Surinder Mohan Bhardwaj
Professor Emeritus, Department of Geography, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio, USA
In this discourse, I will talk about interfaith engagement as a citizen of the United States, and as a cultural geographer with roots in India’s very long pluralistic tradition. My roots in India, as a rich mosaic of religions and cultures, help me better appreciate America as one of the most religiously diverse nation on earth. Whereas religious diversity is often perceived as a problem by many, it actually can provide great opportunity for new ideas. I will suggest, as a cultural geographer, and as a citizen, that we can apply our professional knowledge, and engagement between different faiths, to explore common ground for concerted social action.
Until the mid-1960’s religious diversity in America was largely due to the variety of Judeo-Christian faiths. From 1965 onward, new immigrant streams from Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa began to bring with them non-Christian faiths such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism. Consequently, the religious landscape of America became much more diverse.
In the context of growing religious diversity and the “Nine-Eleven” attacks on the American Homeland, America has felt an urgent need for promoting communal understanding through peaceful engagement. Geographers as citizens can help promote interfaith harmony both in America and in India, building on the religious “pluralism” model developed by Diana Eck. School youth, as potential geographers, can play an important role in promoting interfaith harmony from the grassroots.