Washington, D.C.

Pierre L’Enfant envisioned the nation’s capital in 1791, creating a plan that included a network of tree-lined streets, traffic circlesIn some Pagan traditions, a “circle” refers to the people who gather for a ritual. When standing in a circle, all the participants are able to see each other, with no one member elevated over any other. This practice is often felt to encourage egalita..., and monumental buildings, as well as a national place of worship, the National Cathedral. However, this French city planner and engineer could not have envisaged the religious reality that would emerge in Washington. Today, not far from the Gothic spires of the National Cathedral rises the minaretThe minaret is a tower often built to adorn a mosque, from which the call to prayer may be sounded. of the “National MosqueMasjid (plural masajid) in Arabic means “place of prostration,” or the place where Muslims bow in prayer; in English, this word has become “mosque.” A masjid contains a prayer hall in which there is a mihrab or prayer niche, and a minbar or pulpit...,” the Islamic CenterAn Islamic center will typically include a mosque, school, and area for social and cultural activities. When a new Islamic center is being organized in the United States, attention is paid to community needs, including a weekend or full-time school, indic... of Washington, D.C. Between the spires and the minaret one can see the domes of St. Nicholas Cathedral of the OrthodoxIn general, orthodox means having a “correct opinion or outlook” and is a term used by people in many religions who claim authority for traditional views and forms of their religion. ChurchThe term church has come to wide use to refer to the organized and gathered religious community. In the Christian tradition, church refers to the organic, interdependent “body” of Christ’s followers, the community of Christians. Secondarily, church ... in America and St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral. The mosque and the Orthodox cathedrals are located on “Embassy Row,” the section of Massachusetts Avenue on which diverse and distinctive architectural styles symbolize the international dimensions of the city.

On nearby Michigan Avenue towers the Romanesque-Byzantine Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Roman Catholic ChurchThe Roman Catholic Church, often referred to as the Catholic Church, is the largest of the major streams of Christianity. It claims the authority of Christian tradition dating to the time of the apostles. Its representative and interpreter is the Pope, th... in the United States. It houses over seventy chapelA chapel is a place of worship, smaller than the sanctuary of a church or synagogue, or in an institutional setting such as a college or hospital. and oratories dedicated to the Virgin MaryMary was the mother of Jesus and, as such, has a special place in the affection and devotion of Christians. The Gospels of Luke and Matthew speak of her as a Virgin who conceived Jesus by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Devotion to the Virgin Mary, also cal... under a variety of ethnic and cultural titles that reflect the diversity of this Christian tradition. A number of Jewish synagoguesSynagogue, shul in Yiddish, is the most widely used term for a Jewish house of worship. Meaning a “place of gathering,” it is the central institution of Jewish communal life. The structure and role of synagogues has changed through the centuries, but ... and community centers are present in the District and more in the surrounding areas. Some of the most historically significant of these include the Washington HebrewHebrew is the ancient language of the Israelites in which the Bible and most of Jewish liturgy is written. Congregation, Adras IsraelLiterally “Wrestler with God”, Israel is the name given to the Jewish patriarch Jacob and came to refer to the entire nation, bound in an eternal covenant to God. Historically, Jews have continued to regard themselves as the continuation of the ancien... SynagogueSynagogue, shul in Yiddish, is the most widely used term for a Jewish house of worship. Meaning a “place of gathering,” it is the central institution of Jewish communal life. The structure and role of synagogues has changed through the centuries, but ..., Sixth & I Historic Congregation, and the Ohev Sholom TalmudThe Talmud is a compendium of many texts, a comprehensive legal code, including rabbinic disputation and other, extra-legal material. It is the most significant compilation of Rabbinic Judaism, dating from the fourth and fifth centuries CE, consisting of ... TorahThe Old Testament is the term Christians often use for the body of writings that comprise the Hebrew Bible which Jews call Tanakh. Congregation.

