March 29, 2007

Pluralism Project Newsletter
March 29, 2007
In this Issue:
  • Diana Eck’s Comments
  • “IslamIslam in Arabic literally means “submitting” or “submission.” One who submits or surrenders his or her will to God is called a Muslim. While the whole of God’s creation is described as being inherently Muslim, human beings must choose whether to...: Scholarship and Practice in the United States”
  • Pluralism Project 2007 Summer Internships
  • Women’s Networks Internship Exchange Program
  • Interfaith Academies for Religious Leaders
  • “Active Citizenship in a Multifaith Society”
  • Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines
  • International News: Top Headlines

Diana Eck’s Comments
[ Image: photo of Dr. Eck ]
Dear Friends,
Spring is making its way to Cambridge, slowly but surely. Just last weekend, I was in Houston at Christ Church Cathedral, where I spoke about religious pluralism and led a Saturday seminar with community leaders. It was heartening to hear about a host of initiatives, including the Amazing Faiths of Houston dinner dialogues, a program in which 250 citizens participated in interfaith dinners in some 20 homes across the city. It was enthusiastically received and there are plans to double participation in the next round of dinner parties! It was also a joy to meet Sulekh Jain once again. Sulekh was president of JAINAThe Federation of Jain Associations in North America (JAINA) is an umbrella organization encompassing the approximately 60 Jain centers in the United States and Canada. Since its first meeting in 1981, JAINA has held conventions every two years in various... in the early years of the Pluralism Project and provided support and encouragement at a critical time.

In early March, I was at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island for the 15th annual Girl Scout Senior Leadership Conference. About 400 senior Scouts and leaders from the East Coast gathered for a weekend of training. This was the first time I have spoken at a Girl Scout event, an invitation I welcomed because I had been a Scout all the way through high school. This gave me a chance to think about how the international vision of scouting –with “Our Chalet” in Switzerland, “Our Cabana” in Mexico, and now Sangam in India– was very formative in my own life. Our dear friend and affiliate, Mary Lahaj, also spoke at this event and showed our film, “Acting on Faith: Women’s New Religious Activism in America.” I should add that I was made a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts of America.

Here at Harvard, I was invited to give a guest lecture on the changing religious landscape of Boston for Chris Winship’s new sociology course, “Reinventing Boston: The Changing American City.” Following closely on the heels of my fall course seminar, “World Religions in Boston,” this enabled me to think about Boston’s religious diversity with students who are looking primarily at the city’s economic and social transformations. In both courses, students make visits to Boston neighborhoods to learn first-hand how the city, its institutions, and its leadership are changing. I found this course enriching to our own work in the Boston area, and I look forward to maintaining this connection. Both courses are examples of a Harvard College curricular initiative to get students into the community for active learning and reflection.

This newsletter outlines opportunities for all of us — and especially the high school, college, and graduate students among us — to participate in these kinds of reflections on religious pluralism this summer. Many of the deadlines are quickly approaching, so get your applications in soon! Best wishes for your own springtime endeavors.

“Islam: Scholarship and Practice in the United States”
[ Image: photo of delegation ]
On March 1, the Pluralism Project hosted a State Department delegation of scholars from Egypt, Jordan, and Syria at Harvard University. Their visit was a continuation of a study-tour which began last year titled, “Islam: Scholarship and Practice in the United States.” Led by Father Nabil Haddad, executive director of the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center, in Amman, Jordan, and sponsored by WorldBoston, the tour also made stops in DC and Philadelphia. The tour aims to convey an understanding of the role of religion in American public life; to broaden awareness of the study of religion, specifically Islam, in the United States; and to explore the compatibility of religious practice and democratic processes in a multi-religious society. During their visit with the Pluralism Project, they were particularly interested in the role academia plays in influencing the American media’s portrayal of Islam.

For more information about the delegation’s visit to the United States, visit

Pluralism Project profile: Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center

Pluralism Project 2007 Summer Internships

We are currently reviewing applications for 2007 summer internships. Interns will be involved in a wide variety of projects including research, site visits, outreach, website and database maintenance, and administrative tasks. We are looking for committed candidates with strong academic records and excellent research and writing skills. Some background in religious studies and interest in the diversity of world religions in America is required. HTML and database experience a plus.

These internships are unpaid opportunities to be part of our unique inter-disciplinary research team at Harvard University. Housing is not available through our office. Please send a letter of interest and resume to Kathryn Lohre, assistant director, at Please be sure to include your area of study and contact information for three references. Application deadline: April 20, 2007.

Women’s Networks Internship Exchange Program

This year we are also receiving applications for internships that will focus on the work of our women’s networks initiative (see Interns will receive training, participate in collaborative projects, and work on-site at various women’s networks organizations. Participating organizations include: The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (DC), The Interfaith Alliance (DC), Interfaith Conference of Metro Washington (DC), Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (DC), and Women’s Ministries, The EpiscopalEpiscopal refers to any church in which authority is vested in a bishop (Greek episkopos). More particularly it refers to the Episcopal Church in America, which developed from the Church of England after the American Revolution. ChurchThe 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 ... (NYC).

