December 18, 2006

Pluralism Project Newsletter
December 18, 2006
In this Issue:
  • From Diana Eck
  • New Website Design
  • Research Associates 2006-2007
  • The Pluralism Project at the American Academy of Religion
  • StoryCorps in Boston
  • Earth Charter Initiative
  • Kathryn Lohre Speaks at International Interreligious Youth Meeting in Assisi
  • Women in Religion in the 21st Century
  • JerusalemJerusalem, the ancient capital of Israel from the time of King David (c. 1000 BCE), was the ritual and spiritual center of the Jewish people for 1,000 years until the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. For Jews, Jerusalem is still the geographical... Women Speak at Harvard Divinity School
  • The Pluralism Project Hosts Allison Fromm of the Whirlwind Project
  • The Environment: Selected Links of Faith and Interfaith Projects
  • A Son’s Sacrifice, Film by Yoni Brook
  • Visit from Scholar Fostering Religious Studies in Japan
  • Religious Diversity News: Top Stories
  • International News: Top Headlines

From Diana Eck
[ Image: Photo of Diana Eck ]
Dear Friends,
Seasons Greetings from all of us at the Pluralism Project. For the past fifteen years, the Pluralism Project has been a pioneer in research and education on religious pluralism in the United States and, increasingly, in other multi-religious societies as well. Our circleIn some Pagan traditions, a “circle” refers to the people who gather for a ritual. When standing in a circle, all the participants are able to see each other, with no one member elevated over any other. This practice is often felt to encourage egalita... of academic affiliates has grown, including students and scholars across the United States and around the world. As the Pluralism Project expands, so does our need for a broader and more diverse base of financial support.
The truth is, we still know far more about forms of religious violence that seize the headlines and command public attention than we do about the forms of interreligious cooperation and bridge building that are altering the religious landscape, both locally and globally. At the Pluralism Project, it is our mission to document and interpret the dynamic religious life of our society, much of which is below the radar of national news.
Just three weeks ago at the American Academy of Religion, we launched our redesigned and updated website,

As we combed through fifteen years of research, we feel more strongly than ever that the Pluralism Project remains on the cutting edge. Our work is truly an historic record of the evolving religious diversity in our midst and provides the single most comprehensive source for understanding contemporary America as a multi-religious society. Please have a look at the new website and see once again the range of great work our students and affiliates have done.

As we consider funding priorities for the future, four are of utmost importance:

1. Student Research and Internship Support. Our student staff — including our college-age interns and graduate student research associates-constitute the lifeblood of the Project. Supporting their dedication to this Project is our priority, for these are the civic and religious leaders of the future. A gift of $1000 will support a student work-study position; $2000 will fund a student intern’s summer project.

2. Religious Diversity News. This is the only multi-religious news source of its kind. For me, it provides a picture of what is happening across the country that is far more complex than what I see in the Boston Globe and the New York Times alone. There is so much happening -and so much that is hopeful-that most of us just don’t know about. A gift of $5000 will fund a staff member’s work on RDN.

3. On Common Ground: World Religions in America. It’s time now for our award-winning CD-ROM (published by Columbia University Press in 1997 and 2002, priced as a reference resource with a cost of more than $200) to be put on the World Wide Web and to be accessible without charge. This is an expensive project and will require well over $50,000.

4. Our research home in Cambridge. Almost two years ago, we outgrew our small Harvard office and are now in a wonderful old house in Cambridge. It provides space for us all to work as well as a small conference room where we have received, for example, a delegation of visitors from Indonesia; a group of imamsImam means “leader,” particularly the person who leads the daily ritual prayer or, more broadly, to the one who serves as a leader of the community because of his religious learning. In Shi’i Islam, it refers to one of a succession of direct descend... from Jordan and Egypt; and a faculty group from an Arab university in IsraelLiterally “Wrestler with God”, Israel is the name given to the Jewish patriarch Jacob and came to refer to the entire nation, bound in an eternal covenant to God. Historically, Jews have continued to regard themselves as the continuation of the ancien.... We are now more firmly grounded in the city of Cambridge, making real the connections we have cultivated between the university, the city, and its diverse religious communities. But, alas, we have no funding line to support us there. A donation of $10,000 will support our presence in the community.

As the year draws to a close and you think about end-of-year donations, I hope that you will make a commitment to our work. Our research, outreach, and resources position us to make a critical contribution to understanding and fostering pluralism in communities throughout the country and in other places around the world. While there is much money and energy going into the understanding of fundamentalismFundamentalism is an early 20th century American Christian movement often seen as a conservative response to the influence of the Enlightenment, new Biblical scholarship, and the claims of modern science. It stressed five points of faith it called the “... and religious violence, I am committed to understanding and making known the practice and promise of pluralism.

With your support, we can do this.
My sincere thanks and best wishes to you for a new year filled with hope and peace.
Diana L. Eck
Director, The Pluralism Project

Online Donation Form

New Website Design

We are pleased to release our new website, with an updated visual design, extensive updates to the content, and more direct access to our many resources. This has been a joint undertaking of all the staff, however, special thanks go to our Webmaster Alan Wagner and Web Assistant Ryan Overbey for their outstanding talents and dedication.

