October 20, 2005

Pluralism Project Newsletter
October 20, 2005

In this Issue:
• A Note from the Director
• Pluralism Project Welcomes New Research Associates
• Study Guide Available for Acting on Faith
• New Tools for the Pluralism Project Website
• Pluralism Project Events at the AAR in Philadelphia
• Faith Quilts in Peabody Essex Museum Show
• Religious Diversity News – News Sample
• Essays on Islam in America
• Slide Show: Religious Diversity in Mauritius
• Women’s United Nations Report Network (Boston Workshop)
• World Council of Churches – US Conference

A Note from the Director

Greetings from the Pluralism Project. This fall, the convergence of lunar calendars has created many new occasions for Muslims, Jews, and Hindus to recognize the proximity of their sacred times. For the first time in more than thirty years Yom Kippur falls during the fasting month of Ramadan, and this will continue for the next two years. We remember 1973 when, during the last convergence of these times of fasting, Egypt and Syria launched an attack on Israel on the morning of Yom Kippur. That October war has come to be called the Yom Kippur war and, sometimes, the Ramadan war. Thirty years have passed, and perhaps a new era of deliberate bridge-building has begun. May it be so. Rabbi Arthur Waskow has called this year’s convergence of calendars “God’s October Surprise,” an opportunity for reconciliation and peace-building. This year, many Jewish and Muslims groups in the U.S. are finding joint ways to recognize the intersection of holy days. Here at Harvard, the Harvard Islamic Society hosted a kosher iftar at the end of the Yom Kippur fast on October 13.

Hosting iftars, fast-breaking meals, has certainly become an occasion for interfaith outreach and civic recognition. On October 11, Muslim congressional staffers gathered for the third annual Capitol Hill iftar in the Rayburn House Office Building, an event co-sponsored by the Council on American Islamic Relations and eleven members of the House of Representatives. On October 17, President Bush hosted an iftar at the White House. In Cambridge, as in many cities, there was an interfaith iftar at the Italian American club. Some of these are noted by local papers and will find their way into Religious Diversity News. Most fly below the radar of the press, so let us know what happens in your university or your town.

At the end of this month, the feast day of Eid al-Fitr and the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, will also coincide.

Pluralism Project Welcomes New Research Associates

The start of the new academic year has brought a wealth of new energy to the Pluralism Project. Laine Walters and Sabeen Hassanali are researching the role of religious pluralism in civic government; next week they will meet with Reverend Cheng Imm Tan, director of the mayoral Office of New Bostonians to discuss the role of religious diversity in her work. Tony Watson and Rodney Yeoh are looking at religious pluralism in the international context, currently in Indonesia and Malaysia. They are also tracking Islam, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism in the United States. Emily Ronald and Hilary Bogert are investigating various models in the interfaith movement; Hilary will travel to the Festival of Faiths in her home town of Louisville, Kentucky next month as part of her work. Kate Dugan is examining the role of women in religious pluralism; she is currently working on distribution of our film, Acting on Faith: Women’s New Religious Activism in America. Chris Scheller is expanding our knowledge of Buddhism in the United States. Deonnie Moodie, Tracy Wells, and Mara Brecht continue to manage our Religious Diversity News database. Aaron White is responding to emails you may send us at staff@pluralism.org. Finally, James Young is providing administrative assistance to our Managing Director, Grove Harris. We welcome the energy and talents of these wonderful students!


Study Guide Available for Acting on Faith

We have been overwhelmed by the tremendous response to our documentary film, Acting on Faith: Women’s New Religious Activism in America. We have received orders from religious centers, educators, corporations, individuals and activists who are using the film as a tool in their work. We have recently published an online study guide that can be used to facilitate group discussion. The study guide is available as a PDF or Word Document.


New Tools for the Pluralism Project Website

We are well aware that our website offers a wealth of information, which can make it challenging to navigate. Our most recent tools include a Google search function on our home page, and a new page that lists the most recent research reports. Your comments and suggestions for how we can better meet your needs are always welcome; feel free to email us at staff@pluralism.org

Home Page
Latest Research Reports

Pluralism Project Events at the AAR in Philadelphia

The Pluralism Project will host a bus tour and a reception at this year’s annual meeting of the AAR in Philadelphia. Please consider joining us Saturday morning November 19 at 8:30 am for a visit to the Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Mosque and the Chua Bo De Buddhist Temple. On Sunday November 20 we will be hosting a reception from 8:30 to 10:00 pm at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel, in the Commonwealth A room. We welcome all our friends and colleagues to join us and look forward to seeing you. More details are available on our website.