Please send a letter of interest and resume to Kathryn Lohre, assistant director, at Please be sure to include your area of study and contact information for three references. Application deadline: April 20, 2007.

Interfaith Academies for Religious Leaders
[ Image: IARL poster ]
Two interfaith academies for religious leaders will be held at Saint PaulPaul, an early Jewish convert to the way of Christ (about 33 CE), became the Apostle to the Gentiles, preaching the Gospel and establishing churches in Greece, Asia Minor, and Rome. Some thirteen letters of Paul to these early churches have become part of... School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri, June 13-27, 2007. A week-long academy will be held for religious professionals (including clergyClergy are the body of ordained men (and in some cases women) who are authorized to perform the priestly, pastoral, or rabbinical duties of the community—as distinct from the laity whom they serve., interfaith leaders, and lay leaders) and a two-week academy will be held for emerging religious leaders (including seminarians and other leaders-in-training). The Academies are intensive study programs for people engaged in or training for leadership in various religious traditions. Through lectures, seminars, readings, and visits to religious centers, the academies will provide a forum where people from diverse religious traditions can learn about each other’s faiths with and from each other. The Academies are made possible by a partnership between SaintSaints are human beings whose lives have displayed extraordinary holiness and devotion. As such they become examples for others. Indeed some of the faithful may understand them to be intermediaries and seek their help in time of need. Roman Catholics and ... Paul School of Theology, Religions for Peace-USA, The Pluralism Project at Harvard University, and the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, with funding from the Henry Luce Foundation.

Applications must be received by April 20, 2007. For more information and to apply, visit:

“Active Citizenship in a Multifaith Society”
[ Image: LEADD logo ]
The Interfaith Alliance is looking for thirty high school students to participate in the second summer of LEADD (Leadership Education Advancing Democracy and Diversity) from August 5-12, 2007 at the Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center in Reisterstown, Maryland. Students will explore the history of religious freedom and the First Amendment. Likely candidates are engaged in a religious tradition, curious about other traditions, and reasonably articulate about their religious practices, or rejection of those practices. LEADD is also looking for qualified college students to be counselors.

For more information, see: or contact Shanta Gray at

[ Image: Religious Diversity News icon ]

Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines

“Learn About Other Faiths? Yes. Mandatory? NO!,” a Commentary by Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite
Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite advocates for the academic study of religion but warns that mandatory requirements threaten the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

Religion, Textbook Dispute Rekindled
A picture of Guru NanakGuru Nanak (1469-1539) was the first teacher of the community of disciples that became known as the Sikhs. His songs in praise of the formless and transcendent God are a cherished part of the Sikh scripture, the Adi Granth. in a seventh-grade textbook reignites controversies about the role of religious communities in California’s educational system.

College of William and Mary Cross Debate
President Gene R. Nichol of the College of William and MaryMary was the mother of Jesus and, as such, has a special place in the affection and devotion of Christians. The Gospels of Luke and Matthew speak of her as a Virgin who conceived Jesus by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Devotion to the Virgin Mary, also cal... removed a brass crossThe cross is the central symbol of the Christian faith, pointing to the significance for the church of the whole Christ event: the life and teachings, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. from the altarAn altar is a raised platform or stand which bears the central symbols of a religious tradition—whether in a temple, church, shrine, or home—and at which offerings are made, worship is offered, or prayers are said. of Wren ChapelA chapel is a place of worship, smaller than the sanctuary of a church or synagogue, or in an institutional setting such as a college or hospital., sparking pledge withdrawals and a petition campaign before the cross was returned to permanent display elsewhere in the chapel.

Islamic Society of Boston Controversy
In February, a Suffolk County judge dismissed the latest in a round of lawsuits concerning the Islamic Society of Boston’s Roxbury development project.

International News: Top Headlines

A Civil Confrontation Greets Visiting Imams
An article about the State Department delegation that visited the Pluralism Project as well as various religious communities and interfaith organizations in the Boston area.

Quilters Hope to Link Patchwork of Views
Pluralism Project researcher Emily Ronald and Boston area residents reflect on designing a quilt that will be housed in the QuakerThe Quaker movement, properly known as the Society of Friends, had its beginnings in 17th century England with George Fox (1624-91), whose form of worship was liturgically sparse, relying on silence and the inspiring movement of the Inner Light, the spiri... Meeting House in Ramallah as a symbol of interfaith dialogue.

“Will Pluralism Recover in Indonesia?” a Commentary by Franz Magnis-Suseno, SJ
Franz Magnis-Suseno, SJ discusses Indonesia’s prospects for pluralism in light of the recent decline in inter-religious dialogue and diminishing respect for worship centers.

Religion and the Environment
A link to our cross-reference on religion and environmental concerns.