Diversity in Michigan applies not only to people from different cultures living and working in the state. It also applies to religions.
This week, Professor Phil Vogt, PhD, Associate Professor of History and Honors Program Director at Lawrence Technological University hosted a panel discussion the topic “Should Religion Adapt to Modernity?” during this month’s exhibition of rare and ancient books and manuscripts at Lawrence Technological University.
The exhibition shows 25 valuable works selected by 18 faculty members of Lawrence Technological University, including a 1690 signed first edition of English poet John Locke’s Essay concerning Human Understanding (including notations in Locke’s own hand). There was also a first printing of the Emancipation Proclamation, an almost five hundred years old “The Illustrated Life of Confucius” containing 103 Chinese woodblock prints, and even a 1455 leaf from the Gutenberg Bible.
Before the panel discussion, attendants were able to admire also a 1734 First Edition in English of the Koran (or Qur’an), an 1887 copy of Victor Hugo’s famous novel, Les Misérables, and a 1655 first edition (available for the first time to the public) of Galileo Galilei’s Della Scienza Mecanica. There was also a 1640 first English edition of Niccolo Machiavelli’s famous political treatise The Prince, written in prison and where Machiavelli provides astute political advice to Prince Lorenzo de Medici “Il Magnifico” in order to gain his favor (even though his strategy did not work, and Machiavelli ended his days in exile).
Two of the most astonishing documents exhibited were a 16th Century Scroll containing the Exodus from the Torah and a 500 year old handwritten edition of England’s 1215 Magna Carta bound and printed on vellum (an incredibly soft printing material made from calf skin in use up to 2,000 years ago. The word vellum is derived from the Latin word for “calf”). This copy of the Magna Carta, part of The Remnant Trust, was lent to LTU for the university’s exhibition by Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.
“We are honored to host this special presentation of some of the most important documents that define human civilization,” said Dr. Vogt. “In ancient times, books were such precious commodities that owning one book made you someone, so a person who owned three books, was considered a wealthy man”, explained Dr. Vogt.
The panel discussion began at 7:00 pm with the participation of a variety of experts in different disciplines and religions, such as Dr. Narayanaswany Sankagiri, of the Bharatiya Temple of Metropolitan Detroit; Dr. Mary Ellen, Sheehan, Emerita Professor of Theology at the University of St. Michael’s College of the Toronto School of Theology; Dr. Fatima Agha Al Hayani, Lecturer and court expert in Islamic, Jurisprudence; and Rabbi Dr. Louis Finkelman of LTU. The discussion began with a Hindu prayer and a thorough review of Hinduism by Dr. Sankagiri, followed by a history on the development and adaptation of Judaism throughout the centuries . Next, Drs. Sheehan and Al Hayani described Christianity and Islam, respectively, and it was interesting to see that in spite of the different approaches to the different religions, they all had in common loving and helping your fellow beings.
Other panelists included Dr. Sarah Heidt, Professor of Philosophy and Dr. George Alcser, Chair of Philosophy and Religious Studies, both at Marygrove College, Rev. Dr. Benjamin Sanley Baker, Pastor of the Church of Abundant Life in Southfield.
Having access to the ancient books is a one time opportunity to travel to the past and admire in person masterpieces, documents, and religious texts that we have only been able to study from photos and the internet up to now.
The exhibition is open to the public, free of charge, until Friday, January 29th at Lawrence Technological University´s Technology and Learning Center Gallery, located at 21000 W. 10 Mile Road in Southfield, MI. Schedule: http://www.ltu.edu/ltu/exhibit.asp#tab2