Empathy, Mindreading and the Ethics of Inter-cultural Dialogue
by Manoher Singh


About a century or two ago (I’m not entirely sure if there were Sikhs in Italy then but…), the Pope decided that all the Sikhs had to leave Italy.  Naturally, there was a big uproar from the Sikh community. So, the Pope made the Sikhs a proposal. He would have a religious debate with a member of the Sikh community. If the Sikh won, the Sikhs could stay. If the Pope won, the Sikhs would have to leave. The Sikhs realized that they had no choice. So, they picked a middle-aged man, named Karam Singh, to represent them. Karam wanted to make the debate more interesting and requested that neither side be allowed to speak. The Pope agreed. The day of the great debate came. Karam Singh and the Pope sat opposite each other for a full minute. Then, the Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers. Karam looked back at him and raised one finger. The Pope waved his fingers in a circle around his head. Karam pointed to the ground where he sat. The Pope pulled out a wafer and a glass of wine. Karam pulled out an apple. The Pope stood up and said, "I give up. This man is too good. The Sikhs can stay."An hour later, the cardinals were gathered around the Pope asking him what had happened. The Pope said, "First I held up three fingers to represent the holy trinity. He responded by holding up one finger to remind me that there was still One God common to both our religions. Then, I waved my finger around me to show him that God was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground and showing that God was also right here with us. Then, I pulled out the wine and wafer to show that God absolves us from our sins. He pulled out an apple to remind me of original sin. He had an answer for everything. What could I do?"

Meanwhile, the Sikh community had crowded around Karam Singh."What happened?" they asked."Well," said Karam, "First he said to me that the Sikhs had three days to get out of here. I told him not one of us was leaving. Then, he told me that this whole city would be cleared of Sikhs. I let him know that we were staying right here.""Yes, and then???" asked the crowd."I don't know", said Karam "He took out his lunch, and I took out mine.”


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