Pluralism Project at the AAR

Faith Quilts in Peabody Essex Museum Show

[ Image: Wiccan Maidens’ Quilt ]

This past September a set of quilts from the Faith Quilts Project were selected for an exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. Among the quilts was one created by a group of Wiccan Maidens, young women in their teens who practice this earth-based religious path, lead by Grove Harris with artistic leadership from Clara Wainwright. The Faith Quilts Project includes over 50 quilts made by different faith groups, with some made as interfaith expressions, and some made in response to community needs. The Project uses creativity and dialogue to bridge divides, and will culminate in multiple showings and events to be held city-wide in Boston in April of 2006.

Profile of the Faith Quilts Project

The Faith Quilts Project Website

Religious Diversity News – News Sample

On October 1, 2005, The Rake reported, “Islam is America’s fastest growing religion, and it seems especially apparent in Rochester, [Minnesota]. In the early 1990s there were fewer than fifty observant Muslims living in the city, most of whom were South Asian; organized prayers were held only on Fridays, in makeshift accommodations. Today approximately five thousand Muslims live in the city, the vast majority of whom are Somali; they have the option of praying five times daily in a mosque owned by their community, presided over by an esteemed imam trained in Islam’s most distinguished university… Next year, the Rochester Islamic Center will be demolished to make way for a four-million-dollar mosque designed to hold eighteen hundred worshippers. Funded by a Saudi Arabian visitor to the Mayo Clinic and designed by a Syrian architect, the three-story building will be topped by a large dome and flanked by minarets that, at 180 feet tall, will rise prominently on Rochester’s skyline. Inside, ample and desperately needed classrooms, a library, and meeting areas are planned, along with a two-story prayer hall. When complete, it will be the first new mosque ever constructed in Minnesota. The Rochester Islamic Center is already unique due to the international community of Muslims who worship there… That is largely a result of demographics: The Twin Cities are home to more than a hundred thousand Muslims.”

Read the Full Story

Read other Summaries in Religious Diversity News

Essays on Islam in America

We’ve placed a set of essays on Islam in the American context on our website. These essays are a small part of the CD-ROM On Common Ground: World Religions in America, used with permission from Columbia University Press. They offer a snapshot of the Muslim community in America in 1997, as well as introductory materials on the faith.


Slide Show: Religious Diversity in Mauritius

[ Image: Lake of Grand Bassin ]

Affiliate Clare Giles’ work on religious pluralism in Mauritius has been expanded to include a slide show on the Maha Shivaratri Festival. The lake of Grand Bassin is known to the Hindu communities of Mauritius as Ganga Talao, Lake of the Ganges. This sacred place is now surrounded by temples and visited throughout the year, although it is pretty quiet outside of the festival time. Pilgrims may walk for several days to reach the lake. Every year 250,000 – 300,000 pilgrims visit the lake over the several days of the festival.

Maha Shivaratri Festival Slide Show

Women’s United Nations Report Network (Boston Workshop)

In early October, Kathryn Lohre, our research manager, attended the Women’s United Nations Report Network (WUNRN) workshop held at Andover Newton Theological School. WUNRN, considered the most active gender listserve in the world, is based on the UN study approved by the General Assembly on The Status of Women and Freedom of Religion or Belief and Traditions. The first of its kind in the United States, the workshop brought together theologians, activists, lay and religious leaders, human rights workers, academics, and government officials to discuss how religious traditions empower or impede women’s access to their economic, social, and cultural rights. Kathryn had the opportunity to share our resources on our Women’s Networks.

Women’s Networks

World Council of Churches – US Conference

The following week, Kathryn Lohre attended two World Council of Churches meetings in Chicago. The first, “Shift Your Space – Transform the World,” was a gathering of young adults who are engaged in peace and justice work. Over the course of two days, these fifty young people created an action platform which they presented to the participants in the WCC – US Conference Pre-Assembly meeting. This second meeting was an opportunity for US members of the WCC to begin conversations about their participation in the WCC Assembly in Brazil next February. Kathryn had the opportunity to present workshops on the Pluralism Project at both of these meetings. She will attend the Assembly as a delegate for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Press releases on “Shift Your Space”/Pre-Assembly meeting: