Pluralism Project Events
The following events have been sponsored by the Pluralism Project at Harvard University. Some of the events have been co-sponsored with other organizations; others have been “interfaculty” events, engaging scholars throughout the Harvard community; and still others feature the work of Pluralism Project student researchers, affiliates, and women’s networks members. You can also view events by type: affiliate, case study, civic, documentary films, interfaculty, interfaith, international, student conferences, and women’s networks.
Pluralism Project Director Diana Eck, Senior Research Associate Brendan Randall, and Assistant Director Whittney Barth co-led a two-hour workshop for thirty-five scholars, educators, and activists on the case method and its application to religious studies and interfaith/interreligious relations.
Joint Reception at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting
The Pluralism Project and the KAICIID Dialogue Centre (King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue) co-hosted a reception at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion in San Diego. Over 75 scholars, educators, graduate students, and community members gathered to learn more about both the Pluralism Project and KAICIID as well as to share professional updates.
Pluralism Project Hosts East-West Center's Senior Journalists Seminar
Professor Diana Eck, Director of the Pluralism Project, and Professor Ali Asani, Director of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Islamic Studies Program at Harvard, met with a group of international journalists participating in an East-West Center seminar on religious pluralism. The conversation focused on the role of and possibilities for pluralism in multi-religious societies, with a particular focus on Islam.
Research Associate Cody Musselman attended the North American Interfaith Network Connect conference in Detroit, MI. Cody was a recipient of a NAIN young adult scholarship. Read Cody’s report from NAIN Connect 2014.
Pluralism Project at the "Religious Worlds of New York" Seminar
Assistant Director Whittney Barth led a case study discussion for schoolteachers during the “Religious Worlds of New York,” a National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminar co-sponsored by the Interfaith Center of New York and Union Theological Seminary. The group discussed “Adding Eid,” a case whose protagonist, a school superintendent, must determine his options when considering whether to add Eid to the public school calendar.
Assistant Director Selected to Participate in Summer Civic Studies Institute at Tufts University
Assistant Director Whittney Barth led a case discussion of “Sign of Division” during the Civic Studies Institute at Tufts University. She also served as a panelist during the workshop “Faith Communities and Democratic Work: Beyond the Culture Wars" during the Frontiers of Democracy conference which took place at the conclusion of the Institute.
Diana Eck and Catherine Cornille Co-Led Seminar on Teaching Interfaith Understanding
Professor Diana Eck, Director of the Pluralism Project, and Professor Catherine Cornille, Chair of the Theology Department at Boston College, co-led a four-day seminar on teaching interfaith understanding. The seminar, which was organized by the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) and the Council for Independent Colleges, took place at Lesley University with site visits to local religious communities and, a welcome dinner hosted at the Pluralism Project.
Senior Research Associate Presents at ELCA Colleges Conference
Senior Research Associate Brendan Randall represented the Pluralism Project at the 2014 Interfaith Understanding Conference for ELCA Colleges and Universities where he introduced participates to the Pluralism Project's America's Interfaith Infrastructure pilot study. The conference took place in early June at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois.
Pluralism Project Staff Participate, Lead Workshop During "Social Justice Day"
Pluralism Project Assistant Director Whittney Barth and Research Associate Usra Ghazi served as panelists during the Cambridge School of Weston's 2014 Social Justice Day. Student selected topic of the year was "religious pluralism and it's intersection with diversity and social justice."
Pluralism Project Director Delivers Lecture on America's "Interfaith Infrastructure"
Pluralism Project Director Diana Eck delivered a lecture titled “Critical for a Common Future: The Interfaith Infrastructure” as part of the University of North Florida’s Interfaith Week. The talk highlighted the importance of cities as laboratories of religious diversity and the necessity of an infrastructure of relationships for the future of our common life.
Pluralism Project Case Studies at the Intercultural Connections Project
Senior Research Associate Brendan Randall visited Whistler, British Columbia, where he introduced the case method and facilitated the discussionof several case studies as part of the Intercultural Connections Project (ICP). The ICP is an interfaith project developed by Mafalda Arias of Mafalda Arias and Associates and William Roberts of the Whistler Forum with financial support from Embrace BC, a government agency focused on promoting multiculturalism and eliminating racism. The ICP brought together over 20 emerging leaders from numerous local faith communities for a 24-hour retreat in the beautiful mountains of the Sea to Sky region. During the retreat, the ICP participants shared meals, learned about each other, and discussed five case studies from the Pluralism Project Case Study Initiative. At the end of the retreat,the participants discussed potential case studies from British Columbia, identifying several promising prospects.
Case Study Discussion with MIT Addir Fellows
Pluralism Project Assistant Director Whittney Barth joined MIT Addir Fellows during their Spring 2014 retreat. The group discussed the case study "Trouble in Troy." The Addir Fellows Program is an intentional interfaith dialogue group at MIT. According to their website, Addir means "bridge" in Ancient Sumeriani and the program "aims to build bridges between people with different religious beliefs, practices, traditions, and cultures."
Pluralism Project Assistant Director Whittney Barth presented the work of the Project to a small group convened by the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID). Of particular interest was the Pluralism Project’s pilot study on interfaith initiatives, America's Interfaith Infrastructure: An Emerging Landscape.
Diana Eck, founder and director of the Pluralism Project and professor at Harvard University, was interviewed by Charles A. Kimball during a plenary session at the American Academy of Religion's 2013 Annual Meeting. An audio recording of this event is avaiable online.
Pluralism Project Co-Hosts Reception at AAR Annual Meeting
A reception was held at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion to celebrate the formation of an inter-religious and interfaith studies group at the AAR. The event was co-hosted by the Institute for Christian-Jewish Studies and Center for Inter-Religious and Communal Leadership Education (CIRCLE) and the Pluralism Project.
Research Associate Sarah Khan represented the Pluralism Project at the 2013 annual meeting of the Religion Education Association. This year's conference, held in Boston, was themed "Coming Out Religiously: Religion, the Public Sphere, and Religious Identity Formation."
Since 9/11, Muslims in North America have been under a microscope. In particular, the experience of Muslim women has been frequently discussed and scrutinized. This close examination of the lives of Muslims has highlighted the diversity of perspectives within the Muslim community as well as a lot of misinformation aand Islamophobic attitudes from outside the Muslim community
Interns Caitlin Casey and Sana Farooqui, both of Georgetown University, host an informational table for the Pluralism Project at the 9/11 Unity Walk along Embassy Row in Washington, D.C.
Pluralism Project and Center for the Study of World Religions Co-Host Film Night on Sikhism
On April 9th, the Pluralism Project and the Center for the Study of World Religions host a screening of Tragedy in Oak Creek and Dastaar: Defending the Sikh Identity. In Tragedy in Oak Creek filmmaker Valarie Kaur visits the Sikh community of Oak Creek, Wisconsin in the days after the tragic shooting in August 2012 that left six worshippers murdered and the gunman dead. Dastaar: Defending the Sikh Identity is a brief documentary explores the ways in which the Sikh community have responded to discrimination they have faced as a visible minority in American society, especially post-9/11.
The Center for the Study of World Religions and the Pluralism Project Co-Host Film Night
The Center for the Study of World Religions and the Pluralism Project partnered to screen the films “La Trappe” and “In Ordinary Life” on Tuesday, March 12th. A question and answer session with the films’ director, Canadian filmmaker and Harvard PhD student Lina Verchery, followed. Despite inclement weather, the evening drew over thirty people.
“La Trappe” explores the delicate connections that exist between Buddhist monastics and lobster fisherman who, despite difference of language, culture,and religion, share a belief in life as a cycle. “In Ordinary Life” highlights everyday experiences of life and death through the eyes of the Buddhist monastics at the Avatamsaka Sagely Monastery in Calgary, Alberta. To view “La Trappe” on the National Film Board of Canada’s website, please visit http://www.nfb.ca/film/trap.
"Under God? The Role of Religion and Public Life" Veritas Forum at Harvard
On Tuesday, March 5th nearly eight hundred people packed Sanders Theater at Harvard University for “Under God? The Role of Religion in Public Life,” a conversation with University of Chicago Divinity School ethicist Jean Bethke Elshtain and Harvard University professor Michael Sandel. This was the seventeenth annual Veritas Forum to be held at the University. Professor Diana Eck and Sri Lankan theologian Vinoth Ramachandra were speakers in 2011.
The event was sponsored by several Christian ministries at Harvard in partnership with Harvard Hillel, Harvard Buddhist, Episcopal, and Foursquare chaplaincies, the Humanist Community at Harvard, the Pluralism Project, the Philosophy Department, and the Center for the Study of World Religions.
Assistant Director Leads Case Study Discussion with Students at Lasell College
Assistant Director Whittney also led a case study discussion at Lasell College in Newton, Massachusetts as a part of Professor Dana Janbeck’s course on intercultural communications. Students deliberated the case “Driven by Faith,” which presents the controversy that arose when Somali Muslim taxi drivers at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport who, citing religious convictions, refuse to transport passengers who carry alcohol. For more on the Case Study Initiative, visit http://www.pluralism.org/casestudy/.
Pluralism Project and Center for the Study of World Religions Co-Host "My Neighbor's Faith: A Critical Conversation"
On Tuesday, February 5th the Pluralism Project and the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School co-hosted a panel discussion of the book My Neighbor’s Faith: Stories of Interreligious Encounter, Growth, and Transformation (Orbis 2012). Panelists included two of the book’s editors and co-directors of the Center for Inter-Religious and Communal Leadership Education, Dr. Jennifer Peace and Rabbi Or Rose. Dr. Ali Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures at Harvard University, and the Rev. Janet Cooper Nelson, Chaplain of the University at Brown, were also panelists and spoke about the personal stories they contributed to the collection. Dr. Francis X. Clooney, Director of the Center for the Study of World Religions, served as a respondent and Dr. Diana Eck, Director of the Pluralism Project, gave introductory remarks.
Over seventy-five people attended the panel and rich discussion continued into the reception that followed. We would like to extend a special thanks to the Center for the Study of World Religions Field Education Intern Morgan Howard and Pluralism Project Research Associate April Winebrenner-Palo who organized the event.
In 2010, the United Nations declared the first week of each February “World Interfaith Harmony Week.” Since its inception the following year, members of the Harvard University community have offered programming to the campus and beyond. Partners included the Harvard Chaplains, the Harvard Undergraduate Interfaith Council, the Center for the Study of World Religions, and the Pluralism Project. This year, the week’s events included a screening of the filmSoundtrack to a Revolution: A Documentary; a panel discussion of the book My Neighbor’s Faith; a brown bag lunch conversation about the exhibit “Multifaith Spaces: Symptoms and Agents of Change”; and a student panel on “Doubt and Religion.” Two events, one commemorating Swami Vivekananda’s 150th birthday and another a service project, were rescheduled for March due to the snowstorm that hit the Northeast on February 8th. Click here for more information about World Interfaith Harmony Week.
Assistant Director Whittney Barth "Visits" With Class at Hendrix College
Assistant Director Whittney Barth discussed our work with Professor Jay McDaniel’s undergraduate religion class at Hendrix College via Skype. Professor McDaniel and his students are exploring the religious diversity of Arkansas this semester, including field research in Little Rock.