Research Associates 2006-2007
[ Image: Pluralism Project staff ]
All of our Research Associates for 2006-2007 contributed mightily to our website redesign process. Read about each of them!
Research Associates 2006-2007

The Pluralism Project at the American Academy of Religion
[ Image: Diana Eck speaking from the podium. ]
This year at the American Academy of Religion (AAR), we celebrated the presidency of Dr. Diana L. Eck, and we expect to make the text of her presidential address, “Prospects for Pluralism: Voice and Vision in the Study of Religion,” available online shortly. Her choices for plenary speakers included Karen Armstrong, Tariq RamadanRamadan is the ninth lunar month during which the first revelation of the Qur’an came to Muhammad. Each year in this month, Muslims abstain from all food, drink, and sexual activity from dawn until sunset. They ar. also meant to make a conscious effort ... (via video-conferencing), Madeline Albright, and Karen McCarthy Brown. The reception in her honor, which we co-sponsored with the AAR, brought together national and international affiliates for celebration and collaboration. Many affiliates chaired sessions and offered papers at the conference, furthering research on religious diversity in America.
[ Image: Grove Harris represents the Pluralism Project at IUPUI reception. ]
Also at the AAR, Managing Director GroveSacred groves have historically been among the most important sites for Pagan worship. In Druidism, trees are thought to have specific attributes that contribute meaning to the site where they grow. Contemporary Druid groups are often called “groves.”... Harris represented the Pluralism Project as one of five research projects on American religious life at the reception hosted by the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

StoryCorps in Boston

This fall, the Pluralism Project worked as a partner with StoryCorps and National Public Radio as they recorded local stories in Boston, enabling them to include stories from the diverse faith traditions in Boston. This massive oral history project now includes recordings of Research Associate Deonnie Moodie interviewing Affiliate Valarie KaurAll Sikh women who have joined the Khalsa assume the name Kaur, “Princess.” on growing up SikhSikhs call their tradition the “Sikh Panth,” meaning the “community (panth) of the disciples of the Guru.” The tradition reveres a lineage of ten Gurus, beginning with Guru Nanak in the 16th century and coming to a clos. with the death of Guru Gob... in America, and Dr. ImamImam means “leader,” particularly the person who leads the daily ritual prayer or, more broadly, to the one who serves as a leader of the community because of his religious learning. In Shi’i Islam, it refers to one of a succession of direct descend... Talal Eid and his daughter Feda Eid on being Muslim in the U.S. You may listen to these and other stories from Bostonians online if you missed them when they aired on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition. Other participants included: Vijay Yanamadala and Neel Butala, of DharmaDharma means religion, religious duty, religious teaching. The word dharma comes from a Sanskrit root meaning “to uphold, support, bear,” thus dharma is that order of things which informs the whole world, from the laws of nature to the inner workings ..., Harvard’s Hindu organization; Imam Salih Yucel of the Boston Dialogue Foundation, and his daughter, Esma Yucel; Dr. Nasswan Dossabhoy and Parastu Dubash, of the ZoroastrianOriginating with the teachings of the Prophet Zarathushtra in the second millennium BCE, the ancient faith of Zoroastrianism is referred to as “the Good Religion” in the sacred texts. Zoroastrians are encouraged to live out their faith through the pra... Association of Greater Boston; Ji Hyang Sunim, the Buddhist ChaplainA chaplain is a member of the clergy who serves in a prison, a hospital, a college, or some other institution outside the context of the normal congregational life of a religious community. at Wellesley, and her friend Alex Tsouvalas; Kumar Nochur and Saraswathy Nochur, of the Sri LakshmiLakshmi is the goddess who embodies auspiciousness, wealth, and good fortune. She is often regarded as a wife of Vishnu or Narayana and is worshipped especially in the fall festival of lights called Divali. TempleA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... in Ashland, MA; and Anjuli Dhindhwal and Chris Byrnes, Harvard Divinity School students and Pluralism Project Research Associates. Many thanks to all of those who participated.

Earth Charter Initiative
[ Image: Michael Slaby and Grove Harris ]
On November 6, 2006, Managing Director Grove Harris met with Michael Slaby, the new Inter-Faith Coordinator for Earth Charter International, the managing body for the Earth Charter Initiative. Michael was in the U.S. visiting strategic partners. The Pluralism Project’s interfaith directory listings and compilation of interfaith Web resources were of particular interest to him. Michael formerly led the Earth Charter Youth Initiative.
Pluralism Project Directory: Interfaith Centers
Pluralism Project Online Interfaith Resource Guides

Kathryn Lohre Speaks at International Interreligious Youth Meeting in Assisi
[ Image: Kathryn Lohre and colleague in Assisi. ]
From November 4-8, 2006, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) sponsored a meeting in Assisi, Italy to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the World Day of PrayerPrayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. It may consist of fixed words, spontaneous words, or rest in silence with no words at all. Some forms of prayer are accompanied with specific postures or gestures, while others are not. for Peace which took place on October 27, 1986. Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre, representing the World Council of ChurchesThe term church has come to wide use to refer to the organized and gathered religious community. In the Christian tradition, church refers to the organic, interdependent “body” of Christ’s followers, the community of Christians. Secondarily, church ... (WCC), addressed the meeting on the topic of “Upholding Common Values and Respecting Differences” (forthcoming in the WCC publication, Current Dialogue.) She also spoke on a multi-religious panel reflecting on previous interreligious statements. The meeting concluded with an audience with PopeThe Pope, the Bishop of the Church of Rome, is the leader of the Roman Catholic Church worldwide, invested with both moral and ecclesiastical authority by the Church. In 1870, the pronouncements of the Pope on issues of faith were proclaimed to be infalli... Benedict XVI at the VaticanThe Vatican is the residence and administrative headquarters of the Pope. Located in the area around St. Peter’s basilica in Rome, it is the official headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. Vatican City is the name of the independent state headed by ... in Rome. The purpose of the meeting was to encourage youth to “live in hope for the future by themselves becoming active protagonists of interreligious collaboration in order to establish harmony in society and peace in the world.”

World Council of Churches: Interreligioius Relations and Dialogue
Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue
Message From Youth, to Youth

Women in Religion in the 21st Century
[ Image: Pluralism Project Women's Networks Luncheon ]
From October 17-19, 2006, Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre represented the Pluralism Project as one of many organizations that endorsed “Women in Religion in the 21st Century,” a conference hosted by The Interchurch Center in New York City. Through the generosity of the conference organizers, we were able to gather many of our women’s networks members for a special luncheon on the first day in order to reconnect and share recent developments in our work. During the conference, Kathryn moderated a session of younger leaders, screened Acting on Faith, and presented her work on interfaith women’s networks. Her paper is now available online.
Women’s Interfaith Initiatives in the United States Post 9/11

Jerusalem Women Speak at Harvard Divinity School
[ Image: The three speakers. ]
On October 13, 2006, The Pluralism Project and the Women’s Studies in Religion Program co-sponsored “Jerusalem Women Speak: Three Women, Three Faiths, One Shared Vision.” This event, held at Harvard Divinity School, brought together three women from Israel/Palestine to share their stories, struggles, and hopes. Speakers included Ghada Ageel, a Muslim Palestinian from Khan Younis Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip; Shireen Khamis, a Christian Palestinian from Beit Jala in the West Bank; and Rela Mazali, a Jewish Israeli from Herzila on Israel’s Mediterranean Coast. Jerusalem Women Speak is an annual tour coordinated by Partners for Peace.
Women’s Studies in Religion Program
Partners for Peace
Pluralism Project Events

The Pluralism Project Hosts Allison Fromm of the Whirlwind Project
[ Image: Allison Fromm and Grove Harris ]
On October 12, 2006, the Pluralism Project hosted a visit with Whirlwind Project President Allison Fromm. The Whirlwind Project is an interfaith organization in Champaign, Illinois that “gathers people of many faiths and traditions to explore sacred stories through music, dialogue and the arts, fostering mutual respect and understanding in our community.” This year, the Whirlwind Project’s activities are organized under the theme “The Art of Being Neighbors.”
The Whirlwind Project

The Environment: Selected Links of Faith and Interfaith Projects

Research Associate Emily Ronald has compiled and annotated a set of links of those religious and interfaith groups working on environmental issues. This is included in our expanded “Civic Links,” compiled as part of our research on religious diversity and the public square.

Pluralism Project Selected Links: The Environment

A Son’s Sacrifice, Film by Yoni Brook

Pluralism Project Affiliate Yoni Brook’s film tells the story of a young American Muslim as it unpacks the larger themes of immigrant identity and interfaith relations. A review in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles noted, “With all of the negative images about Jewish-Muslim clashes in the world, it is nice to see a documentary, directed and produced by a Jew and a Muslim, about a Muslim son taking over his father’s slaughterhouse business in Queens, N.Y.” A Son’s Sacrifice premiered in Los Angeles, California in August of 2006, and will be broadcast on PBS in 2007.

Visit from Scholar Fostering Religious Studies in Japan

Dr. Satako Fujiwara of Taisho University, Tokyo, Japan visited the Pluralism Project on September 19th to discuss teaching about religion in schools and colleges with Managing Director Grove Harris. Dr. Fujiwara is exploring ways that the academic study of religion can contribute to public education in Japan. According to her research, religion is virtually excluded from school curricula in Japanese public education, such that college is a particularly important site for learning about religions. She recommends expanding partnerships between private and public colleges, noting that partnerships among Buddhist, Christian and secular schools will make a significant pedagogical difference and enhance the course opportunities for students in Japan. Online technology and resources can aid this expansion of partnerships.

Religious Diversity News: Top Stories

Election 2006
Military Pressed Over Expressions of Faith
Hindu Priests Go American
Jewish, Muslim Women Live Together to Seek Peace, Understanding

International News: Top Headlines

You Gotta Have Faith at the UN

Muslim Women to Form Rights Council

“Spirit of Assisi” Unites Young in Prayer