat Mochan Temple

Seyyed Hossein NasrNovember 1, 1997
Religion and Culture: The Interfaces in a Global Perspective
Seyyed Hossein Nasr
Professor of Islamic Studies
George Washington University

Judith BerlingOctober 1, 1996
Seeking Common Ground: Models for Understanding and Negotiating Religious Diversity
Judith Berling
Professor of Chinese and Comparative Religions
Graduate Theological Union

John B. Cobb, Jr.October 1, 1995
Proclaiming Christ in a Pluralistic World
John B. Cobb, Jr.
Professor Emeritus, School of Theology at Claremont, Claremont Graduate School; Co–Director of the Center for Process Studies

Wendy DonigerOctober 1, 1994
Myths With and Without Political Points of View: Universalist Problems, Cross-Cultural Solutions
Wendy Doniger
Mircea Eliade Professor of History of Religions
University of Chicago Divinity School

October 1, 1993
Spiritual Personality Types: The Sacred Spectrum
Huston Smith
Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Philosophy Emeritus
Syracuse University

October 1, 1992
God's Body: And Other Problems for Men in Monotheism
Howard Eilberg-Schwartz
Assistant Professor, Department of Religious Studies
Stanford University

October 1, 1991
The Telos of Religion and Culture: An Interpretation
Surjit Singh
Professor Emeritus of Christian Philosophy
San Francisco Theological Seminary