Former Assistant Director of the Pluralism Project at Presidential Inauguration Prayer Service
Kathryn Lohre, President of the National Council of Churches, led congregational prayer at the Washington National Cathedral during the Presidential Inauguration Prayer Service. Lohre served as the Assistant Director of the Pluralism Project from 2005 to 2011 before taking on her current role as the Director of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Click here to watch C-SPAN coverage of Kathryn’s remarks.
Diana Eck Panelist for "The Dignity of Difference: Developing Theologies of Religious Pluralism and the Challenges of Leadership"
A panel discussion on Tuesday, December 4th at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government featured discussion on "The Dignity of Difference: Developing Theologies of Religious Pluralism and the Challenges of Leadership. Panelists included Ali Asani, professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Culture at Harvard University; Diana Eck, professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies and Director of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University; and Lord Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom for conversation with Ronald Heifetz, Co-Founder of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Pluralism Project Hosts Screening of Life of Pi
On Thursday, November 15, Pluralism Project staff and over seventy friends from Harvard Divinity School, the Harvard Interfaith Council, and the Harvard Chaplains screened the film Life of Pi at the AMC Loews Theater on Boston Common. Directed by Academy Award Winner Ang Lee, Life of Pi is a 3-D adaptation of the 2001 novel by Yann Martel. The film was released on November 21st. Click here to read a recent blog post in the Huffington Post by Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, Director of the Department of Multifaith Studies at Rabbinical Reconstructionist College.
Diana Eck Gives Remarks at Faitheist Book Launch
Over 100 people gathered in Andover Chapel on Friday, November 2nd to celebrate the launch of Chris Stedman’s book Faithest: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious. Diana Eck gave introductory remarks and Stedman, the assistant chaplain for the Harvard Humanist Community, read an excerpt from the book. The evening was organized by Harvard Divinity School Humanists, a student group on campus. Paul Escobar, one of the event organizers, is a 2012-2013 Pluralism Project research associate.
Research Director Participates in "Sacred Space in a Secular Nation of Believers"
On October 25 & 26, research director Ellie Pierce participated in a Radcliffe Seminar, “Sacred Space in a Secular Nation of Believers.” The seminar explored sacred space in healthcare contexts, the military, and higher education. Sessions focused on specific cases, including the Ulfelder Healing Garden at Massachusetts General Hospital, one of three spaces at the hospital – in addition to the masjid and chapel – set aside for prayer and/or reflection; the Tufts University Interfaith Center, home to the Muslim, Protestant, and Catholic chaplains, and is used by a range of student religious groups; and the U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel, designed with separate chapels for the Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant faiths. Today, the Cadet Chapel also houses an “all faiths room,” a newer Buddhist chapel (“the Vast Dharma Refuge Hall”), and, the most recent addition, a dedicated space near the building for Earth-Centered Spirituality, known as “Falcon Circle.” This engaging multidisciplinary seminar was organized by Wendy Cadge from Brandeis University, Alice Friedman from Wellesley College, and Karla Johnson, from the architectural firm Johnson Roberts Associates.
Religious Literacy Roundtable
On October 4, the Foundation for Religious Literacy and the Coexist Foundation co-sponsored a Religious Literacy Roundtable at the Harvard Club of New York City. The Roundtable brought together representatives from diverse schools, groups, and organizations engaged in building religious literacy. Research Director Ellie Pierce, as well as two Pluralism Project alumnae, Dr. Marcia Beauchamp (now of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation) and Rev. Chloe Breyer (now of the Interfaith Center of New York), were among the participants. Together, the group discussed current projects and prospects for religious literacy, with an emphasis on information-sharing and collaboration. A second Roundtable will be held in the coming months to build upon and extend the impact of these initial conversations.
In June, Assistant Director Whittney Barth attended the LEarNing Spatially (LENS) Summer Institute, a program of the Redlands Institute that invites scholars and educators to Redlands, CA to collaborate on best practices for integrating spatial technologies into their classrooms and research initiatives. The 2012 LENS Summer Institute was themed "Mapping Communities"
During the first two weeks of June, the Pluralism Project at Harvard University and Andover Newton Theological School hosted an intensive summer seminar in Greater Boston that challenged participants to grow in their leadership capacity by discussing case studies, making site visits to local religious communities, and learning how to be effective in public narrative. Twenty-two students from the Boston-area theological schools and two Pluralism Project undergraduate interns participated in the “Building an Interfaith Community and Leadership: The Boston Workshop," a seminar made possible by generous support from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. Guest instructors from local Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish communities introduced participants to their houses of worship and religious practices. Case studies and discussion, led by co-instructors Dr. Diana Eck and Dr. Jennifer Peace, invited the cohort to explore the challenges and opportunities that arise when building an interfaith community. Participants also attended a day-long training on the use of public narrative, led by Dr. Marshall Ganz of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Our sincere thanks to all who contributed to this collaborative effort, especially the guest instructors!
Pluralism Project Welcomes Interfaith Delegation from Bosnia-Herzegovina
In May, Diana Eck, Whittney Barth and intern Amrita Dani welcomed to the Pluralism Project a delegation from the Inter-religious Council of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The delegation, comprised of leaders within the Christian, Jewish, and Muslims faiths, was hosted by the Harvard University Marshall's Office in conjunction with WorldBoston. They were as heartened to hear about the energies of the interfaith movement in the U.S., as we were in hearing about the growth of local interfaith councils in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Pluralism Project at District Rotary Conference
The Pluralism Project participated in a panel discussing efforts to promote peace and conflict resolution at the Rotary International District #7950 Conference in Newport, Rhode Island.
"Invocation or Provocation?" Case Study Discussion with MIT Addir Felllows
Assistant Director Whittney Barth led a discussion of the case study "Invocation or Provocation?" with the Addir Interfaith Fellows at MIT during the group’s Spring retreat.
On April 12th, The Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program at Harvard University, the Harvard Foundation, and the Pluralism Project hosted a screening of the film "Fordson: Faith, Fasting, and Football." The film follows a predominately Arab-American high school football team from a working-class Detroit suburb as they practice for their big cross-town rivalry game during the last ten days of Ramadan, revealing a community holding onto its Islamic faith while they struggle for acceptance in post 9/11 America.
The screening was followed by a discussion with the film’s director and executive producer, Rashid Ghazi. Click here to view the trailer.
On March 20-22, Research Director Elinor Pierce joined our colleagues at the University of Manchester (U.K.) for an advisory council meeting and conference of “Multifaith Spaces: Symptoms and Agents of Religious and Social Change.” This international conference, which brought together architects, academics, administrators, and others involved with Multi-Faith Spaces, featured creative responses to changing religious needs.
This three-year study of Multi-Faith Spaces, initiated by Dr. Ralf Brand, Dr. Andrew Crompton, Rev. Dr. Terry Biddington, and Dr. Chris Hewson, concludes in late 2012. For more information about this study, or for information about their traveling exhibition, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pluralism Project Case Study Discussion at Lasell College
Pluralism Project staff taught a case study in an Intercultural Communication course at Lasell College.
On February 7th, the Pluralism Project and the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School hosted a panel event entitled “The Contours of Common Ground.” The event gave panelists an opportunity to reflect on different conceptions of “common ground” and its role in fostering interfaith engagement.
The Pluralism Project would like to extend our thanks to Lucia Hulsether, field education intern at the CSWR, and the Project’s own April Winebrenner-Palo for organizing this event! Video of the event is available on the Harvard Divinity School website.
In early February, Harvard University chaplains, staff, students, and faculty organized interfaith events on and around campus to celebrate World Interfaith Harmony Week, first designated the first week of February by the United Nations in 2011. The Memorial Church and the Harvard Interfaith Collaborative welcomed Rami Nashashibi, Executive Director of Inner-City Muslim Action Network in Chicago, Illinois, to campus to speak on the spiritual legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Pluralism Project hosted a film screening and discussion of Valarie Kaur’s film “Divided We Fall.” The week also included an interfaith arts festival, a panel discussing the “Contours of Common Ground” in interfaith work, and a service opportunity to alleviate hunger in Greater Boston.
Assistant Director Speaks About "America's Interfaith Infrastructure" at Miami University
Assistant Director Whittney Barth returned to her undergraduate alma mater to discuss with the Miami University campus and wider Oxford, Ohio communities preliminary results from the Pluralism Project’s pilot study “America’s Interfaith Infrastructure: An Emerging Landscape" and the role of interfaith engagement on college campuses.
Pluralism Project 20th Anniversary Celebration Reception at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting
On Friday, November 18th, Pluralism Project staff joined over 100 affiliates and friends for a reception celebrating the Pluralism Project's 20th anniversity. The reception took place during the American Academy of Religion's Annual Meeting in San Francisco and featured a presentation of our research on “The Interfaith Infrastructure: Citizenship and Leadership in the Multi-Religious City” and new features of the forthcoming On Common Ground: World Religions in America 2.0.
On October 25, 2011, as part of its fall programming for its 2011-2012 International Series on world religions and interfaith dialogue, the Mississippi University for Women will screen our documentary film, Fremont, USA. For more information about this and other events in the series, click here. The series is made possible through financial assistance from the National Endowment for the Humanities through the Mississippi Humanities Council.
On October 2, 2011 the Pluralism Project co-sponsored “Muslim Women’s Religious Literacy: The Legacy of Nana Asma’u in the Twenty-First Century and Beyond," a panel discussion at Harvard Divinity School in honor of his Eminence the Sultan of Sokoto’s visit to campus. The Sultan is the religious leader of one of the largest Muslim communities in Africa. Nana Asma’u, a great aunt of the Sultan, was one of the most important Muslim women scholars and educators in nineteenth-century Africa, as well as a poet. Panelists included: Beverly Mack, Director of the University of Kansas African Studies Center; Ousseina Alidou, Director of the African Studies Center, Rutgers University; Zainab Alwani, Howard University and Fiqh Council of North America; Mohamed Elsanousi, Director of Outreach, Islamic Society of North America; and His Eminence Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, the Sultan of Sokoto. The event was hosted by Harvard Divinity School’s Women’s Studies in Religion Program.
On September 11, 2011 the Pluralism Project, along with over forty other non-profit organizations, commemorated the tenth anniversary of September 11 by participating in the Massachusetts Remembers September 11 event at the DCR Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade. The Pluralism Project hosted a table at the service learning pavilion where representatives from local interfaith, Muslim, Sikh, Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish service organizations educated event-goers on their core values and efforts. The afternoon culminated in a concert and ceremony featuring religious leaders from the Massachusetts Interfaith Leadership Coalition and performances by the Boston Children’s Chorus, the Boston Pops Brass Ensemble, and Rhythm of the Universe.
John Kiser, author of The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love, and Terror in Algeria (the book that inspired much of the film Of Gods and Men), visited the Pluralism Project in September, 2011. Kiser shared with senior staff his most recent book Commander of the Faithful: A Story of True Jihad. This book gives account of the life and leadership of Emir Abd el-Kader, known as the “father of modern Algeria,” a 19th century Muslim organizer of Algerian resistance to the French occupation. El-Kader became an inspiration to many around the world—even in the American heartland. Elkader, Iowa is the only city in the United States to be named after an Arab, Kiser claims, a fact that he uses to encourage “Elkaderites” and others to explore through the Abd el-Kader Education Project, which seeks to promote "global civic and cultural awareness, tolerance, respect, and outreach for all people."
