I was in the room when the Pope spoke in NYC. Here’s what I took away.

Opinion piece originally published on LinkedIn


This Friday I attended the multifaith service hosted by Pope Francis at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. I was invited to attend because of my work in the interfaith domain, and I received prime seating because of my connection to a pair of the speakers who sat on stage with Pope Francis – my wife, Gunisha Kaur, and her father, Satpal Singh were the two representatives from the Sikh tradition.

As I looked around during the service, I observed that the small audience was made up of leaders from various religious communities who represent some of the best hearts, minds, and souls this country has to offer. I saw emerging voices in the landscape of religion in America, including Joshua Stanton, a young rabbi in New Jersey, Yogi Trivedi, a scholar and practitioner of the Hindu tradition, and Haroon Moghul, an insightful and compelling spokesperson from the American Muslim community.

It was humbling to hear the words of a man I admire deeply — Pope Francis — in the presence of peers whom I also admire deeply. This has been the force of Pope Francis – his unique ability to bring together people of faith, no matter their religious backgrounds or convictions.

I reflected in this moment on where we stand as a society, and I kept coming back to the same conclusion. Despite our serious challenges,  our future remains incredibly promising as a nation. We have an abundance of young leaders in America who are committed to shape our ethical frameworks and contribute to the public good.

In a world where religion is so often used as a justification for hate and violence, Pope Francis models for us how faith can be used as a positive force. He has shown us how each of us can use bring our religious convictions to advance justice, from addressing global poverty and social inequalities to immigration and climate change.

Given his message of love conquering hate, it was especially meaningful that the multifaith service took place at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. By gathering diverse religious leaders at Ground Zero, Pope Francis sent a message to the entire world that love and faith will always outlast hate and anger.

My Sikh faith teaches me to see goodness in the world and divinity in all of Creation. Like Pope Francis, I believe faith is a powerful force for good and we ought to be optimistic about the future of our world.

The Pope spoke frankly about our responsibility to address the challenges of our times. Pope Francis does not believe that we can be complacent about justice – each of us has a role to play in making our world a better place. His Holiness has frankly pointed to how much work we have to do. His message of social responsibility is one that I take seriously, and as a Sikh, I share his belief that religion is at its best when people translate their prayers and beliefs into service and action.

On Friday, Pope Francis shared an optimistic message of hope, renewal, and faith. He also called on faith leaders and public servants to help guide the world towards justice. His message to leaders of diverse religious communities is a message that applies to each and every one of us. Let’s all work together to ensure that it translates.


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