Another of the great radial streets of the capital, New Hampshire Avenue, just beyond the District of Columbia in Silver Spring, Maryland, might aptly be called “Religious Row.” Here one passes the large Vatt Buddhikarma Cambodian Buddhist templeBuddhist temples differ considerably from one another depending upon culture and particular school, but most are associated with the residence of the sangha of monks. Theravada temples focus on one or more images of Sakyamuni Buddha. In Mahayana and Vajra... and monasteryA monastery is the residence of monks, or monastics; the term is commonly used in both the Christian and Buddhist traditions. Monasticism refers to the life of work, study, and discipline led by monks and nuns., then the Muslim Community Center, flanked by St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral and a Disciples of Christ church. Close by, the Chinmaya Mission of Washington and the Mangal MandirA Hindu temple will be called a mandir in northern parts of India or a koyil in the south. There are many styles of temples and temple-complexes, but most temples are laid out according to precise dimensions and proportions and erected to be the symbolic ... TempleA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... serve the area’s Hindu community. Virtually neighbors, the close proximity of these places of worship symbolize the new religious diversity of the nation’s capital, and by extension, of the nation itself.

The Washington, D.C. area includes both the city of Washington and the neighboring suburban communities of Maryland and Virginia. Beyond the Beltway in these suburbs are some of the most distinctive landmarks of the new religious landscape. In neighboring Fairfax County, Virginia, for example, the SikhSikhs call their tradition the “Sikh Panth,” meaning the “community (panth) of the disciples of the Guru.” The tradition reveres a lineage of ten Gurus, beginning with Guru Nanak in the 16th century and coming to a clos. with the death of Guru Gob... Foundation of Virginia’s Gudwara Sahib stands adjacent to the Virginia Korean BaptistThe Baptist tradition includes a variety of Christian churches which trace their beginnings to the Anabaptist reform movement that rejected infant baptism insisting on the importance of baptizing only those who are able to profess the faith as believers. Church. The Hindus of Fairfax County have built three templesA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... with the DurgaDurga is one of the names of the Devi as consort of Shiva. Both a mother and a warrior, she is especially known for slaying the buffalo demon, Mahisha. Her autumn festival Durga puja or Navaratri is one of North India’s great celebrations. Temple being a notable one. In Lanham, Maryland, Hindus have built the distinctive Sri Siva VishnuVishnu is one of the great Gods of the Hindu tradition. He is known in the Vedas and comes to be famous as the Lord who pervades the entire universe. He is Supreme but wholly auspicious, only occasionally displaying the dark side that is embraced by Shiva... Hindu temple whose nineteen shrines and six architechtural styles demonstrate the community’s own internal diversity. Just a few miles away stands the MuruganMurugan is the divine son of Shiva, also known as Skanda or Karttikeya. There are six popular Hindu temples of Murugan in South India, including Palani. In the U.S., Murugan is present as Palaniswami in Concord, California. There are Murugan temples in su... Temple of North America, the first of its kind to be built in the United States. In addition to the Cambodian temple in Silver Spring, there are Thai, Japanese, MahayanaMahayana, the “Great Vehicle,” is a form of Buddhism the originated in India and spread to Central and East Asia, encompassing schools in Tibet, Mongolia, China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. Its primary characteristics include a more supernatural view o..., and Tibetan Buddhist centers. As a whole, the metropolitanA Metropolitan is the title given to a bishop, used especially in the Orthodox family of churches today. Washington, D.C. area now has well over thirty Buddhist centers, thirty Islamic centersAn Islamic center will typically include a mosque, school, and area for social and cultural activities. When a new Islamic center is being organized in the United States, attention is paid to community needs, including a weekend or full-time school, indic... and institutions, at least twenty-four Hindu templesA Hindu temple will be called a mandir in northern parts of India or a koyil in the south. There are many styles of temples and temple-complexes, but most temples are laid out according to precise dimensions and proportions and erected to be the symbolic ..., and nine Sikh gurdwarasThe gurdwara, “the gateway of the Guru,” is the place for community gathering and worship in the Sikh tradition. The Guru is the Adi Granth, the sacred scripture of the Sikh tradition. Each center will include a chamber where the Adi Granth is kept, a.... There is also a Jain Society and a ZoroastrianOriginating with the teachings of the Prophet Zarathushtra in the second millennium BCE, the ancient faith of Zoroastrianism is referred to as “the Good Religion” in the sacred texts. Zoroastrians are encouraged to live out their faith through the pra... Association of Metropolitan Washington.