On September 6, 2011 the Pluralism Project hosted a panel at Harvard University featuring Dr. Ralf Brand and his research team from the University of Manchester’s Architecture Research Centre’s project entitled, “Multi-Faith Spaces: Symptoms and Agents of Religious and Social Change.” The panel took place as part of a series of events and visits to multi-faith spaces in Greater Boston and New York City. Dr. Brand and his colleagues Dr. Chris Hewson and Dr. Andrew Crompton presented their most up-to-date findings on multi-faith spaces in the US, Europe, and elsewhere internationally. Since 2010, Elinor Pierce has served as the Pluralism Project’s advisor to the Multi-Faith Spaces project, which is funded by the British Arts and Humanities Council’s Religion and Society Programme. To visit the research team’s website, click here.
"Fremont, USA" Screening and Panel Hosted by Tri-City Interfaith Council
On June 16, 2011 the Tri-City Interfaith Council of Fremont, Newark, and Union City California sponsored a screening of our documentary, Fremont, USA. The film explores how the city of Fremont, California – the most religiously diverse city of its size in the US – responded in an extraordinary way to the tragic murder of Alia Ansari, a Muslim woman, in 2006. The screening and interfaith panel discussion was hosted at Centerville Presbyterian Church at 360 Central Avenue in Fremont, California – the same church that hosted a citywide interfaith memorial service after Ansari’s death almost five years ago.
Pluralism Project Hosts Interfaith Coalition for Peace in New Delhi
On May 2, 2011 the Pluralism Project hosted a visit from Dr. Syed Zafar Mahmood, president of the Interfaith Coalition for Peace (ICP) based in New Delhi, India. ICP is “a secular non profit organization enabling people to achieve the full realization of their rights as human beings” which is “simultaneously involved in non-formal interfaith, academic courses and advocacy of community care.” For more information, see: http://www.icpindia.org/index.htm
Workshop with MIT Addir Fellows
In April 2011 Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre offered a case study workshop to the MIT Addir Fellows during their spring retreat. The MIT Addir Fellows are graduate and undergraduate students who commit to weekly dialogue in small groups, monthly speakers’ presentations, and two mini-retreats over the course of the academic year. The program’s mission is “to equip individuals of different faiths with the skills to engage with and understand those from whom they differ; to enhance inter-group relations on the MIT campus, and to deepen individuals’ self-awareness.” Participants engaged in discussion of “Driven by Faith or Customer Service? Muslim Taxi Drivers at the MSP Airport,” which explores the dilemma faced by the Airport Director in 2006 when Muslim taxi drivers refused to transport passengers carrying alcohol.
“Multi-Faith Spaces” Research Project at the University of Manchester
In Apri 2011 Research Director Elinor Pierce participated in the advisory council meeting of “Multi-Faith Spaces: Symptoms and Agents of Religious and Social Change” at the University of Manchester. As noted on the project website, “This project investigates Multi-Faith Spaces (MFS) not only as symptoms of socio-religious change, but also in terms of their ‘agentic role’ as spaces with the potential to influence and modify relations between religious and secular worlds/worldviews. …Do MFS encourage pluralism or merely house difference? Are MFS positive social investments? How might MFS be better designed and built? What are the likely societal effect[s] of these spaces?” Dr. Ralf Brand and Members of the Project Team will expand this research to the US in August 2011, and will offer a seminar at Harvard on September 6, 2011.
Auburn Case Studies Minimester
Pluralism Project case studies were again featured in the 2010 fall minimester course sponsored by Auburn Theological Seminary entitled, “Religious Leadership in a Multifaith World.” Seminary students from six schools in the New York region took part in case discussions of religious and civic leadership, “analyz[ing] each scenario with colleagues from different faith backgrounds, and then reflect[ing] on what kind of leadership they hope to offer in such a situation.” The minimester is anticipated to be offered again in 2011.
"In Pursuit of Justice" Discussed by AJWS Alumni
Over the past several months, we have worked with American Jewish World Service (AJWS) to collaboratively develop a case study for rabbinical students and rabbis. This case, “In Pursuit of Justice,” explores the resistance faced by a young rabbi who wants to refine her synagogue’s mitzvah program to be more in line with the social justice ethos of the congregation. This case was used in a session at the recent AJWS Rabbinical Students’ Delegation (RSD) Alumni Institute, held in Baltimore, Maryland, February 20-23, on the theme, Leveraging Our Power. RSD alumni have previously traveled with AJWS in delegations to the developing world, where they live and work with grassroots partners for a period of two weeks, grappling with “Jewish texts and theology in order to make sense of the struggles for social justice and human rights. Upon return, they work together, as part of the [RSD Alumni Network], to bring a sophisticated understanding of global citizenship to their communities.” If you’d like to use this case in your own teaching, please contact email@example.com.
Pluralism Project Screens Fremont, USA at Lasell College
On February 15, Pluralism Project Research Director Elinor Pierce led a screening of the film Fremont, USA: A City’s Encounter with Religious Diversity. The screening was organized for Dr. Dana Janbek’s “Intercultural Communication” courses at Lasell College in Newton, Massachusetts, and was open to the entire college. Following the screening, Ellie led a Q&A session with audience members, responding to questions at the intersection of religion and communication, and relating the film’s core issues to the context of Greater Boston.
Pluralism Project Co-Sponsors Harvard Interfaith Awareness Week
The Pluralism Project was one of several co-sponsors of Harvard Interfaith Awareness Week, February 7-11, coinciding with the first-ever annual UN World Interfaith Harmony Week. As one of the week’s events, on February 9, the Pluralism Project sponsored a screening of Fremont, USA: A City’s Encounter with Religious Diversity. Dr. Diana Eck offered introductory remarks, and Pluralism Project Research Director Elinor Pierce – who co-directed and co-produced the film with longtime affiliate Rachel Antell – responded to audience questions about the filmmaking process, and provided updates on how interfaith activity and civic engagement in Fremont, California have continued to evolve. Dr. Diana Eck and Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre were featured in an Odyssey Networks video series on UN World Interfaith Harmony Week.
Pluralism Project Hosts Author of Growing Up Global
On February 9, the Pluralism Project welcomed Homa S. Tavanger, author of Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be at Home in the World, as a special guest. She spoke to staff and student researchers about the links between global citizenship and the challenges of parenting in multi-religious America. Ms. Tavanger, who is active in the interfaith movement in her native Philadelphia, was in town to speak to a Greater Boston Business Network event, co-sponsored by Primary Source.
Meeting of the Boston Chapter of the Religion Communicators Council (RCC)
On February 4, Pluralism Project Research Coordinator Erin Loeb presented on the Pluralism Project at a meeting of the Boston Chapter of the Religion Communicators Council (RCC). Erin provided an overview of the work of the Project, followed by an in-depth introduction to World Religions in Greater Boston and Religious Diversity News, explaining their value as tools for religion communicators. The presentation was followed by a discussion about the emerging role of social media in communicating about religion.
Eck Addresses Phillips Academy Students on Pluralism
On January 12, Dr. Eck addressed students of Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts during their weekly All School Meeting on the topic of religious pluralism in America. Phillips Academy, a residential secondary school in the liberal arts tradition, is home to six student religious organizations, including an Interfaith Council, and groups for Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian students.
Fremont, USA screened in Barnstable, Massachusetts and Kansas City, Missouri
On October 20, our documentary film Fremont, USA was featured as part of the Town of Barnstable's Peace Week in a screening at the Cape Cod Community College. Then on November 11, it was screened at the Plaza Library in Kansas City, Missouri. The event, part of the Cultural Conversations series, included a discussion relating the film to religious diversity in Kansas City.
Community Diversity Night at Brimmer and May
On Wednesday, November 10, 2010, Pluralism Project Research Coordinator Erin Loeb participated in the Community Diversity Night at the Brimmer and May School in Chestnut Hill, MA. After two students offered reflections on the role of religion in their lives, Erin presented on the work and research of the Pluralism Project, our Case Study Initiative, and our World Religions in Greater Boston guidebook to approximately 100 teachers, parents, and students. The evening concluded with questions from the audience about religious diversity in Boston, and issues of religion in public life.
Workshop with MIT Addir Fellows
In November 2010 Summer Fellow Brendan Randall offered a case study workshop to the MIT Addir Fellows during their fall retreat. The Addir program’s mission is “to equip individuals of different faiths with the skills to engage with and understand those from whom they differ; to enhance inter-group relations on the MIT campus, and to deepen individuals’ self-awareness.” The Fellows discussed “Adding Eid,” a Pluralism Project case study about a decision by the Cambridge Public Schools Superintendent to add Eid as a holiday to the district calendar.
National Council of Churches & Church World Service Centennial Gathering
From November 9-11, the Centennial Gathering of the National Council of Churches and Church World Service took place in New Orleans. A celebration of 100 years of the modern ecumenical movement, hearkening back to its birth at the 1910 World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, the event convened an array of national and international ecumenical partners to vision the future. Dr. Eck provided leadership as chair of the NCC’s Interfaith Relations Commission, and Pluralism Project Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre provided leadership as president elect of the National Council of Churches.
Mosques in America Event at Fordham Law School
In response to mosque controversies across the US, and in New York City in particular, the Institute on Religion, Law, & Lawyer’s Work at Fordham University School of Law sponsored an event titled, “Mosques in America: an Exercise in Dialogue” in November 2011. Rabbi Justus Baird, director of the Center for Multifaith Education from the Auburn Theological Seminary, a longtime collaborator on our Case Study Initiative, co-led a case discussion of, “A Mosque in Palos Heights.” This case, among our first developed, explores the mosque controversy in Palos Heights, Illinois that unfolded in 2000, before the frame of 9/11 informed public discourse. Event participants were encouraged to apply their legal education to a real-life scenario. This event is an example of how we are exploring more deliberately the interdisciplinary potential of our Case Study Initiative.
On Friday, October 29, 2010, the Pluralism Project hosted its annual reception at the American Academy of Religion. Facilitated by Dr. Diana Eck and Research Director Ellie Pierce, the evening’s program explored new developments in the Case Study Initiative, which seeks to apply the case method to the disputes and dilemmas of multi-religious America. Highlights from our recent case study workshops, courses, and updates from our 2010 Case Study Summer Fellowship program served as a starting point for discussion. 130 Pluralism Project affiliates, friends, and guests, engaged in lively conversation and networking.
OneJax Interfaith Conversation
On October 25, 2010, the Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville, FL hosted a panel event entitled, “Can We Talk? An Interfaith Conversation to Celebrate the Oneness of Humanity.” The event was a collaborative effort by Baptist Health, OneJax and the Interfaith Council of Jacksonville. Research Director Elinor Pierce was among the panelists, along with Jack Logue, Director of St. Vincent's Spirtuality Center; Rev. Torin Dailey of First Baptist Church of Oakland; Rabbi Joshua Lief of Congregation Ahavath Chesed; and Mr. Ashraf Shaikh of the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida. Celeste Krueger, the executive director of OneJax, moderated the discussion among the panelists and with the audience, exploring such themes as healthcare, business, education, religious leadership, and civic engagement.
