March 2, 2006

Pluralism Project Newsletter
March 2, 2006

In this Issue:
• Director Diana L. Eck’s Comments
• Controversy Over Cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad
• World Council of Churches 9th Assembly
• Security and Civil Rights: Muslim Army Chaplain James Yee
• Updates on Religious Centers in New Orleans
• NAIN Introduction
• E-list for Events in the Greater Boston Area
• Festival of Faiths Online Handbook
• Faith Quilts Project: A Boston Celebration of Faith, Arts & Community
• Interfaith Voices Radio Show
• Navajo Community and Farmington, New Mexico
• Summer Internships at the Pluralism Project

Director Diana L. Eck’s Comments

[ Image: Pluralism Project office in snow ]

This has been a busy February here in Cambridge, with sporadic winter weather. We thought you might like to have a look at our research perch at 1531 Cambridge Street, shown here on a snowy day.

This month I visited Memphis, where I lectured in a public series at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion. The mission statement of the church was a strong reminder that religious pluralism has not only civic foundations in our constitutional commitment to religious freedom, but religious and theological foundations in our communities of faith. Here is what this Memphis community has to say: “We also believe spiritual growth includes engaging in meaningful and respectful dialogue with people from different faith traditions, and we believe this is possible only when adherents to different faiths are able to honor the presence and activity of God in each other’s faith. Thus we worship in a community that cherishes the revelation of God in Jesus, while being strengthened by revelations of God in traditions that are not our own. In a world which often seems reduced to shouting at one another, we believe we are called to be a center that promotes listening and understanding, where the community can gather for respectful dialogue and challenging intellectual inquiry.” Quite a number of people in the church had spent several weeks reading and discussing A New Religious America before I came, and it was heartening to see their intense interest in these issues.

This week we welcomed Kathryn back from the General Assembly of the World Council of Churches. We also co-sponsored an Islam Awareness Week event on Security and Civil Rights with Chaplain James Yee and an event at the Kennedy School on “Emerging Muslim Women’s Leadership” with Raheel Raza and Sarah Eltantawi. Please stay in touch with us about your work and concerns.
Diana L. Eck

Controversy Over Cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad

In our International Religious Diversity News, we are covering the recent controversy over the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and their subsequent re-publication by papers around the world. In our extensive coverage, you will find news articles on the controversy with helpful background and context, as well as coverage of the violent response by some extremist Muslims and calls for calm from more moderate Muslims and other religious leaders. We have a wide range of op-ed pieces exploring the fine line between “freedom of speech and of the press” and respect for religious ideas and religious groups, written from a diverse array of perspectives, including commentary by Muslim leaders in the U.S. and in Europe and by leaders of other faiths.

Controversy Over Cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad

Commentary on Cartoons of Prophet Muhammad

Muslim Commentary on the Cartoon Controversy

Other Faiths Respond to Cartoon Controversy

U.S. Muslims Respond to Cartoon Controversy

World Council of Churches 9th Assembly

[ Image: Sign: WCC member churches are called to the goal of visible unity ]

Research Manager Kathryn Lohre attended the World Council of Churches 9th Assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil from February 11-23, 2006, as a delegate for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. From February 11-13, she attended both the youth and women’s Pre-Assembly events, where she participated in trainings and strategy sessions for the General Assembly. During the Assembly, Kathryn served as Rapporteur for the Ecumenical Conversation, entitled “Religious Plurality is Embraced and Feared,” for which she submitted a report that will be published as one of the Assembly outcomes. Kathryn was also elected to the Central Committee of the WCC, a body consisting of 150 members that seeks to carry out the work of the Council between assemblies. Over the next seven years, much of this work will focus on economic justice, inter-religious dialogue, HIV/AIDS, overcoming violence, and strengthening church unity.

Assembly Looks to the Future

Security and Civil Rights: Muslim Army Chaplain James Yee

[ Image: Muslim 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 respected 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 new book is entitled For God and Country.

