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Sikh Studies Come to the GTU


A Case Study in Global Religions

The Graduate Theological Union (GTU) and the Sikh Foundation International have entered into an agreement to sponsor the teaching of Sikh Studies at the GTU beginning in the fall semester 2015.

Dr. Rahuldeep Singh Gill

Dr. Rahuldeep Singh Gill, associate professor of Religion at California Lutheran University, will serve as a visiting professor at the GTU, offering a course entitled “Sikh Tradition, A Case Study in Global Religions.” The class will involve lectures, discussions, and field trips to local Bay Area gurdwaras (Sikh sanctuaries). According to Professor Gill, “This course will have to cover a lot of ground in introducing students to five hundred years of Sikh history and thought, while also embedding students in the experiences of California’s Sikhs.” As a graduate-level course, it is aimed at a small number of students “with the idea being that these students will themselves become educators and faith-leaders who bring their learning to bear on the thousands of people they engage in their still burgeoning careers.”

In his academic work, Dr. Gill specializes in Sikh literature, investigating how Sikh writers have helped to define communal identity over the centuries. A native of Boston, Dr. Gill earned his BA, with Honors, from the University of Rochester in New York, and his MA and PhD from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Dr. Gill is the director of the Center for Equality and Justice at California Lutheran University, and publishes frequently online at Patheos.com and the Huffington Post.

With this initial course offering in Sikh Studies, the Graduate Theological Union continues to increase the representation of the world’s major religions at the GTU. This latest effort ensures that degree-seeking students and the general public will have opportunities to study and conduct research on Sikhism at a time of increasing interest in the religions of South and South East Asia. Dr. Riess Potterveld, president of the GTU, said, “We are especially pleased to have a scholar of Dr. Gill’s stature to initiate and give leadership to this program at a time when it is essential to have all of the world’s religious traditions working side by side toward mutual understanding and respect.”

Founded by Guru Nanak in the late 15th century C.E. in the Punjab region of what today includes parts of India and Pakistan, the Sikh tradition is the fifth largest organized religion in the world, with some 30 million adherents worldwide. The tradition was developed through the leadership of ten gurus (teachers) until the 10th guru, Gobind Singh, declared in 1708 that the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred text of the Sikhs, would thenceforth be the eternal guru.

This partnership brings together the GTU, a consortium of more than twenty schools and academic centers that focus on ecumenical, interreligious, and interdisciplinary studies in theology and religion, and the Sikh Foundation International, which sponsors a wide variety of programs focused on the cultural, religious, and artistic traditions of Sikh heritage as well as contemporary expressions of Sikhism. Established in 1967 by Dr. Narinder Kapany, the Sikh Foundation International has established four permanent Chairs of Sikh Studies, seven Sikh Art exhibits at museums, and numerous publications and monument conservation projects.