On Thursday, October 21, 2010, the Pluralism Project screened the documentary film “Welcome to Shelbyville” for a diverse audience of Harvard students, staff, and faculty, local civic and religious leaders, representatives from immigrant advocacy groups, and members of the Greater Boston community. Directed and produced by Kim Snyder and executive produced by BeCause Foundation in association with Active Voice, "Welcome to Shelbyville takes an intimate look at a southern town as its residents – whites and African Americans, Latinos and Somalis – grapple with their beliefs, their histories and their evolving ways of life." The film was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Pluralism Project Director Diana Eck on issues of immigration and religious pluralism, and how the lessons of Shelbyville can be applied to our own context in Greater Boston. Panelists included Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries Executive Director Alexander Levering Kern, Agencia ALPHA Director of Programs Damaris López, and Nancy Khalil, a doctoral student in Social Anthropology at Harvard University, and a member of the Muslim American Society Boston and the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center Board of Directors. Event co-sponsors included the Center for the Study of World Religions, the Outreach Center at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Harvard Organization for Latin America (HOLA), United World College, the Harvard Islamic Society, Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries (CMM), Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), Agencia ALPHA, Active Voice, and the BeCause Foundation.
30 Mosques, 30 States, 30 Days: Ramadan Road Trip Adventure
On October 19, we cosponsored an event featuring Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq, following their “Ramadan Road Trip Adventure” through 30 states in 30 days. Their itinerary included visits to Muslim communities in places as diverse Augusta, Maine and Phoenix, Arizona, ending on Eid al-Fitr in Detroit, Michigan. A detailed blog of their adventures can be found at http://30mosques.com/ Ali and Tariq became known for their initial experiment of visiting 30 mosques in 30 days in New York City in 2009. The event was cosponsored by the Pluralism Project; the Islam in the West Program; the Harvard Islamic Society; and the Islamic Forum at the Harvard Divinity School.
Pluralism Project Participates In a Teach-In on the Muslim Community Center Controversy in Manhattan
On September 21, 2010, Pluralism Project Director Dr. Diana L. Eck participated in a public teach-in entitled, "Making Sense of the Controversy: Campus Teach-In on the Muslim Community Center Issue in Manhattan." Other panelists included Professor Ali Asani, director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program; and Professor Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Panelists offered their reflections on the current controversy’s ramifications for religious pluralism and Muslim life in the United States before responding to questions from the audience. This event, which drew over 100 people, was sponsored by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and co-sponsored by the Pluralism Project; the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program; the Harvard Foundation; the Middle East Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School; the Harvard College Education Society; the Islam in the West Program; the Middle Eastern Law Students Association; the Outreach Program Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies; the Alliance for Justice in the Middle East; and the Harvard Islamic Society.
On September 17, 2010, the Pluralism Project co-sponsored a panel discussion on “Faith-Based Family Dispute Mediation and Arbitration: North American Muslim Contributions & Priorities” along with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program. The event, organized by HDS students Celene Ayat Lizzio and Aliya Vajid, sought “to connect scholars, students, and practitioners who have an interest in how communities of Muslims perceive of and adhere to select aspects of family law in the North American context.” Panelists included Dr. Zainab Alwani, the first female jurist to serve on the Fiqh Council of North America; Amin Kassam, member of His Highness Prince Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismaili National Conciliation and Arbitration Board for the United States; and Intisar Rabb, a faculty member at the Boston College Law School, where she teaches in comparative and Islamic Law. The panel was moderated by Sarah Eltantawi, PhD Candidate in the Study of Islam at Harvard’s Committee on the Study of Religion. Following the presentations, audience members were invited to participate in a robust discussion on “how religious values and principles are brought to bear on cases of mediation and arbitration, both within formal legal systems and on alternative forums of dispute resolution.”
Pluralism Project Moderates Panel at “Women2Women International Conference”
On August 4, 2010, Pluralism Project Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre moderated a panel of local women leaders in a discussion on women’s roles and leadership in faith-based and interfaith organizing at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center. The event was part of Empower Peace’s “Women2Women International Conference,” a yearly conference for over 100 teenage women from the United States and the Arab and Muslim world who come together in order to build “much-needed bridges of understanding and trust between improbably allies, uniting them across shared interests and purpose.” The panel was preceded by an orientation to the Center, and to Islam in America; delegates also had the opportunity to participate in or observe evening prayers. Lohre helped organize the panel, which included Jenny Peace, managing director of the Center for Interreligious Leadership Education (or CIRCLE) at Andover Newton School & Hebrew College; Janet Penn, executive director of Interfaith Action in Sharon, Mass.; and Malika Rashdan, director of ICNA Relief Boston.
Pluralism Project Hosts Iraqi Youth Leadership Exchange Program
On July 26, 2010, the Pluralism Project hosted an Iraqi Youth Leadership Exchange program sponsored by the State Department and the Global Youth Leadership Institute (GYLI) for a case study workshop. Pluralism Project staff, summer fellows, and alumni received the group of Iraqi teenagers, American teens from New England, program facilitators, and host families. The purpose of the exchange program was to introduce youth to civic engagement and interfaith dialogue in Greater Boston. Two Pluralism Project summer fellows, Brendan Randall and Kristin Stoneking, taught brief, interactive case studies, providing the delegates with a foundation from which to share their own experiences about religious and cultural pluralism in Iraq and the United States.
On June 9, 2010, the Pluralism Project received a visit from Dr. Caroline Suransky and Prof. Henk Manschot of the Kosmopolis Institute of the University of Humanistic Studies, in Utrecht, the Netherlands. In collaboration with the Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries (Hivos), the Kosmopolis Institute offers the "Promoting Pluralism Knowledge Program," an international academic-practitioner collaborative in India, Indonesia, Uganda, and the Netherlands. The Kosmopolis Institute became an affiliate of the Pluralism Project in September 2010.
Advancing Interfaith and Community Service on College and University Campuses
On June 7, 2010, the Pluralism Project participated in a half day meeting convened by the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships on “Advancing Interfaith and Community Service on College and University Campuses.” Participants included campus leaders and chaplains, religious studies faculty and administrators, community and interfaith leaders, and students; the Pluralism Project was represented by Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre. OFBNP Deputy Director Mara Vanderslice stated that the primary goal of the meeting was to find ways to partner together to “scale and strengthen interfaith service on college campuses.” Eboo Patel, the Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core framed the opportunity for launching a movement for interfaith cooperation, and defined the critical role of college campuses in social change. A group of panelists then explored successful models, and breakout sessions provided an opportunity for participants to enter the conversation.
On April 20, 2010, the Pluralism Project hosted a visit with Eisenhower Fellow Rev. Dr. Petra Bahr. As the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs in Germany, Dr. Bahr represents the Protestant Church of Germany (EKD) to political leaders and the public. During her fellowship, she is seeking to learn more about the religious landscape in the United States, with a particular interest in how religion and public policy are related in this context. In several cities, including Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Houston, she will meet with religious and interfaith leaders, scholars, and think tanks. Our conversation with her focused primarily on the emergence of Muslim organizations that play a role in fostering greater civic engagement, as well as the range of grassroots interfaith organizations and initiatives that are cropping up across the nation. We also discussed the religious landscape and in Germany, and the real challenges that are unfolding with regard to public school curriculum, and the building of mosques and other religious centers.
Case Study Workshop with MIT Addir Fellows
On April 18, 2010, Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre offered a case study workshop to the MIT Addir Fellows during their spring 2010 retreat. The MIT Addir Fellows are graduate and undergraduate students who commit to at least one year of weekly dialogue in small groups, monthly speakers’ presentations, and two mini-retreats over the course of the academic year. The program’s mission is “to equip individuals of different faiths with the skills to engage with and understand those from whom they differ; to enhance inter-group relations on the MIT campus, and to deepen individuals’ self-awareness.” The 25 fellows present for the retreat participated in a discussion of a case of a holiday decorations dispute at the Seattle-Tacoma International airport in 2006, and then applied those learnings to an unfolding case over “Adding Eid” in the Cambridge Public Schools.
From April 14-16, 2010, the Pluralism Project participated in a conference organized by the Center for Interreligious and Communal Leadership (CIRCLE) at Andover Newton Theological School and Hebrew College entitled “Educating Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Leaders for Service in a Multi-Religious World: The American Seminary Conference.” Organized by Andover Newton Theological School, Hebrew College, and the Boston Theological Institute, this national conference brought together veteran academics, new scholars, students, activists, entrepreneurs, and community members for conversations about the importance of interfaith understanding in the education of visionary religious leaders. Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre and Research Coordinator Erin Loeb participated in a breakfast roundtable discussion on Greater Boston Interfaith Initiatives where they presented several Pluralism Project resources, including World Religions in Greater Boston, the Case Study Initiative, and the Boston Workshop. Pluralism Project Director Dr. Diana Eck was also honored with a Boston Theological Institute award for her scholarship, leadership, and continued dedication to interfaith understanding and religious pluralism. The full conference schedule is available at http://www.hebrewcollege.edu/interfaith.
On April 13, 2010, the Pluralism Project convened a follow up case study workshop at the Center for the Study of World Religions to consider the application of the case method to the teaching of religion and theology. Approximately 40 Harvard faculty, staff, and students from across the University, Pluralism Project staff and student researchers, local community leaders, and selected faculty from outside institutions discussed a new case entitled “Adding Eid” that explores the issue of adding the Muslim holiday of Eid to the Cambridge Public School system calendar. Dr. Willis Emmons of the C. Roland Christensen Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard Business School facilitated this case study discussion. After the case study, Dr. Diana Eck moderated a panel discussion on teaching with case studies in religious studies and theological education. Panelists included Justus Baird from Auburn Theological Seminary, Shana Sippy from Carleton College, and Willis Emmons from Harvard Business School. The day concluded with a reception and further conversation about the case method.
Pluralism Project Presents World Religions in Greater Boston at Lasell College
On April 8, 2010, Pluralism Project Research Coordinator Erin Loeb and Senior Research Associate Kimberly Richards presented the 5th edition of World Religions in Greater Boston to Dr. Dana Janbek’s “Intercultural Communication” course at Lasell College in Newton, MA for an audience of nearly 50 undergraduate students. Their presentation included an overview and history of the Pluralism Project, a discussion of the Case Study Initiative, a selected tour of World Religions in Greater Boston, and concluded with a clip from the documentary film Fremont U.S.A. to highlight a community’s response to a hate crime. Following the discussion, students were asked to reflect on the work Pluralism Project, the relationship between religion and communication, and to offer their own experiences with pluralism in Greater Boston.
Pluralism Project at the Religion Communication Congress 2010
From April 7-10, 2010, the Pluralism Project participated in the Religion Communication Congress held in Chicago, Illinois. The Congress, held once every 10 years, brings together hundreds of communications professionals in an interfaith forum to learn new skills, to network, and to creatively respond to the current challenges in the field. This year’s theme, “Embracing Change: Communicating Faith in Today’s World,” was explored by a number of plenary speakers, workshops, and special events. Pluralism Project Director Diana Eck presented in the same plenary with Dr. Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America. Through an engaging powerpoint presentation, Dr. Eck explored issues of communications as they relate to the challenge of religious pluralism. Pluralism Project Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre offered a workshop entitled “Tools for Communicating in Multi-Religious America.” Other conference themes are detailed on the website: http://www.rccongress2010.org/
On Friday, March 26, 2010, Pluralism Project Director Dr. Diana L. Eck and a panel of youth representatives from various religious traditions participated in Billerica Memorial High School’s E Pluribus Unum Day. After Dr. Eck’s keynote presentation on pluralism in America and the religious diversity of Greater Boston, panelists reflected on common misconceptions about their faith, the relationship between their faith and interreligious understanding in a pluralist society, and concluded by offering wisdom from each of their traditions for an audience of graduating high school seniors. Panelists included Alexis Gewertz (Jewish), former Pluralism Project research associate and current program associate at Combined Jewish Philanthropies; Harvard College Students Jessamin Birdsall (Christian) and Na’eel Cajee (Muslim); Inderpreet Singh, a member of the local Sikh community; Ajahn Mangkone Sananikone, a Buddhist monk from Wat Buddhabhavana in Westford, MA; Prof. Jason Giannetti from Regis College in Weston, MA representing Hinduism; and PJ Andrews (Baha’i), Pluralism Project research associate. This event was organized by the Billerica Public Schools and Billerica CARES.
