July 31, 2006

Pluralism Project Newsletter
July 31, 2006
In this Issue:
  • Director Diana L. Eck’s Comments
  • Visiting Religious Leaders and Educators from India and Bangladesh
  • Chicago Police Department’s Diversity Series
  • Research Report: Women in Buddhism in the U.S.
  • New Essays on Native American Sacred Land Issues
  • Pluralism Project Interns Attend Summer Conferences
  • Whirlwind Project: The Art of Being Neighbors
  • The Faith Quilts Project: Citywide Celebration of Faith, Arts, and Community
  • Religious Diversity in Georgia
  • Pluralism Project Flyer
  • Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines
  • International News: Top Headlines

Director Diana L. Eck’s Comments

July has been very busy at the Pluralism Project. In addition to the work of our summer interns, we have had visits at our weekly staff meetings from two great friends of the Pluralism Project. Eboo Patel of the Interfaith Youth Core was in town to talk about the collaborations of the Pluralism Projet and his growing IFYC. He inspired many of our young researchers and interns with the vision of making a life’s work out of the work of pluralism. It is clear that the IFYC is expanding and looking for well-trained staff. Jean Zaru also spent an afternoon with us. Jean is a Palestinian Quaker who has been active in the movement for peace with justice in Palestine for many years. She was a participant in both the 1983 and 2003 conferences on Women, Religion, and Social Change. Her message is especially relevant today as we see the wide repercussions of long neglected injustice in Palestine. I have been working with Jean over the past few weeks to bring some of her talks on human rights, nonviolence, and peace with justice into a book form. Please do stay in touch with us and keep the Pluralism Project posted on what you are doing.
All the best,
Diana Eck

Visiting Religious Leaders and Educators from India and Bangladesh
[ Image: Group photo of visitors ]
On Thursday, July 6, 2006, the Pluralism Project hosted a delegation from India and Bangladesh as part of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program. The participants included religious leaders such as imams and principals of madrassahs, as well as teachers and community leaders who are interested in questions of religious pluralism, Islam in America, and the study of religion. The guests were particularly interested in how religious pluralism in India compares to religious pluralism in America. The delegation was in the U.S. from June 17 – July 8.

Chicago Police Department’s Diversity Series
[ Image: Religious and Cultural Diversity DVDs ]
Pluralism Project Summer Intern Rahim Kanani has written a report on the Chicago Police Department’s series of short videos that provide diversity training to officers. Produced in conjunction with the Department of Justice, these videos offer authoritative instructions for officers about the patience and respect needed to carry out their jobs, including addressing the specific concerns of diverse religious communities. These videos have been widely acclaimed and made available to other police departments, and have educational use beyond their original intent. The brief video segments of less than 10 minutes each offer a pragmatic introduction to the practices and beliefs of Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. An additional set of video segments address a wide array of cultural concerns. Further distribution of these DVDs will be handled by the Justice Department; we will keep you informed as they clarify the process for requesting them.
Pluralism Project Report on Chicago Police’s Diversity Video Series

Research Report: Women in Buddhism in the U.S.

Research Associate Kate Dugan recently wrote a report on women in Buddhism in the United States. This report profiles several women from a wide array of backgrounds and interest areas as they continue to shape the face of Buddhism in the U.S. Snapshots include women who encountered Buddhism during the women’s movement in the 1960s, ordained women founding temples for large immigrant populations, young women using Buddhism and art as a tool for changing the world, and women carving out a space for Buddhism on college campuses.

Women in Buddhism in the U.S.

New Essays on Native American Sacred Land Issues
[ Image: Cave Hills ]
Pluralism Project Affiliate Michael McNally and Carleton College students Nate Chappelle and Robert Stern have contributed new essays on Native American sacred land issues including the following. In South Dakota, uranium mines have so polluted sacred lands that Lakota are advised by government authorities not to spend more than 24 hours in on-site prayer, and in Nevada, rock climbing was degrading a sacred promontory.
Cave Hills, South Dakota
Cave Rock, Nevada
View additional essays on NativeReligion.org

Pluralism Project Interns Attend Summer Conferences

In addition to the many projects our summer interns are working on in-house, some have had opportunities to travel to conferences that are relevant to their research. Reports on each of these events are forthcoming.

Kaur Voices: Exalt, Express, Empower
Anjuli Dhindhwal attended a conference for young Sikh Americans sponsored by the Jakara Movement. The conference focused on issues facing Sikh women, and took place in Fresno, California from June 22-25.

Living Islam – Loving Humanity
Aneesa Walji attended the Islamic Circle of North America/Muslim American Society Convention in Hartford, Connecticut from June 30-July 2. The theme of the conference was “Living Islam – Loving Humanity.”

Jain Evolution: Making Our Life Our Message
Dr. Eck’s former student Anar Dinesh Shah attended the Young Jains of America conference in Stamford, Connecticut from July 1-4.

Young Leaders Summit on the Future of Western-Muslim World Relations
Finally, Rahim Kanani attended the Young Leaders Summit on the Future of Western-Muslim World Relations in New York City on July 8. The one-day conference was sponsored by Americans for Informed Democracy.

