Indian American Sikh Honored with 2016 Luminosa Award for Unity

Dr. Tarunjit Singh Butalia has been selected as the 2016 recipient of the Luminosa Award for Unity, an honor presented annually since 1998 by the Focolare Movement Mariapolis Luminosa of North America.

The Focolare movement pays tribute through this award to Butalia’s decades of work in interreligious dialogue and peacemaking, as well as for his scientific contributions to environmental sustainability.

The Luminosa Award for Unity recognizes institutions or persons who have given a significant contribution to the building of universal brotherhood through their work in ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, or any other aspect of social life. The award is sponsored by the Focolare Center for Education in Dialogue and was given for the first time in 1988.

A scientist based at The Ohio State University, Butalia has served admirably by leading groundbreaking interfaith initiatives with the Sikh community worldwide and on the boards of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Religions for Peace – USA, North American Interfaith Network, and the Sikh Council for Interfaith Relations, among additional local and regional endeavors in his home state of Central Ohio such as the Interfaith Association of Central Ohio.

Noting Butalia’s contributions to the field of interreligious relations, the Focolare movement recognizes a special trip taken at the invitation of Pope Benedict XIV in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Peace, when Butalia visited the Vatican as one of only five Sikhs invited from around the world. He offered a prayer at the event. His efforts to facilitate stronger ties between these faiths was reflected by his initiating high-level dialogue between the US Sikh community and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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“It is an honor to receive this Focolare award focusing on unity,” Butalia told the Parliament after receiving the uplifting news. He added,


In a world being increasingly divided along ethnic, religious, social, and class lines, it is imperative for people of faith and conscience to come together in solidarity to hold up the love we share for our fellow neighbors and citizens of the world. Our faiths call upon us to be peacemakers – it is time we step up to the challenge and walk the talk.

Transcending his executive commitments on the Parliament’s Board, Butalia has set himself apart as a trustee by thoughtfully supporting PWR’s recent moves toward strategic interfaith action. Working on the board’s first Faiths Against Hate Task Force established in 2012, Butalia would help to launch the Parliament’s Faith Against Hate program to strengthen the interfaith movement’s capacity, capability and will to stop rising war, hate and violence through informed and organized activism.

Parliament Executive Director Dr. Larry Greenfield said of the award:

Knowing first hand Dr. Butalia’s deep commitments to the interfaith movement and his far-reaching involvements in interfaith work, the Parliament congratulates our trustee colleague and commends the Focolare Movement for recognizing his extraordinary record of advancing harmony among the religious and spiritual traditions of our world.

Past winners come from a variety of faith backgrounds, industries and fields and include the President of the Director’s Guild of America, various United Nations Representatives, monarchs of nations, activists and faith leaders. A listing of past awardees can be accessed on the Focolare website, here.

The award will be presented to Butalia at the Focolare’s Mariapolis Luminosa in New York this September.

Dr. Tarunjit S. Butalia is founding trustee of the Sikh Council for Interfaith Relations. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. He also serves as on the board of Religions for Peace – USA and is its former Moderator. He is a Board member of the North American Interfaith Network and is former Vice-Chair. He has served on the board of the National Religious Coalition Against Torture as well as the World Sikh Council – America Region. He works locally with the Interfaith Association of Central Ohio.


More on the Focolare Movement:

The Focolare Movement is an international organization that promotes the ideals of unity and universal brotherhood. Founded in 1943 in Trento, northern Italy by Chiara Lubich as a religious movement, the Focolare Movement, though primarily Roman Catholic, now has strong links to the major Christian denominations and other religions, or in some cases, with the non-religious. It is also called the “Opera di Maria,” or “Work of Mary”. The Focolare Movement operates in 182 nations and has over 100,000 adherents. The Movement’s name comes from the Italian word for “hearth” or “family fireside”.

Attendees of the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions had the opportunity to learn more about the Focolare Movement from two sessions featuring Dr. Susan Kopp, an Interreligious and Ecumenical Activities Director of Focolare. One session entitled “Humanity is One” explored the relationship of Chiara Lubich, the founder of the Focolare Movement, with a prominent Islamic spiritual leader in North America and their engagement speaking in an African-American mosque in Harlem. Attendees would reflect on why it is so necessary to improve interfaith outreach into African-American Muslim communities, and how to do so. 

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