On Friday, March 26, 2010, fifteen representatives of various religious traditions participated in a panel discussion at the World Parliament of Religions day at Fenway High School in Boston. The panelists included Pluralism Project Research Associate Zachary Ugolnik (Eastern Orthodox); Alex Kern (Quaker), director of Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries; Harpreet Singh (Sikh), Harvard PhD student; and Rev. Hyunoh Kim of the Won-Buddhist Temple in Somerville. For the first part of the day, each of the representatives met with students who had studied their respective traditions in their coursework. In a second eighty-minute session, representatives conversed with small group of students that changed every ten minutes in an exercise called “Speed Faithing.” Each representative provided an insider’s introduction to his or her faith and answered students’ questions on the history, beliefs, and practices of that tradition. The event concluded with an assembly where participants spoke briefly on how their tradition responds to issues of social justice. Susanna Hall, a Fenway High School Humanities Team Teacher and a long-time friend of the Pluralism Project, was instrumental in organizing the event.
Pluralism Project Welcomes Recent Alumna Stephanie Saldaña for Book Reading
On Friday, February 19, 2010, the Pluralism Project co-sponsored a reading with Stephanie Saldaña from her recently published book, The Bread of Angels: A Journey to Love and Faith. Stephanie is a recent alumna of the Pluralism Project and Harvard Divinity School. The book explores the year of her Fulbright fellowship in Damascus, Syria, where she sets out to explore the role of the Prophet Jesus in Islam against the backdrop of the US-led war in Iraq. As she struggles with her own sense of vocation, she meets a French novice monk who becomes her companion along the way. Stephanie read passages from her book, and conversed with the audience on the themes of hospitality, inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue, vocation, and love. The event, which drew nearly 50 people, was co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of World Religions, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies Outreach Center, Harvard Divinity School Alumni Relations, and the Pluralism Project.
Pluralism Project Co-Sponsors Harvard College in Asia Program Conference
From January 30 – February 6, 2010 the Harvard College in Asia Program hosted its annual conference on the theme of Social Entrepreneurship: Innovation, Service and Empowerment, which was co-sponsored by the Pluralism Project. The conference was attended by six student delegations from universities in Turkey, Singapore, Korea, Japan, China, and India, and is part of a larger exchange between Harvard students in HCAP and students from Asia. On Thursday, February 4,the Pluralism Project hosted a dinner discussion that explored “the role of diversity, pluralism, and globalization in how individuals can achieve social change.” Dr. Diana Eck, who is also a faculty advisor to HCAP, moderated the discussion and invited reflections from the Project’s special guests: Rev. Kim, founder and priest of the Won Buddhism of Boston center in Somerville; Mr. Ibrahim Sayar, the director of the Boston Dialogue Foundation; and Fatih Degirmenci, the Vice President of the Harvard Dialogue Forum. Throughout the week, Pluralism Project Research Associate Sarah Harcourt, who is studying religious studies and education at Harvard Divinity School, regularly consulted with students as they undertook a project exploring the cultural values that would inform designing a charter school in their home contexts, and served as a judge for the final project presentations.
Pluralism Project Hosts Faculty Group from the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University
On Thursday, December 3, 2009, the Pluralism Project hosted a group of faculty from the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University. Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre met with Jack Olive, Flora Wilson Bridges, Rabbi Danny Weiner, Mohamed Jawad Khaki, and Laura Ellen Muglia to discuss the history and vision of the Pluralism Project, and to offer feedback on various ideas they have about starting a center at Seattle University. Lohre shared our Case Study Initiative with the group, and introduced them to our field education student, Vaughn Booker, who is researching and writing a case study that takes place in Seattle, and involves a member of their faculty. The discussion was fruitful and mutually enriching.
Pluralism Project Participates in Human Rights Education Conference
On Saturday, November 21, 2009, the Pluralism Project offered a workshop at the “Global Education, Human Rights and the Middle East Region Conference” organized by the Outreach Center at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. This Workshop brought together educator-leaders from around the world in order to explore the “diversity of approaches taken to discussing human rights in the classroom.” It coincided with the annual meeting of the Middle East Studies Association in Boston. Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre taught the session entitled, “Pluralism and Humanizing: From Headlines to Chalkboards,” which provided an overview of the Pluralism Project and our resources, and an introduction to our Case Study Initiative. The session engaged participants in a lively discussion about how to effectively apply the case study method to human rights education.
Michigan Community Scholars Program
On Thursday and Friday, November 19 and 20, 2009, Research Director Ellie Pierce was invited to Ann Arbor by the Michigan Community Scholars Program (MCSP) for screenings of Fremont, USA and a series of conversations about interfaith relations at the University and in the community. On November 19, Ellie joined students in Prof. Jim Crowfoot’s class on “Environment, Religions, Spirituality, and Sustainability” for a case discussion; this was followed by a Campus-Wide Discussion of Interfaith Relations, which included clips from Fremont, USA, student presentations, and small group discussions. That evening, the Ann Arbor District Library hosted a screening of Fremont, USA and a panel discussion of members of various local religious and interfaith organizations. Each participant related the film to their own vision for improving interfaith relations in Ann Arbor. On November 20, the Ann Arbor District Library hosted a second screening of Fremont, USA for a group of faith leaders in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti; this screening was followed by a discussion of the current challenges to interfaith relations, and how to establish better networks of communication and response. Finally, the Michigan Community Scholars Program hosted a small group discussion, facilitated by MCSP student Abby White, about forming a new student committee on interfaith relations.
On Thursday, November 19, 2009, Dr. Diana Eck offered a lecture entitled, “Interfaith: The Most Difficult Dialogues,” as part of the 2009-2010 Addir Fellows Community Lecture Series. The Addir Fellows MIT Interfaith Dialogue Program “brings together thirty students of different faiths to learn from and engage each other in a stimulating environment…[in order] to enhance inter-group relations on the MIT campus, and to deepen individuals’ self-awareness.” It is sponsored by The Office of the Dean for Student Life, the Board of Chaplains, and the Chaplain to the Institute. Dr. Eck’s lecture illustrated the interfaith religious landscape in the US, reflected on various obstacles to interfaith dialogue that she has encountered in her own work, and offered direction for how to continue to engage in difficult dialogues.
Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries 43rd Annual Meeting and Awards Dinner
On Tuesday, November 17, 2009, the Pluralism Project participated in the annual meeting and awards dinner for a local interfaith social action organization, Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries. Over 200 people attended the evening event entitled, ‘Social Change and the Spirituality of Hope: Dialogue and Action in Multifaith America.” Pluralism Project Director Dr. Diana Eck offered remarks on the topic as part of a keynote panel that also included Salwa Abdullah of Masjid Al-Qur’an and Margie Klein of Moishe/Kavod House and Hebrew College Rabbinical School. Staff hosted a Pluralism Project table in the exhibit area, and engaged with interested visitors in questions about our work and mission.
On Friday, November 6, 2009, the Pluralism Project hosted its annual reception and program at the American Academy of Religion. The program focused on “Religion in the New Cosmopolis,” using Boston, Montréal, and other affiliate research sites as a starting point for conversation. Dr. Diana Eck and Research Director Ellie Pierce presented how case studies, documentary film, and our recently relaunched interactive webguide, World Religions in Greater Boston, can be used by teachers, religious and civic leaders, and community activists to build a culture of pluralism. Project Affiliates Dr. Patrice Brodeur and Dr. R. Scott Hanson offered presentations on pluralism in Montréal and Flushing, Queens, New York respectively. Other affiliates, friends, and guests, engaged in lively discussion and networking.
Pluralism Project Co-Sponsors Muslim Women’s Leadership Conference
On Friday, October 30, 2009, the Pluralism Project co-sponsored “Muslim Community Leadership in America: Women’s Challenges in Horizons” at Harvard Divinity School. Other sponsors included the HDS Diversity Fund, the Women’s Studies in Religion Program, the Center for the Study of World Religions, and certain member of the HDS faculty. This student-initiated conference was the brainchild of Celene Ayat Lizzio, an MDiv student who organized this conference as a field education project with the help of her peers. Its purpose was to provide “an opportunity for Harvard affiliates and guests to converse about the contributions of women in the American context to the vitality and diversity of lived Islam…We aim to consider how customs, communal expectations, legal frameworks, and religious pedagogies influence women’s communal empowerment.” Guest speakers included Muslim American women who are or were chaplains, scholars, architects, and Islamic legalists.
Case Study Session with Christian Scholars Group on Christian-Jewish Relations at Boston College
On October 23, 2009, Rabbi Justus Baird, the Director of the Center for Multifaith Education at Auburn Seminary joined Pluralism Project Research Director Elinor Pierce for a case study session at Boston College. Baird and Pierce were guests at the annual meeting of the Christian Scholars Group on Christian-Jewish Relations. The session, which included a robust discussion of the case study “A Sign of Division,” also provided an opportunity to explore how the case method is applied in the teaching of religion and theology. This case looks at the ways in which the Middle East conflict often emerges as a challenge to interfaith relations. Baird’s participation – and consultation on the case initiative – is made possible by a grant on “Teaching Pluralism: Case Studies for the Theological and Religious Studies Classroom” from the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School. Rabbi Baird is currently using Pluralism Project cases in his minimester course at Auburn, “Religious Leadership in a Multifaith World.”
Michigan Educators Teaching Workshop
On Friday, October 23, 2009, the Pluralism Project offered two sessions at the “Michigan Educators Teaching Workshop: Boston Mid-Year Conference” organized by the Outreach Center at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. This Workshop brought together educator-leaders from Flint, Michigan and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to consider “approaches to and understandings of communities in Michigan related to the Middle East region and how to integrate teaching about them in curriculum and resources.” Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre taught both sessions, which provided an overview of the Pluralism Project and our resources, and an introduction to our Case Study Initiative. In an interactive session on the case study method, participants engaged in a discussion utilizing our case: “Driven by Faith or Customer Service? Muslim Taxi Drivers at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport.”
On Monday, October 19, 2009, the Pluralism Project welcomed Mr. Abdulsattar Younus – a leader with La’Onf, a network of nonviolent activists inside of Iraq. After a brief video presentation about the work of La’Onf, Mr. Younus responded to questions about the nature of nonviolent resistance in Iraq, and the relationship of the Iraqi example to other international and historical contexts. Mr. Younus was in the United States to accept the Pfeffer Peace Prize awarded by the Fellowship of Reconciliation – USA. La’Onf had been nominated by Peaceful Tomorrows, “an organization founded by family members of those killed on September 11th who have united to turn [their] grief into action.” Ms. Terry Rockefeller of Peaceful Tomorrows (Arlington, Mass.) and Mr. Tarek El Heneidy of the Fellowship of Reconciliation – USA (Rockport, Mass.) accompanied Mr. Younus at our meeting.
