Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Interfaith Activist Sikh Dr. Harbans Lal Receives 2016 International Lifetime Achievements Award
January 14, 2017
By Saeed Qureshi
In recognition of his splendid achievements, Dr. Harbans Lal, was given the Distinguished “Neuroscientist Scientist Award” at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Neuroscience. The “International Medal of Honor” Banquet was held on November 12, 2016 to recognize 28 Honorees. Dr. Harbans Lal was among the Faith leaders receiving the International Award for his lifelong commitment to promote interfaith engagement among the adherents of the world’s religions.
This award was presented by the Grace International Seminary founded and led by President Dr. Karen Hollie-Thibodeaux, also the Senior Minister of The Lifeway Church of Dallas, which is the only seminary for women in the USA with chapters spread in other cities.
Grace International Seminary recognized and honored various leaders of the Dallas Inter-Faith Community whose actions support Grace International's Vision and Mission through their bridge-building between diverse faiths. The award recipients’ efforts promoted people of different faiths to learn how to work together to make our world a peaceful and better place. The honorees were recognized for providing opportunities for diverse faith groups to learn from each other and share common experiences.
Dr. Lal is a distinguished neuroscientist and scholar who has been actively engaged in interfaith dialogue and engagement since his student days in Pakistan and India, and since 1956 in the United States. As a high school student (1940-46) in his native Pakistan, he promoted joint Sikh-Muslim-Hindu interfaith dialogues at the town library which he managed. During this time, he was also inducted into the Executive Committee of the All India Sikh Students Federation; in 1954 he became its national president.
Soon after entering the University of Kansas (1956), Dr. Lal led Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Christian and Jewish students into debates and dialogues, and in a celebration of Guru Nanak’s Birthday, the first such celebration ever at an American University campus. While continuing his education at the University of Chicago (1958-64), Dr. Lal continued his interfaith activities, organizing fire place discussions on interfaith topics at the UC International House, so that appreciation of faith traditions was promoted.
While still at University Dr. Lal was a sought-after speaker on the interfaith message of Guru Nanak at local churches, clubs and organizations. In Chicago, he actively promoted and participated in the Conference of World Religions presided by Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, Pakistan’s top diplomat at the UN General Assembly and the International Court of Justice.
Dr. Harbans Lal was invited to join the Interfaith Council of Thanks-Giving Square in Dallas, Texas in 1983. This Council is a group of individuals representing the major religious traditions of the world. They plan seminars and workshops; they respond to religious issues and needs through the prism of thanksgiving – i.e., an appreciation of the positive qualities to be found in all our cultures and religious traditions. The group has been recognized as a strongly positive force locally and internationally, and inducted as NGO in consultative capacity.
Dr. Lal has represented at many of the Interfaith Council’s events: the annual National Day of Prayer, the 1999 Millennium Thanksgiving Conference, the 2000 Thanksgiving Symposium at the United Nations, etc. He has also represented the Sikh thought at the Parliament of World Religions in Cape Town, in Barcelona, in Australia, and at the United Nations Summit of World Religious Leaders at the United Nations’ campus in New York.
He co-organized 2001 International Conference at Amritsar and in Lahore, scholars representing Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Sikhism dialogued on interfaith engagement.
Commenting on the Lahore Conference, Judge Ali Nawaz Chowhan of United Nations and
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, said the following. It is a rare occasion in an Islamic country like Pakistan that Muslim scholars along with scholars of non-Islamic faiths speak from one public platform. From the press coverage, it was evident that this symposium changed the tone of many leaders in public life. This symposium was followed by an interfaith conference organized by Muslim league in Islamabad and President Musharraf starting using terms as interfaith understanding in his speeches.
The interfaith conferences initiated by Dr. Lal were so successful that they promoted many follow-up conferences throughout the world. Indeed, Dr. Bhai Harbans Lal is known and admired by scientists, faith organizations and his own Sikh community around the world.
As an academic, Dr. Lal retired in 2000 as Emeritus Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Neuroscience at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, TX. He was known for his research in behavioral medicine, substance abuse, and the prolongation of a healthy life span through nutritional enhancement. He has served on the advisory boards of the National Institute of health, the National Science Foundation, and the Food and Drug Administration.
Dr. Harbans Lal holds many distinguished positions in Sikh institutions, which have honored him with their highest recognitions and awards. Those honors included the title of Bhai Sahib and Nishan-e-Khalsa, the highest recognitions ever bestowed upon any Sikh scholar and the person of distinction. Further, he can also claim the distinction in that he was honored also by religious organizations other than Sikh institutions.
Dr. Lal was honored with Life-Time Achievement Award on Unity Day USA. This award is to recognize those who promoted unity in USA after Nine- Eleven Terrorist Attack on USA. In 2010, Masjid Imam W. Deen Mohammed honored Dr. Harbans Lal at its 2ND ANNUAL UMMAH AWARDS APPRECIATION DINNER. Ummah means “Community” in Arabic and the annual award honors those who work towards furthering community development by bridging the gap among people of faith, races and cultures building community and understanding.