The religious communities of the nation’s capital undoubtedly have a more visible role than they might in other cities because of their proximity to the center of government and to the many religious organizations that bring a religious voice to national issues. Most people are aware of the work of such groups as the National Conference of Catholic BishopsA bishop is an ordained minister who supervises life in a diocese, synod, or other broad region and possesses, among other things, the authority to ordain clergy to the ministry of the church. The Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, and Protest... or the National Council of ChurchesThe term church has come to wide use to refer to the organized and gathered religious community. In the Christian tradition, church refers to the organic, interdependent “body” of Christ’s followers, the community of Christians. Secondarily, church ..., which make their voices heard in Washington. But there are also many Native AmericanEach of the many Native American nations has its own distinctive life-ways, although there are some widely-shared characteristics. most Native life-ways are primarily transmitted through oral traditions; they are oriented toward living in relation to a sp... lobbying efforts, such as those of the nearby Piscataway Indian Nation whose leaders have been involved in the American IndianEach of the many Native American nations has its own distinctive life-ways, although there are some widely-shared characteristics. most Native life-ways are primarily transmitted through oral traditions; they are oriented toward living in relation to a sp... Movement (AIM) and in the formation of the National Museum of the American Indian, located on the National Mall. The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) maintains an office here, as does the International Campaign for Tibet, and the AhmadiyyaThe Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam was established in 1889 in India by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. He claimed to be the Messiah of this age, awaited by Muslims, Christians, and others. The missionary movement of his followers is now established in more than 144 coun... National Headquarters. The Muslim Public Affairs Council works to raise political awareness of the concerns of Muslims in America. In 2011, Hindu American SevaSeva means service, a religious obligation of both renunciants and laity in the religious traditions of India. Charities partnered with the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to promote community service (or seva) and collaboration. The interfaith community also participates in governmental advocacy and education through organizations like the Washington Interfaith Network.

One of Washington’s oldest interfaith organizations is the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington (IFCMW). Founded in 1978, IFCMW is now one of the most active urban interfaith groups in the country. It fosters interfaith relations among communities representing eleven different faith traditions, including Bahá’í, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Jain, Jewish, Sikh, ProtestantProtestant is a term used for the range of reform movements that broke with the Roman Catholic Church during the period called the Reformation. There are many branches of Protestantism, including the Lutherans, Anabaptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists..., Roman Catholic, Latter-day SaintSaints are human beings whose lives have displayed extraordinary holiness and devotion. As such they become examples for others. Indeed some of the faithful may understand them to be intermediaries and seek their help in time of need. Roman Catholics and ..., ans Zoroastrian. Because of its visibility in the nation’s capital, many of the programs of the IFCMW have become models for communities across the United States. Its annual interfaith concert, a gala evening of music, and its 9/11 Unity Walk are two prominent examples. In 2012, after the tragic shooting at a gurdwaraThe gurdwara, “the gateway of the Guru,” is the place for community gathering and worship in the Sikh tradition. The Guru is the Adi Granth, the sacred scripture of the Sikh tradition. Each center will include a chamber where the Adi Granth is kept, a... in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, members of the IFCMW organized an interfaith prayerPrayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. It may consist of fixed words, spontaneous words, or rest in silence with no words at all. Some forms of prayer are accompanied with specific postures or gestures, while others are not. vigil at the Sri ShivaShiva is one of the great Gods of the Hindu tradition. The name Shiva means the “Auspicious One,” although Shiva deliberately embraces and transcends what is considered inauspicious as well. He is also called Mahadeva, the “Great Lord,” or Vishvan... Vishnu Temple to show solidarity with the Sikh community. The event was attended by members of local faith communities, as well as representatives from the White House, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local and state government officials.

From Embassy Row to the halls of Congress, along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.’s network of communities and coalitions embody the challenges and opportunities of America’s diverse religious landscape.


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