On October 10, 2009, the Pluralism Project co-sponsored a screening of New Muslim Cool at the Sackler Museum at Harvard University. Directed by Jennifer Maytorena Taylor, this film tells the true life story of Hamza Pérez, a Puerto Rican American hip hop artist who converted to Islam at age 21. Before the screening, the Sackler Museum offered extended hours for the special exhibit, Sacred Spaces: The World of Dervishes, Fakirs and Sufis. After the film, Hamza Pérez answered questions from the nearly 300 students, faculty, staff, religious leaders, and community members in attendance. Dr. Diana L. Eck, director of the Pluralism Project; Ray Williams, director of Education, Harvard Art Museums and Pluralism Project Affiliate; and Dr. Ali Asani, associate director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Islamic Studies Program also offered their reflections on the film.
On Friday, July 31, the Pluralism Project hosted a preview launch of World Religions in Greater Boston, fifth edition. The symposium featured the work of our webmaster, Ryan Overbey, who built the new user interface, and our summer interns who provided updates for the new directory and multi-media content. The symposium was held at Harvard’s Barker Center for the Humanities, and guests included religious and lay leaders from a diverse range of communities and centers, as well as Harvard faculty, friends of the Project, and funders from The Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. World Religions in Greater Boston features a new online user interface with updated audio-visual content, interactive maps, a near-comprehensive directory of religious centers and organizations, a searchable news database, links to introductory materials, and resources by tradition.
On Saturday, July 11, 1009, the Pluralism Project hosted participants in the “Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Boston Immersion Course” sponsored by the Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit, Michigan in collaboration with Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries (CMM) and Episcopal Divinity School (EDS). The Sustaining Pastoral Excellence (SPE) program is funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., and it “enables a broad spectrum of institutions from a wide variety of denominations in many geographical regions to honor and support pastoral leaders.” The visit to the Pluralism Project, as part of an eight-day itinerary throughout Boston, was an opportunity to discuss “Pastoral Excellence in a Religiously Pluralistic City, Nation, and World,” and to highlight Pluralism Project research both in Detroit, as well as in other multi-religious cities in the US.
Pluralism Project Participates in Conference on Educating Religious Leaders
On June 15-16, 2009, the Pluralism Project participated in a conference on “Educating Christian, Jewish, & Muslim Leaders in an Age of Religious Diversity,” which took place on the neighboring campuses of Andover Newton Theological School & Hebrew College. Organized by the Boston Theological Institute, Hartford Seminary, the Interreligious Center on Public Life, the Islamic Council of New England, and the Massachusetts Council of Churches, this event sought to initiate a conversation among faculty and administrators from New England institutions about how to “best educate future religious leaders for service in a world of religious diversity.” Two Pluralism Project summer interns, Josh Daneshforooz and Claire Droste, attended along with Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre. Dr. Diana Eck participated in a public panel program on “Religious Identity in an Age of Religious Diversity” with Rabbi Arthur Green of Hebrew College and Dr. Abdel-Rahman Mohamed of the Islamic Council of New England. The conference is the first in a series of events designed for area scholars, community leaders, and activists to explore these issues, including a national conference that will be held in April 2010. This effort is supported by generous grants from the Fetzer Institute and the Henry Luce Foundation.
On June 13, 2009, the Pluralism Project co-sponsored a screening and discussion of The Mosque in Morgantown at Harvard University. Directed by Boston-based filmmaker Brittany Huckabee, this documentary explores journalist Asra Nomani’s controversial campaign against what she believes are warning signs of Islamic extremism in her local mosque in Morgantown, West Virginia: the exclusion of women, an intolerance towards non-believers, and a growing suspicion of the West. After the screening, Dr. Diana L. Eck moderated a discussion on the film with Brittany Huckabee; Dr. Jocelyne Cesari, director of the Islam in the West Program; and Dr. Leila Ahmed, the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School. The Mosque in Morgantown premiered nationwide on PBS on June 15, 2009. The event was co-sponsored by the Pluralism Project, Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries, and the Islam in the West Program at Harvard University.
On May 22, 2009, the Pluralism Project hosted a State Department delegation from Sweden. The group included two representatives from Swedish Muslims for Peace and Justice; a youth immigrant contact who helps new immigrants navigate issues of religious difference and assimilation in a secular Swedish society; and the chairman of the Kista Folk High School Association, an advocate for Swedish Muslim equality. A lively conversation with the diverse delegation centered on issues of interfaith relations, perceptions of Islam, and Muslim life in the United States. After their visit to Boston, the delegation traveled to Washington, D.C. to continue their discussions on the political, social and educational issues affecting American Muslims.
On May 15, 2009, the Pluralism Project sponsored the U.S. premiere of the short documentary film, La Trappe. Directed by Harvard Divinity School student Lina Verchery (MDiv ’10), this film explores the surprising connection between the French-speaking Acadian lobster fishermen of Chéticamp and their neighbors: the Buddhist monks and nuns of Gampo Abbey, Shambhala's monastic headquarters. Although seemingly divided by language, culture and religion, these two communities nevertheless share more than meets the eye. The film was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Diana L. Eck. Panelists included Dr. Christopher Queen, lecturer on the Study of Religion at Harvard University; Frank Reynolds, former resident of Gampo Abbey; and Lina Verchery, director of La Trappe. This event was sponsored by the Pluralism Project in partnership with Alliance Française, Boston Shambhala Center, Consulate General of Boston, Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries, and French Consulate of Boston.
Celebrating its 80th anniversary, the Religion Communicators Council National Convention took place in Boston March 26-28, 2009. The convention theme, “Identity Amid Diversity,” was explored through a keynote address by Dr. Richard Parker of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Breakout sessions focused on branding, messaging, and “nurtur[ing] strong identity while creating vibrant and mutually productive partnerships across religious and cultural lines.” The Pluralism Project hosted an exhibition table throughout the convention, and Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre offered a presentation on Saturday, March 28 about how to enhance the religious diversity represented by media, highlighting our Religious Diversity News database, and Fremont, USA.
On March 5, 2009, the Pluralism Project cosponsored the premiere of its new documentary film, Fremont, U.S.A.: A City’s Encounter with Religious Diversity at Harvard University. Produced and directed by Rachel Antell and Elinor Pierce, this film explores the complex and challenging issues of religious diversity in small California city transformed by new immigration. Using the themes explored in Fremont, U.S.A. as a starting point, Dr. Diana L. Eck, Pluralism Project director, moderated a lively panel discussion on civic engagement and interfaith action in Greater Boston. Special guest panelists included Rev. Cheng Imm Tan, director, Mayor's Office of New Bostonians; M. Bilal Kaleem, executive director, Muslim American Society - Boston Chapter; and Alexander Levering Kern, executive director, Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries. The film, discussion, and reception were well attended by University students, faculty, Pluralism Project researchers, local religious and civic leaders, and members of the diverse faith communities of Greater Boston.
2009 Costas Consultation: Mission and Multiple Religious Belonging
On February 27, 2009, the Pluralism Project participated in the 2009 Costas Consultation on Global Mission sponsored by the schools of the Boston Theological Institute and hosted by the Episcopal Divinity School. This year's theme was “Mission and Multiple Religious Belonging.” Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre offered a workshop with Dr. Timothy Tennent, Professor of World Missions and Indian Studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary on the topic of “Multiple Belonging in the Age of Pluralism.” Other workshop topics included mystical paths, inter-religious religiousity, and the politics of multiple belonging. A keynote address was given by Joe Montville of George Mason University.
Introduction to the Pluralism Project, Sponsored by the Harvard College Freshmen Dean’s Office
On November 13, 2008, Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre gave an introductory presentation about the Pluralism Project to a group of freshmen students at Harvard College. The event, sponsored by the Harvard College Freshmen Dean's Office, was intended to introduce first year students to research opportunities at the Pluralism Project, as well as to provide an overview of our history, current research initiatives, and World Religions in Boston project. The event was attended by staff of the Freshmen Dean's Office and a dozen students, many of whom remarked that they were excited to learn about research opportunities in the humanities, as opposed to the many opportunities that are presented to them in the sciences.
World Council of Churches-US Conference Decade to Overcome Violence Committee
On October 20, 2008, the Pluralism Project hosted members of the World Council of Churches - US Conference Decade to Overcome Violence Committee. “The Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace 2001 – 2010 (DOV) is an initiative of the World Council of Churches. It is a global movement that strives to strengthen existing efforts and networks for preventing and overcoming violence, as well as inspire the creation of new ones.” The US Committee seeks to make these efforts visible and vital to the lives of churches in the United States. Guests included Rev. Deborah DeWinter, programme executive of the WCC-US Conference; Rev. Rothang Chhangte, Director of Ecumenical Formation, American Baptist Churches USA; Rev. Loey Powell, Co-Team Leader of the Cleveland-Based Team, Justice and Witness Minsitries, United Church of Christ; and Phil Jones, Director of the Church of the Brethren Witness/Washington Office. The meeting, which sought to identify synergies between the work of the DOV and the Pluralism Project, focused primarily on the importance of teaching children and young adults positive peacebuilding skills through a variety of ecumenical and interfaith programs and projects.
Father Nicholas Rundle, Mission Australia
On October 16, 2008, the Pluralism Project hosted Father Nicholas Rundle, a Senior Chaplain with Mission Australia. Father Rundle was in the United States to learn more about how Mission Australia might provide a more “faith friendly” environment for staff through programs, policies, and practices. Father Rundle then went on to Detroit, Michigan to visit the leaders of the Ford Interfaith Network at the Ford Motor Company to learn about their model.
“On Faith” Symposium at Harvard
On September 23, 2008, the Pluralism Project participated in a one-day symposium sponsored by the Harvard chaplains called “On Faith at Harvard.” The symposium explored the question of the role of religion at Harvard, and in higher education in general. The Pluralism Project offered a presentation entitled “Engaging Religious Difference,” which included a sneak-peak of our new documentary film, Fremont, USA. Highlights of the day included an interfaith Iftaar sponsored by the Harvard Islamic Society and a keynote address by journalist Sally Quinn.
Crisis in Faith: Zoroastrians Today
On April 18, 2008, the Pluralism Project hosted a partial screening and panel discussion of Tenaz Dubash's documentary film, Crisis in Faith: Zoroastrians Today at Harvard Divinity School. Crisis in Faith is a personal journey about Tenaz's quest for the truth around the controversies facing followers of her faith today, focusing on the dwindling number of Zoroastrians worldwide and the treatment of Zoroastrians as a religious minority in Iran. The film was shot in Boston, Chicago, Iran, India, New York, and Vancouver. Tenaz was present for a panel discussion with scholars Dina McIntyre (retired lawyer and member of the Zoroastrian community), Dr. Oktor Skjaervo (Harvard University), Dr. Nasswan Dossabhoy (Harvard Zoroastrian Association & Endicott College) and Dr. Diana Eck (Harvard University & The Pluralism Project). The event was co-sponsored by the Pluralism Project, ZAGBA (Zoroastrian Association of the Greater Boston Area), and the Zoroastrian Associations of Harvard and MIT.
