August 3, 2005

Pluralism Project Newsletter
August 3, 2005
In this Issue:
  • From Diana Eck, Pluralism Project Director
  • Condemnation of London Bombings
  • Pluralism Project Hosts Five Summer Interns
  • Summer Research Symposium August 10
  • Diana Eck Hosts Air Force Academy Chaplains
  • Faith and Service: An Interfaith Perspective

From Diana Eck, Pluralism Project Director

In addition to having a full house of summer interns with lively weekly staff meetings, this has been a busy summer for me. A few highlights:

On June 22, I participated as one of the moderators in a unique day-long session at the United Nations, the “Conference on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace.” For the first time, member governments, UN agencies, and religious non-governmental organizations joined in a tripartite meeting to discuss the importance of religious issues and religious groups in addressing the issues of peace, economic justice, and the UN Millennium Development goals. The recommendations of the conference, calling for an “expansion and deepening of the relationship between the United Nations and civil society including religious NGOs,” will go to the September 2005 High Level Summit meeting of the General Assembly. This was just a step, but a very important one, as I look back even a decade and realize how reluctant the UN then was to recognize the significance of religious issues and religious NGOs. This time, the member nations and the UN agencies took the initiative.

Conference program with papers and remarks

On June 23rd I participated in the NEH seminar which my Boston College colleague Alan Wolfe had convened on “Religious Diversity and the Common Good.” It was a great group of college professors that included our former researcher and current affiliate Scott Hanson, who wrote such a wonderful study of the religious diversity of Bowne Avenue in Queens.

In a few weeks, I will be traveling to Indonesia for some lectures and discussions that will coincide with the release of the Indonesian translation of A New Religious America. This will be under the auspices of the U.S. State Department and will include some of the study centers that, like the Pluralism Project, have focused on religious pluralism. This will be a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the issues of religious pluralism in Indonesia.

Condemnation of London Bombings

We have been documenting in our Religious Diversity News the many and varied public condemnations of the London bombings.

Condemnation of the London Bombings

We’ve also covered the incidents of backlash.

Backlash After the London Bombings

Pluralism Project Hosts Five Summer Interns

This summer, the Pluralism Project has benefited tremendously from the research of five interns: Brian McGrath Davis, Jessie Thisell, Mathilda McGee-Tubb, Aaron White, and Meredith Wing. They are all busily working on profiles of new religious centers in the Boston area, as well as research reports on hot-button topics.

Pluralism Project Interns Summer 2005
[ Image: Islamic Society of Boston Community Center under construction ]
For example, Jessie Thisell, rising senior at Barnard College, has been researching the soon-to-open Islamic Society of Boston Community Center. This photograph shows the large scale of this building project and some of the progress that has been made in the construction. Her report is available online.

Islamic Society of Boston Community Center

Harvard Divinity School second year student Aaron White has been exploring the evolution debate; you can read his report online.

The Debate Over Evolution in Kansas Public Schools

Summer Research Symposium August 10

On the afternoon of August 10, we will host a Summer Research Symposium at Harvard University to glean from all of this summer’s wonderful research. If you are interested in attending, please contact Research Manager Kathryn Lohre at

Diana Eck Hosts Air Force Academy Chaplains

On Monday, July 18, 2005, Dr. Diana L. Eck and Rev. Dr. Dorothy A. Austin hosted a meeting with Maj. Gen. Charles C. Baldwin, chief of the Air Force Chaplain Service, and his assistants, Lt. Colonel Richard Erikson and Captain Christine Blice-Baum, about the ongoing controversy over religious discrimination at the Air Force Academy. Pluralism Project intern, Brian McGrath Davis, who is soon to begin a Master of Sacred Theology degree at Boston University, also attended the meeting in order update his ongoing research.

Air Force Academy Addresses ‘Challenges to Pluralism’

Faith and Service: An Interfaith Perspective
[ Image: Photo of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ]
On May 17, 2005, Director Diana Eck moderated a panel discussion following a talk by H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living Foundation, one of the world’s largest NGOs. Panelists included Rev. Dr. Dorothy Austin, Dr. Ali Asani, Dr. Francis X. Clooney, S.J. and Bernie Steinberg, president and director of Harvard Hillel.
The Art of Living Foundation is 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. Volunteer relief efforts have taken place in Afghanistan, Bosnia, India after the earthquake in Gujarat, New York after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and Asia in the aftermath of the recent tsunami. IAHV volunteers continue to provide trauma relief and stress management in Iraq.