Religious Diversity News: Captain James Yee

Updates on Religious Centers in New Orleans

Pluralism Project Affiliate Tim Cahill has begun sending updates on the damage to religious centers in the New Orleans area. For example, Masjid Yaseen is closed indefinitely, having sustained heavy damage from the hurricane. The mosque was directly affected by the breaches to the Industrial Canal, the same breaches which flooded the Ninth Ward. Both the mosque and their residential Qur’anic school are in need of major repairs due to damage from winds and flood waters. The congregation has been directed to attend services at Masjid al-Tawbeh (West Bank) or at Masjid Abu-Bakr Al-Siddiq (Metairie). The students relocated to various places before the storm struck; many have now enrolled in Qur’anic schools in Atlanta, GA and Shreveport, LA. The mosque has been gutted and repairs to the building should be underway some time in the spring of 2006. Plans have yet to be finalized for the reopening of the school.

We will keep you posted as his work progresses.

NAIN Introduction

The North American Interfaith Network has created a new online powerpoint presentation to introduce their work to new audiences.

NAIN Introduction

E-list for Events in the Greater Boston Area

We maintain an e-list offering invitations to events of interest at Harvard and in the greater Boston area. If you’d like to receive invitations in the future, please send us an e-mail to with “local e-list” in the subject line.

Festival of Faiths Online Handbook

The Louisville Cathedral Heritage Foundation, in cooperation with the City of Louisville, has held a week-long Festival of Faiths for the past ten years. They have recently published a detailed online handbook for organizing such an event. Pluralism Project Researcher Hilary Bogert has recently updated her research on the Festival of Faiths by including information on how to replicate the Festival as well as an interview with Jerry Abramson, Mayor of Louisville Metro.

10 Years of the Festival of Faiths

PDF of Handbook for Download

Online Interfaith Resource Guides

Faith Quilts Project: A Boston Celebration of Faith, Arts & Community

[ Image: faith quilt of tree ]

For three years the Faith Quilts Project has brought together quilt makers and faith groups to create collaborative quilts that explore their faith and reach out to the wider world. The circle of over 50 Faith Quilts will be on display at the Cyclorama in Boston’s South End from April 7-10 and the exhibit will include a variety of expressions of spirit. During the rest of April the quilts will be exhibited at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square, Cloud Place (youth quilts) in Copley Square, the Museum of the National Center for Afro-American Artists in Roxbury, and the Great Hall in Codman Square in Dorchester. A finale event will be a performance of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, one of the 20th century’s great pieces of sacred music, held Thursday, April 27, 7 PM, at Copley Square’s Trinity Church.

Interfaith Voices Radio Show

Interfaith Voices is working to change the landscape of religious broadcasting in North America. It is a weekly, hour-long public radio program educating listeners on issues of religion, spirituality, and ethics, especially as they intersect with public policy and contemporary culture. It is not affiliated with any religious denomination or organization. It does not preach or proselytize; it conducts dialogues and educates. It presents multiple, interfaith points of view, respecting all traditions, including those who embrace no religion at all. It promotes interfaith understanding and religious harmony as a foundation of democracy and justice. Interfaith Voices is currently heard on 44 public and community stations in the U.S. and Canada. All shows are archived on their website. For more information, contact

Navajo Community and Farmington, New Mexico

Nathan Wheeler submitted research materials on the challenges facing the Navajo Nation in sustaining language and cultural heritage. Pluralism Project Staff Researcher Emily Ronald wrote up this report, which focuses on the town of Farmington, New Mexico and civil rights issues for Native Americans, as well as the importance of incorporating Navajo language, culture, and values into social programs.

Navajo Community and Farmington, New Mexico

Summer Internships at the Pluralism Project

The Pluralism Project is accepting internship applications for the coming summer. Details about this engaging research opportunity are now available online. We also list internships available at many other organizations working on aspects of religious pluralism or interfaith advocacy. These opportunities offer a range of experiences including leadership training.

2006 Summer Internships