Interfaith and Inter-religious Dialogue at Connecticut College
On April 9, 2008, Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre joined former interns Kate DeConinck and Nour Goda for an evening of sharing and discussion on Interfaith and Inter-religious Dialogue at Connecticut College. The event was sponsored by the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life at Connecticut College, and was hosted by the Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life, Claudia Highbaugh. Kathryn gave an introductory presentation about the Pluralism Project, including our work on World Religions in Boston (WRB). Kate and Nour each presented their summer research that contributed to the Hinduism, Islam, and Interfaith sections of WRB, and current research associate and Connecticut College alumna Kimberly Richards presented her work on Religious Diversity News. The event, which included an international dinner and table discussions, was well attended by students, faculty, and staff.
A Dream in Doubt
On March 19, 2008, the Pluralism Project co-sponsored a screening of the documentary, A Dream in Doubt, presented by the Harvard Graduate School of Education Diversity Innovation Fund and the Committee on the Study of Religion. The film’s producer, Preetmohan Singh, Deputy Director of Public Policy at the Interfaith Alliance in Washington, D.C. was present. This award-winning documentary explores the fate of the Sikh-American community in Phoenix, Arizona in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks. It features Rana Sodhi, an Indian immigrant whose turban and beard—articles of his Sikh faith—now symbolize America’s new enemy. More information about the film can be found at: www.adreamindoubt.org
Pluralism Project Hosts State Department Delegation from India
On March 13, 2008, the Pluralism Project hosted a State Department delegation from India. The delegation, which was dedicated to exploring interfaith dialogue in the United States, made stops in Washington DC, Houston, Los Angeles, and Louisville before coming to Boston. The group included a professor of Arabic Studies; a president of a peace council that advocates for a modern, secular Islam; a director of several educational institutions that focus on public health issues; and a businessman who promotes education for Muslim children. After meeting with Diana Eck and Pluralism Project staff, they also attended Dr. Eck's course, “Hindu Myth, Image and Pilgrimage,” and visited the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School.
Advanced Screening of Constantine's Sword
On March 5, 2008, the Pluralism Project was one of ten cosponsors of an advanced screening of James Carroll's Constantine's Sword, a documentary film directed by Oren Jacoby. According to the film's website,"Constantine's Sword is a compelling personal narrative - a kind of detective story - as one man uncovers the dark areas of his own past, searching for a better future." Author and Boston Globe columnist James Carroll, who co-produced the film, was present to answer questions following the screening, which took place at Boston University. Organized by Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries, the screening was also co-sponsored by the American Jewish Committee Greater Boston Chapter, Boston Theological Institute, Brandeis University Interfaith Chaplaincy and BUILD Fellows Program, Hebrew College, Jewish Community Relations Committee, Marsh Chapel at Boston University, Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, the Massachusetts Council of Churches, the Paulist Center, and the RUAH Spirituality Institute.
Religious Pluralism in a Time of Extremism: The Campus Responds
On March 2, 2008, the Pluralism Project participated in a day-long conference at Tufts University entitled, “Religious Pluralism in a Time of Extremism: The Campus Responds.” Keynote speakers included Diana L. Eck, Mohammed Abu-Nimer, and Marc Gopin; Victor Kazanjian moderated their discussion on the topic of “The Imperative for Sustaining Dialogue in Difficult Times.” Workshops were led by students, faculty, community leaders and activists from organizations in Greater Boston and around the country, and focused on interfaith dialogue, social action, leadership skills, and the media. Pluralism Project Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre screened our documentary film “Acting on Faith: Women's New Religious Activism in America” in one workshop. This conference was hosted by the Campus Dialogues Program, and marked the culmination of a two-year partnernship among campuses at Tufts University, Wellesley College, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brandeis University, and the University of Maryland, and supported by the Department of Homeland Security. The goal of the Campus Dialogues Program is to “support the development, implementation, and refinement of programs aimed at reducing intergroup tensions among university students of different religions in the United States.”
The Mosque in Morgantown
On December 11, 2007, the Pluralism Project sponsored a rough cut screening of the film, The Mosque in Morgantown, for a select audience of students and scholars. This documentary chronicles the conflict that arises in small-town West Virginia when Asra Nomani, a Muslim feminist, challenges women’s roles at the local mosque. It captures the stories of Nomani and other mosque members as they struggle to shape the future of their community. The film is an entry for viewers into questions about Islam in America, women in Islam, and what it means to be a “moderate” Muslim in America. At the screening, discussion was moderated by Director/Producer Brittany Huckabee, principal of Version One Productions, Inc., and Associate Producer Ann Kim, graduate of Harvard College. The film is scheduled to premiere in fall 2008.
On November 5, 2007, the Pluralism Project convened a case studies workshop at the Center for the Study of World Religions. Twenty Harvard faculty and doctoral candidates from Harvard Graduate School, Harvard Divinity School and the Kennedy School of Government participated in a workshop on the case study method. As an example, Dr. Eck utilized the case developed by our senior researcher, Ellie Pierce, entitled “A Mosque in Palos Heights.” This case explores the problems and promise of pluralism in Palos Heights, Illinois where a mosque foundation was offered $200,000 by the city council to walk away from a real estate deal with a local church. Many thanks to the Center for the Study of World Religions for their sponsorship of this important work and their gracious hospitality in hosting this workshop.
On the afternoon of November 5, 2007, Mayor Dean Koldenhoven, former mayor of Palos Heights, Illinois spoke with a gathering of about thirty Harvard students at the Center for the Study of World Religions. He is the protagonist in the forthcoming case study, “A Mosque in Palos Heights,” described above. Many of the students who attended this event are part of Dr. Eck’s “Religion in Multicultural America: Case Studies in Religious Pluralism” course this semester, where this case study was examined. Mayor Koldenhoven brought to life his role in the mosque controversy: against popular opinion, he supported the mosque foundation’s plans to purchase a local church. In 2002, he received a John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award for his actions. We are grateful to Mayor Dean Koldenhoven for traveling from Palos Heights, Illinois to speak with us and to the Center for the Study of World Religions for sponsoring and hosting this event.
On September 28-29, 2007, we held a seminar on "Women's Interfaith Initiatives After 9/11" at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Women who established selected women's interfaith organizations formed after 9/11 were invited to join us, our faculty colleagues, and women from other religious and interfaith organizations, for two days of presentations and discussion. In addition, we explored the models and methodologies at play, and considered the relationship of these new organizations to the women's and interfaith movements. We are very grateful to the Radcliffe Institute for making this exploratory seminar possible, and to all of the participants who invested their time and energy towards new collaborations.
On August 1, 2007, our summer interns presented their work on revising and updating World Religions in Boston: A Guide to Communities and Resources in a research symposium held at Harvard's Barker Center for the Humanities. Guests at the symposium included religious and lay leaders from the many religious communities and centers that were profiled, as well as Harvard faculty and friends of the Project. The symposium was covered in The Boston Globe.
TIDE: The Wave of Change Conference
On June 26, 2007, the Pluralism Project sponsored a day-long conference organized by Interfaith Action’s Youth Leadership Program in Sharon, Massachusetts. This day-long conference, called “Teenage Interfaith Diversity Education (TIDE): The Wave of Change Conference,” was held at Harvard Divinity School. High school youth from Sharon led workshops, activities, and dialogue sessions designed to equip other youth participants with the skills they need to engage with religious difference in their own communities. While most participants were from the Greater Boston area, there were also participants from New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Maine, and Rhode Island. There was a simultaneous track for adults accompanying these youth, either as youth leaders or as parents/guardians.
Interfaith Academies for Religious Leaders
In late June 2007, Ellie Pierce, senior researcher at the Pluralism Project, traveled to Kansas City, Missouri for the Interfaith Academies for Religious Leaders. These academies, which were a collaborative effort of The Pluralism Project, Religions for Peace-USA, Saint Paul School of Theology, and the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, were an opportunity for religious leaders and emerging religious leaders alike to learn more about other faiths and engaging across faith traditions. Ellie taught a case study she has written on Palos Heights, Illinois.
Sikh-ing Harmony: An Evening of Art, Music, Film, and Dialogue
On April 11, 2007, the Pluralism Project co-sponsored an event with the Sikh Council on Religion and Education and The Dialogue Forum. “Sikh-ing Harmony: An Evening of Art, Music, Film and Dialogue Reflecting on the Experience of Sikh-Americans in a Post-9/11 Era” featured photography by Gabriel Brown, Sartaj Singh’s film, “Sikh on the Street,” and the children’s kirtan group from the Milford Gurdwara. The Sikh-ing Harmony photography exhibit documents a day in the life of Satnam Singh, who lives and works in the Boston area. The exhibit will remain at the Pluralism Project as a permanent installation, and you can also view it online as a slide show.
Islam: Scholarship and Practice in the United States
On March 1, 2007, the Pluralism Project hosted a State Department delegation of scholars from Egypt, Jordan, and Syria at Harvard University. Their visit was a continuation of a study-tour which began last year titled, “Islam: Scholarship and Practice in the United States.” Led by Father Nabil Haddad, executive director of the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center in Amman, Jordan, and sponsored by WorldBoston, the tour also made stops in DC and Philadelphia. The tour aims to convey an understanding of the role of religion in American public life; to broaden awareness of the study of religion, specifically Islam, in the United States; and to explore the compatibility of religious practice and democratic processes in a multi-religious society. During their visit with the Pluralism Project, they were particularly interested in the role academia plays in influencing the American media's portrayal of Islam. For more information about the delegation's visit to the United States, visit http://www.worldboston.org/Imams.htm
On October 13, 2006, The Pluralism Project and the Women’s Studies in Religion Program co-sponsored “Jerusalem Women Speak: Three Women, Three Faiths, One Shared Vision.” This event, held at Harvard Divinity School, brought together three women from Israel/Palestine to share their stories, their struggles, and their hopes. Speakers included Ghada Ageel, a Muslim Palestinian from Khan Younis Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip; Shireen Khamis, a Christian Palestinian from Beit Jala in the West Bank; and Rela Mazali, a Jewish Israeli from Herzila on Israel’s Mediterranean Coast. Jerusalem Women Speak is an annual tour coordinated by Partners for Peace.
Approximately 10 of the 57 quilts, representing a range of faith traditions, will be on display in Andover Chapel at HDS from Monday, October 2, through mid-December 2006, and may be viewed when the chapel is free of classes and other group meetings. The Pluralism Project has been a partner and supporter of the Faith Quilts Project. Read more at our report on the Grand Exhibition of the Faith Quilts in April 2006.. Andover Chapel is located on the second floor of Andover Hall on the campus of Harvard Divinity School. For more on the Faith Quilts, visit www.faithquilts.org. For more on Religious and Spiritual Life at Harvard Divinity School, please visit www.hds.harvard.edu/spiritual/index.html. Finally, for directions to HDS, please visit www.hds.harvard.edu/about_hds/directions.html.
The Pluralism Project has partnered with StoryCorps, the "national project to instruct and inspire people to record each others' stories in sound," to include stories from diverse faith traditions in Boston. This massive oral history project now includes recordings of Research Associate Deonnie Moodie interviewing Affiliate Valarie Kaur on growing up Sikh in America, and Dr. Imam Talal Eid and his daughter Feda Eid on being Muslim in the U.S. You may listen to these and other stories from Bostonians online if you missed them when they aired on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. Other participants included: Vijay Yanamadala and Neel Butala, of Dharma, Harvard's Hindu organization; Imam Salih Yucel of the Boston Dialogue Foundation, and his daughter, Esma Yucel; Dr. Nasswan Dossabhoy and Parastu Dubash, of the Zoroastrian Association of Greater Boston; Ji Hyang Sunim, the Buddhist Chaplain at Wellesley, and her friend Alex Tsouvalas; Kumar Nochur and Saraswathy Nochur, of the Sri Lakshmi Temple in Ashland, MA; and Anjuli Dhindhwal and Chris Byrnes, Harvard Divinity School students and Pluralism Project Research Associates.