Whirlwind Project: The Art of Being Neighbors

Pluralism Project Summer Intern Rose Golder-Novick has completed a profile of The Whirlwind Project in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. The Project was formed with the purpose of bringing the community together through the universal language of music and the arts in order to cultivate understanding and respect for the varied religious and ethnic traditions. The Whirlwind Project planned its first event in the fall of 2001, which was a month long festival based on the story of the biblical exodus. Now in its fifth year, the 2006 theme is “The Art of Being Neighbors,” an exploration of what it means to create a welcoming and friendly community. Events include multi-cultural bread baking workshops, poetry readings, and a final interfaith concert.

Whirlwind Project Profile

The Faith Quilts Project: Citywide Celebration of Faith, Arts, and Community

Research Associate Emily Ronald has written a report on the four-day celebration orchestrated by the Faith Quilts Project in April, 2006. Over 56 quilts made by different communities of faith were displayed in Boston’s Cyclorama, along with presentations of dancing, singing, and panel discussions. This citywide celebration was completely free and open to the pubic, and it fostered a broad understanding of faith.

The quilt that will eventually hang in the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in Roxbury was displayed as a work in progress at the celebration, offering the invitation to everyone to participate by contributing stitches. The borders of this quilt are filled with buildings signifying the city of Boston, carefully hand-stitched to symbolize the mending of community ties.

The Faith Quilts Project: Citywide Celebration of Faith, Arts, and Community

Religious Diversity in Georgia
[ Image: Student research team ]
Pluralism Project Affiliate Richard Amesbury is working with students conducting field research on the growing religious diversity in Southern Georgia. So far, his students have researched Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Pagan religious centers. Their reports are available online.
Pluralism in the “Bible Belt”: Mapping South Georgia’s Changing Religious Landscape

Pluralism Project Flyer

Often our friends and affiliates want to help us spread the news about our work and the resources we make available. We’ve put a flyer on our website, in case you’d care to print some for your use.

Pluralism Project Flyer

Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines

Boston Interfaith Dialogue Groups Respond to Middle East Conflict
American Jewish, Muslim, and Palestinian groups, concerned with sustaining U.S. bridges of interfaith harmony in the wake of the Middle East conflict, have stepped up their interfaith dialogue efforts. Many dialogue partnerships were formed several years ago to help members of the faith communities listen to each other and understand each other’s common interest in social justice.

Supporters Back Grave Marker for Wiccan Soldier (Nevada)
The widow of a Wiccan soldier killed in Afghanistan last fall has gathered support for a political push to convince the federal government to add the Wiccan pentacle to its list of 30 approved religious symbols, including one approved for atheism, which may mark the religious belief of a deceased soldier.

Valley Interfaith Launches Drive for Citizenship (California)
The Valley Interfaith organization has joined the national immigration debate by using its influential position along the national border to help legal residents apply for citizenship and facilitate undocumented workers in gaining legal residency.

Sikh-ing Harmony Interfaith Dialogue Project Launched on Independence Day
The Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE) has launched an innovative interfaith effort in collaboration with members of the three Abrahamic faiths in order to promote religious harmony by utilizing existing interfaith networks and non-religious forums such as book clubs, open mic nights, and other artistic exchanges.

More Muslims Entering Law School, Defending Muslim Civil Rights
Young Muslims are increasingly pursuing law degrees rather than the more traditional career paths of engineering or medicine, citing the need to defend their communities from increased civil rights profiling and hate crimes since 9/11, as well as a growing esteem for the profession within the Muslim community.

Some Chicagoland Funeral Homes Work to Meet Needs of Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims
Some funeral homes in the Chicago area are offering funeral services that accommodate the religious rites of various faiths, easing the burden of many minority religious communities during times of loss.

International News: Top Headlines

Israel-Hezbollah Conflict
Continuing coverage includes diverse faith and interfaith responses to the Israel-Hezbollah conflict in Lebanon.

Mumbai’s Muslims Give Blood, Offer Shelter to Train Bombing Victims
After the train bombings in Mumbai, the Muslim community offered an example of compassionate interfaith encounter during a time of crisis in a city that struggles with Hindu-Muslim tensions.

First Anniversary of 7/7 London Bombings
On the first anniversary of the July 7, 2005 bombings in London, memorials and remembrances were held, and the UK government was criticized for not doing enough to combat extremism.

Anti-Muslim Backlash After Canadian Arrests
The Canadian Muslim community is experiencing backlash in the forms of hate crimes and vandalism after the arrest of 17 young Muslim men on suspected terrorism charges in early June.

Sikh Student Wins “City Idol” Contest, Runs for Office (Canada)
University of Toronto student Amarjeet Chhabra recently won Toronto’s “City Idol” contest, based loosely on the “Canadian Idol” and “American Idol” television shows — but instead of searching for vocal talent, the contest searches for leadership and government talent. The winner of the contest is put on the ballot for the city’s fall municipal elections.

Anger Sparked Over Hindu Temple Razings (Malaysia)
Hindus worldwide are outraged over government destruction of Hindu temples in Malaysia.