December 22, 2005

Pluralism Project Newsletter
December 22, 2005

In this Issue:
• Happy Holiday Greetings from Director Diana Eck
• Salman Ahmad at Harvard
• Acting on Faith at the South Asian International Film Festival
• New Book on Cambodian Buddhist Immigrants
• Philadelphia Pluralism Project Events
• Bus Tour and Civic Initiative
• International Visitors in Philadelphia
• Women Transcending Boundaries
• Online Interfaith Resource Guides
• Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility
• Sravasti Abbey Research Reports Available

Happy Holiday Greetings from Director Diana Eck

Happy Holidays! This has been a year of tremendous change for the Pluralism Project. In March we moved into a new building – a lovely Victorian house near the Harvard campus. This move has literally breathed new life into the Project, as we now have space for 15 student research assistants. We have been sending you links to their research reports, and we will continue to keep you updated on our cutting edge research in the year, and hopefully years, to come. In the year past, we have made progress on all four of our current initiatives:
-The Interfaith Initiative to study the growing number of local interfaith organizations and work with them on expanding their outreach and effectiveness.
-The City Hall Initiative which works with mayors and city officials on the challenges of local religious diversity.
– The International Initiative which develops relationships with institutes and centers in other multi-religious societies that are working on the issues of religious pluralism in their own contexts.
-The women’s initiative which connects networks of women activists from different religious traditions.

As the holidays of many of the world’s religions converge this winter, we are reminded of the importance of knowing our religious neighbors. To this end, I urge you to renew your commitment to the work of the Pluralism Project. As you contemplate annual donations to causes close to your heart, please keep The Pluralism Project in mind.

Our online donation form is at We wish you peace and hope in the holiday season and the New Year. Stay in touch with us.

We at the Pluralism Project are thrilled to announce the release of a new web portal,, to serve as a central site for our affiliate research on Native American religions. Under the supervision of Research Affiliate Dr. Michael McNally, this site explores the intersection between law, religion, and Native American traditions in historic and recent cases — many of them pending — where Native American communities have sought protection for “sacred” lands, practices, objects, and human remains that are arguably, if not solely or plainly, matters of religious freedom.

Salman Ahmad at Harvard

[ Image: Diana Eck and Salman Ahmad ]

On Tuesday, 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.

Acting on Faith at the South Asian International Film Festival

Acting on Faith: Women’s New Religious Activism in America was featured in the 2005 South Asian International Film Festival held in New York City, December 7-11. ( Featured in a showcase of shorts and documentaries, the film was well received by the audience. Acting on Faith was released by Rachel Antell and the Pluralism Project earlier this year, and is competing for a slot in a number of other upcoming film festivals. For more information about the film, please see:

New Book on Cambodian Buddhist Immigrants

Julie Canniff, longtime associate of the Pluralism Project, has completed her book entitled, Cambodian Refugees’ Pathways to Success: Developing a Bi-Cultural Identity. “Canniff shows how Cambodians’ traditional cultural values, including religion, combined with pragmatic strategies for getting ahead help individuals attain social and economic success. Canniff’s work makes explicit the Buddhist values that inspire Cambodian adults and adolescents to be successful individuals within their families, their culture, and the larger American society. Her evidence is based on her relationship with a Cambodian community in a New England city and consists of narrative accounts and participant observation over a nine-year period. The findings support the research on immigrants which maintains that individuals who sustain strong cultural identity, while adding pragmatic strategies for getting ahead in American society, are consistently the most successful. The grandparents and parents in this study teach that a fulfilling life is balanced between respect and generosity to the family and Cambodian community and obligations to school and career. As difficult as it is in fast-paced American culture, these adolescents cling to this concept of balance and frequently choose a less stressful school and career path in order to honor their cultural obligations.”

Publisher’s information

Philadelphia Pluralism Project Events

Our recent reception and bus tour at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting were great successes; we will be posting a slide show of the wonderful images from Stuart Chandler’s superb project, “Eastern Religions in Western Pennsylvania” and the museum guide from his exhibit will be a useful teaching tool.

Bus Tour and Civic Initiative

[ Image: exterior of templ ]

Our bus tour included a warm reception at the Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Mosque and a visit to the Chua Bo De Temple. This temple moved into an abandoned building, forcing the drug dealers out, and began to serve as a resource for the local community. They currently receive food donations from three local Vietnamese supermarkets and feed over 100 homeless people each Sunday. This example of civic contribution and renewal was of interest to the new mayors convened at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Both Diana Eck and Grove Harris were privileged to attend this conference which supports new mayors as they transition into their new roles. This line of work is part of our new Civic Initiative research.

International Visitors in Philadelphia

While in Philadelphia, Managing Director Grove Harris had the pleasure of addressing a group of international visitors from the Middle East. The visitors were in the U.S. on a State Department sponsored project entitled “Promoting Interfaith Dialogue,” implemented by the International Visitors Council of Philadelphia. They were pleased to see the integration of Islam in the resources available on the Pluralism Project’s website, and were eager to learn more about the pluralism of the United States.

Women Transcending Boundaries

Last month, Research Associate Kate Dugan attended a meeting of Women Transcending Boundaries in Syracuse, New York. Founded by a Christian woman and a Muslim woman right after September 11th, 2001, this group is an example of innovative, local interfaith dialogue. The group’s vision is to be “an egalitarian community of women coming together to respect and learn more about each others’ various spiritual beliefs and common concerns. It is our intent to share our experiences with the wider community, to educate and to serve.” Beyond the monthly meetings, members participate in service activities, cooking classes and a book club. Kate’s report, which will include her interviews of WTB leaders, is online.

Women Transcending Boundaries Report

WomenTranscending Boundaries website,, includes helpful tips on starting an interfaith group.

Online Interfaith Resource Guides

We have begun compiling a list of online resources for interfaith work, and will be featuring one resource in each newsletter in subsequent months. You are welcome to view the list online and we welcome submissions to augment it.

Online Interfaith Resource Guides

Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility

Research Associate Emily Ronald has completed a report on the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. This thirty-year-old international coalition focuses not only on investing in socially responsible corporations, but also on using these investments “to change unjust or harmful corporate policies, working for peace, economic justice and stewardship of the Earth.”

Read the full report online.

Sravasti Abbey Research Reports Available

Sravasti Abbey is a monastic community in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition that seeks to create a place for westerners to live and study the Buddha’s teachings. The abbey is located in Newport, WA, approximately one hour north of Spokane. It is headed by a Buddhist nun, the Venerable Thubten Chodron. One unique feature of Sravasti Abbey is that both men and women will train as monastics there. They will be housed separately, in accord with the Vinaya, but they will practice and study together as equals. Explaining her decision to create a place for both men and women, Ven. Chodron said, “I didn’t want to abandon half of my students [by creating a place where only women could reside].”

History of Sravasti Abbey

Daily Life at Sravasti Abbey

Supporters of Sravasti Abbey

Generosity in Action: Dana at Sravasti Abbey