On August 15, 2006, the summer research of our student staff and summer interns culminated in a research symposium held at Harvard's Barker Center for the Humanities. An intense morning of presentations covered a wide range of topics including Muslim artists and activism, religious pluralism in Malaysia and Indonesia, faith bloggers, the role of the New York City Council regarding religious pluralism, women's interfaith initiatives and more. Reports on the ICNA-MAS, Kaur Voices, JAINA and Young Global Leaders conferences were also presented.
On Thursday, July 6, 2006, the Pluralism Project hosted a delegation from India and Bangladesh as part of the U.S. Department of State's International Visitor Leadership Program. The participants included religious leaders such as imams and principals of madrassahs, as well as teachers and community leaders who are interested in questions of religious pluralism, Islam in America, and the study of religion. The guests were particularly interested in how religious pluralism in India compares to religious pluralism in America. The delegation was in the U.S. from June 17 - July 8.
On May 8, 2006 the Pluralism Project hosted a State Department visit with guests from Jordan and Egypt, many of whom were imams. Their study-tour was on the topic "Islam: Scholarship and Practice in the United States." The visit was born out of an initiative in interfaith dialogue that was started by Father Nabil Haddad, executive director of the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center in Amman, Jordan. The purpose of the tour, which included Boston, Washington DC, Detroit and Dearborn, Michigan, was to explore the role of religion and Islam in public life; to broaden understanding about the importance of religious study in the US; and to examine the compatibility of religious practice and democratic processes in a multi-religious society. Other delegations will be sent in August 2006 and in January and May 2007. Note: Syrian participants were unable to enter the United States.
On May 6-7, 2006, the Pluralism Project hosted a preview and director's cut screening of Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath at the Harvard Film Archive. Writer/Producer Valarie Kaur, an affiliate of the Pluralism Project and a master's candidate at Harvard Divinity School, and Director/Producer Sharat Raju were on hand to answer audience questions. The auditorium of the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts was filled to capacity with artists, academics, activists, and citizens from around greater Boston. The film premiered on September 15, 2006 in Phoenix, Arizona.
On May 2, 2006, Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur and Sarah Eltantawi joined the Pluralism Project for a luncheon discussion. Abdul-Ghafur is the editor of LIVING ISLAM OUT LOUD: American Muslim Women Speak, a book which features 15 American Muslim women dealing with the complexities of forging their own identities while playing powerful roles in public life. Sarah Eltantawi contributed to the book and is a cofounder of the Progressive Muslim Union of North America and from 2001-2004 served as Communications Director for the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Washington, DC. The speakers drew out a lively discussion among the large group convened to hear from and about Muslim women who “don’t remember a time when they weren’t both American and Muslim.” As Saleemah put it, “Now more than ever, the world needs to hear our voices.”
Voices of Liberal Islam in Indonesia
On April 17, 2006, the Pluralism Project sponsored an interfaculty luncheon discussion titled “Voices of Liberal Islam in Indonesia” with two young and prominent Islamic thinkers, Ulil Abshar Abdallah and Sukhidi Mulyadi. Abdallah is the founder of Liberal Islam Network, a leading Islamic organization which promotes the notion of a liberal Islam in Indonesia. In 2002 Abdallah and members of the organization were given a fatwa death sentence by Javanese clerics due to their writings on pluralism. Abdallah is currently pursuing graduate studies at Boston University. Mulyadi is an affiliate of the Liberal Islam Network, and he is currently a doctoral student at Harvard. Mulyadi has published extensively in Indonesian as well as international journals. Their presentations provoked lively discussion that touched upon topics like the role of shari'ah and the state, the role of Islam in Indonesia, and religious pluralism.
Chandra Muzaffar Lecture on “Emergent Asia: Whither Religion?”
On April 4, 2006, the Pluralism Project co-sponsored a talk by Chandra Muzaffar at Harvard Divinity School's Center for the Study of World Religions entitled, “Emergent Asia: Whither Religion?” Dr. Muzaffar is a leading human rights activist, author, and teacher. He is the president of the International Movement for a Just World, an NGO in Kuala Lumpur that addresses the challenges to social justice and human dignity in global politics. His latest book is Global Ethic or Global Hegemony? During his Cambridge visit, Dr. Muzaffar also participated in a dinner seminar with students and faculty on “Religious Pluralism in Malaysia.”
Christian Palestinian Peacemaker Jean Zaru Visits Cambridge
On April 2, 2006, Jean Zaru, the presiding clerk of the Ramallah Friends meeting in Ramallah, visited Cambridge to speak at Memorial Church. She also met with a group convened by the Pluralism Project for a luncheon discussion. She is a founding member of Sabeel, an ecumenical liberation theology center in Jerusalem, and the author of A Christian Palestinian Life: Faith and Struggle. In 2003, she participated in the Pluralism Project's conference on “Women, Religion, and Social Change II” as part of our Women’s Networks initiative.
On March 2, 2006, the Pluralism Project co-sponsored an event with the Kennedy School of Government's Women in Public Policy Program and the Islam in the West Project entitled, “Emerging Forms of Muslim Women’s Leadership.” The featured speakers included Sarah Eltantawi, media commentator on American Muslim affairs and Middle East policy and doctoral student in religious studies at Harvard University and Raheel Raza, author of Their Jihad...Not My Jihad!: A Muslim Canadian Woman Speaks Out. Ms. Raza was also the first Muslim woman to lead congregational Friday prayers in Canada. In a Q&A session, the participants explored questions of Muslim women's leadership. A reception and book signing followed the discussion, which drew more than 75 people from the Harvard community and the greater Boston area.
Security and Civil Rights: Muslim Army Chaplain James Yee
On February 28, 2006, former Muslim Chaplain and U.S. Army Captain James Yee spoke at Harvard, sponsored by the Harvard Islamic Society, the Asian-Pacific Law Students Association, and the Pluralism Project. Chaplain Yee served at Guantanamo Bay and spoke of the challenges of learning first-hand about abuses. He responded by authoring policies designed to respect religious rights and security needs. He was accused of espionage and held in solitary confinement; eventually all charges were dropped and his record was cleared. His recent book is entitled For God and Country.
Eastern Religions Come to Western Pennsylvania
On February 10, 2006, the Pluralism Project welcomed affiliate Dr. Stuart Chandler of Indiana University of Pennsylvania to present on his work, "Eastern Religions Come to Western Pennsylvania." This interfaculty event was co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School. Dr. Chandler's project, which is printed in booklet form, was also completed as an exhibition organized by the University Museum, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, in partnership with the Center for the Study of Religion in Pennsylvania and The Pluralism Project at Harvard University.
Salman Ahmad South Asian Quake Benefit
On November 29, 2005, the Pluralism Project co-hosted Salman Ahmad at Harvard for a South Asian Quake Benefit. Ahmad, the lead singer in South Asia's biggest rock band, Junoon, screened It's My Country Too!, his new film about Muslims in America after 9/11. After the screening, a benefit concert for victims and survivors of the South Asian earthquake was held in the Memorial Church at Harvard. Ahmad played a range of music from Sufi-rock to Pakistani folk songs. His stories about his recent trip to the earthquake-torn regions of Pakistan inspired the Harvard community to raise over $7,000 for the Edhi Foundation earthquake relief efforts. The event was co-sponsored by the South Asia Initiative, Office of the Arts, Sanskrit & Indian Studies, Islam in the West Program, Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard Divinity School, South Asian Association, Dharma, Harvard Islamic Society, Harvard College Interfaith Council, and the Harvard Foundation.
November 19, 2005: Pluralism Project Bus Tour to various religious centers in Philadelphia
November 20, 2005: Pluralism Project reception
On August 10, 2005, the Pluralism Project hosted a summer research symposium at its new office on Cambridge Street. Presentations included reports on the intelligent design debates, the air force academy discrimination allegations, and interfaith chapels at various airports across the country. Other research included profiles of local religious centers, and summaries of the top religious diversity news stories from the summer.
Faith and Service: An Interfaith Perspective
On May 17, 2005, the Pluralism Project hosted H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living Foundation, one of the world's largest NGOs, active in over 140 countries. H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar also established the International Association for Human Values (IAHV), which has development projects in 25,300 villages, bringing self-reliance to millions of people. Director Diana Eck moderated a panel discussion following his talk; panelists included Rev. Dr. Dorothy Austin, Dr. Ali Asani, Dr. Francis X. Clooney, S.J. and Bernie Steinberg, president and director of Harvard Hillel.
On April 25, 2005, we premiered a documentary film produced and directed by one of our affiliates, Rachel Antell, and narrated by Dr. Diana L. Eck called Acting on Faith: Women’s New Religious Activism in America. The film was developed out of the conversations that have taken place in our women's networks over the years. It features Dr. Shamita Das Dasgupta, co-founder of Manavi, Inc.; Dr. Leila Al-Marayati, spokesperson for Muslim Women's League; and Mushim Ikeda-Nash, former chairperson of the San Francisco Zen Center Board Committee on Diversity and Multiculturalism and diversity facilitator.
On April 4, 2005, the Pluralism Project hosted an interfaculty luncheon with Baroness Julia Neuberger DBE, rabbi and health care policy expert. Neuberger spoke of her experiences on the commission that reported on Islamophobia in the UK. The conversation included topics such as race relations legislation in the UK, religious schools, and religiously diverse hospital chaplaincies.
February 16, 2005, at the Barker Center, Harvard University
November 19, 2004: Pluralism Project reception
November 20, 2004: Pluralism Project Bus Tour to various religious centers in San Antonio
September 13, 2004, at the Holeman Lounge, National Press Club, Washington, D.C.
February – April 2004, Harvard University
November 21-22, 2003, in conjunction with the American Academy of Religion Annual Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.
October–November 2003, Harvard University
October 15, 2003, at the Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard University
November 22-23, 2002, in conjunction with the American Academy of Religion Annual Conference in Toronto, Canada.
October 16, 2002, at the Barker Center, Harvard University
April 27–29, 2002, at the Barker Center, Harvard University, and the John F. Kennedy School of Government
November 2, 2001, at The Harvard Club of New York
October 23, 2001, at the Barker Center, Harvard University
April 28-29, 2001, at the Barker Center, Harvard University
Interfaculty Working Group, 2000–2001
September 2000 – May 2001, Harvard University
June 26–August 4, 2000, at Harvard University
November 18–20, 1999, at the Barker Center, Harvard University
In February 1999, the Pluralism Project was awarded a grant from the Ford Foundation to enable us to host a consultation on religious discrimination and accommodation. This consultation, held May 17 at Harvard University, brought together representatives from advocacy groups of America’s diverse religious traditions. Dr. Diana L. Eck, Project Director and Professor of Comparative Religions, moderated the lively conversation. Topics included religious needs and issues of discrimination in the “public square,” including the workplace, hospitals, and schools.