May 5, 2007

Pluralism Project Newsletter
May 5, 2007
In this Issue:
  • Diana Eck’s Comments
  • “Sikh-ing Harmony: An Evening of Art, Music, Film, and Dialogue”
  • Deadline Extended for Interfaith Academies in Kansas City
  • Interfaith Action Accepting Applications for “Wave of Change” Conference for Boston Youth
  • Body Evidence: Intimate Violence Against South Asian Women in America
  • Interreligious Insight: A Journal of Dialogue and Engagement
  • Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines
  • International News: Top Headlines

Diana Eck’s Comments
[ Image: photo of Dr. Eck and Selena Fox ]
Dear Friends,
For me, April has been filled with interesting discussions of the religious currents of the world today. The Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences has had four straight weeks of faculty meetings on a new general education curriculum in which “Culture and Belief” figures prominently.

In mid-April, I spent a weekend in Madison, Wisconsin at a conference on “Religious Pluralism in Modern America” sponsored by the newly-established Lubar Institute for the Study of the Abrahamic Religions. I gave a plenary address on “The Turbulent Waters of Religious Pluralism: Civic Challenges? Theological Challenges? What’s the Difference and What’s the Problem?” While the papers and panels were given by academic colleagues, the conference and discussion was open to the university and the community.

In Madison, I had the chance to catch up with Selena Fox, founder of Circle Sanctuary, a Pagan Spiritual Center in Wisconsin. That’s the two of us in the photograph. I have known Selena for nearly twenty years and we have both been involved in the case brought by Americans United for Separation of Church and State to get the Wiccan Pentacle approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs as an “emblem of belief” for the gravestones of the Wiccan war dead and Wiccan veterans. I served as academic expert in the case and gave written testimony. This past week, we were happy to see that the case was settled, with the government agreeing at last to recognize the Pentacle as a religious symbol. As the Assistant Legal Director of Americans United put it, this should “ease the path toward Veterans Administration recognition for other minority faiths.”

In an email sent May 1, Selena let us know that, “Grave makers with pentacles arrived at Circle Cemetery today, our church cemetery in Wisconsin, and headstones with pentacles are now in Arlington National Cemetery.” You can see images of these grave markers, as well as extensive coverage of this week’s press conference at the National Press Club on the Circle Sanctuary website. This victory secured an important right for Wiccan veterans, and for veterans of any religious minority.

We continue to be grateful for so many friends and colleagues in both academic and religious communities.

Photo courtesy of Circle Sanctuary.

“Sikh-ing Harmony: An Evening of Art, Music, Film, and Dialogue”

On April 11, the Pluralism Project co-sponsored an event with the Sikh Council on Religion and Education and The Dialogue Forum. “Sikh-ing Harmony: An Evening of Art, Music, Film and Dialogue Reflecting on the Experience of Sikh-Americans in a Post-9/11 Era” featured photography by Gabriel Brown, Sartaj Singh’s film, “Sikh on the Street,” and the children’s kirtan group from the Milford Gurdwara.

The Sikh-ing Harmony photography exhibit documents a day in the life of Satnam Singh, who lives and works in the Boston area. The exhibit will remain at the Pluralism Project as a permanent installation, and you can also view it online as a slide show.

Deadline Extended for Interfaith Academies in Kansas City
[ Image: IARL poster ]
There are openings still available for two wonderful Interfaith Academies in Kansas City from June 13-27. Participants in the Interfaith Academy for Emerging Religious Leaders have to pay only for their travel to/from Kansas City. Food, housing, local transportation, excursions, curriculum, and supporting materials are all covered by a generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. The project is a collaborative effort of Religions for Peace-USA, the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, Saint Paul School of Theology, and the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council.

In addition, there is a one-week fee-for-service Interfaith Academy for Religious Professionals from June 13-20. It costs $1,500. Applications should be received by the new deadline of May 8. Organizers will continue to accept applications until all slots are filled. Applications and details are at:

Interfaith Action Accepting Applications for “Wave of Change” Conference for Boston Youth

The Sharon Interfaith Action Youth Leadership Program is currently accepting applications for its first Boston-wide conference. Sponsored by the Pluralism Project, this day-long leadership training event will be held on Tuesday, June 26, at Harvard Divinity School. The conference is entitled T.I.D.E. (Teenage Interfaith Diversity Education): “The Wave of Change Conference.” Participating teens will be trained in “leadership skills and open communication.” The goal will be to “promote respect, understanding, and acceptance in the community of which we are a part.” High school students in the greater Boston area are encouraged to apply online.

For more information and to apply, visit:

Body Evidence: Intimate Violence Against South Asian Women in America
[ Image: image of book cover ]
Released earlier this year, Body Evidence: Intimate Violence Against South Asian Women in America, is edited by Shamita Das Dasgupta, founder of Manavi, Inc., the first organization in the United States to focus on violence against women in South Asian communities. This volume is comprised of articles by over twenty scholars and public health professionals and exposes the unique challenges that confront domestic violence victims of South Asian descent in the United States. Religious, cultural, linguistic, and legal implications are taken into account. Congratulations to Shamita, who is a long-time friend of the Project, and women’s networks member, on this excellent and historic volume.

Fore more information, visit:

Interreligious Insight: A Journal of Dialogue and Engagement

Interreligious Insight is a joint publication of the World Congress of Faiths, the Interreligious Engagement Project, and Common Ground. Its commitment is “to interreligious understanding, harmony, and cooperative common action to address the most critical problems facing the earth and the human community.” The April 2007 volume features Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre’s paper on “Women’s Interfaith Initiatives in the United States Post 9/11,” as well as a paper by Catherine Cornille on the October 2006 conference, “Women in Religion in the 21st Century,” which was supported by the Pluralism Project.

For more information, visit:

[ Image: Religious Diversity News icon ]

Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines

Bush Administration Agrees to Approve Wiccan Pentacle for Veteran Memorials
The U.S. Department of Veterans opts to allow the pentacle, a symbol of the Wiccan faith, on memorial markers for U.S. Veterans.

Vedic Mantras Open Nevada Earth Day Celebrations
The Director of Interfaith Relations at the Hindu Temple of Northern Nevada opens the celebration of Nevada Earth Day 2007 with mantras from the Atharva-Veda.

Thousands Celebrate Buddha’s Birth
Thousands of Californians gather at the Orange County Buddhist Church for a two-day flower festival to commemorate the birth of the Buddha.

Sikhs Take Advantage of Internet to Connect
A Sikh man living in New York uses online communication to worship with other Sikhs and to share advice.

International News: Top Headlines

New Umbrella Organization to Represent Muslims in Germany
Four different Muslim associations in Germany have established the umbrella group, the “Muslim Coordination Council ” which will serve as a central base for political dialogue.

Push to Include Buddhism in New Constitution (Thailand)
A controversial push by Thai Buddhist clergy for Buddhism to become the national religion in the country’s new Constitution has been cause for much debate.

Tobago to Get Its First Hindu Mandir (Trinidad and Tobago)
The Tobago Hindu Society is building the first Hindu temple in Tobago through funding from the Ministry of Community Development.

Save Our Holy Lands: UN to Preserve Sacred Sites
The United Nations Development Programme makes plans to create a protective designation for the world’s holy sites along the lines of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites.