How I Came to Study Religious Violence

by Mark Juergensmeyer

 Golden_Temple_India (cropped)

Why would a nice guy from a farm in Southern Illinois, a Christian pacifist and a Gandhian, turn to the study of religious violence? The answer is the Sikhs. I had lived for a couple of years in the Punjab, the region in the far north of India in the Himalayan foothills, where the largest religious community was not Hindu or Muslim but a relatively new religious tradition that followed a series of spiritual masters from the 16th and 17th centuries. What attracted me to Sikhism was not only its peaceful spiritual teaching but also the egalitarian spirit of the community. Sikhs were warm, generous, open-hearted rural people, and I found in them a certain kinship. (more…)

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