June 28, 2007

Pluralism Project Newsletter
June 28, 2007
In this Issue:
  • Diana Eck’s Comments
  • Summer Interns
  • Interfaith Academies for Religious Leaders
  • Thank You to Funders of Case Study Research
  • TIDE: The Wave of Change Conference
  • The Pluralism Project Welcomes New Research Coordinator
  • Upcoming: Inter-Faith Youth Initiative of Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries
  • Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation
  • Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines
  • International News: Top Headlines

Diana Eck’s Comments
[ Image: photo of Dr. Eck ]
Dear Friends,
Summer has already been busy here at the Pluralism Project. In early June, we said goodbye to our graduating students who have been loyal researchers over the last few years. We wish them the best as they venture out to teach, preach, work in social service organizations, and pursue further studies. A week later, we welcomed eleven new interns, all women I might add, to take on the task of revising and updating our World Religions in Boston resource. And so in just a few days we went from a nearly empty house to one brimming with energy once again. Read about each of these superb interns on the website!
[ Image: photo of the ISBCC capping ]
As a timely introduction into the work of World Religions in Boston, we attended the capping of the minaret of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in Roxbury on Saturday, June 9. For those of you who have been following this case, you know that the construction of this building – which infuses Islamic architectural elements into the red brick style common to New England – had been stalled over several lawsuits. For more information, see our Religious Diversity News coverage. The lawsuits were dropped in late May, making this capping of the minaret a kick-off to completing the construction. It was an extraordinary opportunity to gather with the Muslim community of New England to celebrate the potential resource this cultural center will be to Muslims, as well as to non-Muslims, throughout the region. For example, the center will have an ongoing partnership with the Roxbury Community College across the street. To view a slide show of the capping, please go to: http://pluralism.org/resources/slideshow/isbcc/

Just this week, on June 27, we were again at the ISBCC for an “Intercommunity Solidarity Day” bringing Jews, Christians, and Muslims together with city, community, and state officials to celebrate this landmark in the mosque construction, also an important milestone in the history of Boston. Our interns were there in Pluralism Project T shirts and participated in the planting of the “Tree of Peace” adjacent to the mosque. More about this in our next newsletter.

Since our last newsletter, I have spent a week in Russia. I went to Voronezh to inspect the newly-cast set of 17 Russian bells, the largest weighing 14 tons, that will be shipped to Cambridge this summer. These will replace the historic pre-revolutionary bells that have hung in the Lowell House Bell Tower since the construction of the House in 1930. The old historic bells will be returned to Moscow next year. This project over the last three years has built an important relationship between Lowell House and Harvard and the Danilov Monastery in Moscow, the original home of the bells. If you’re interested, check our webpage: https://lowell.harvard.edu/bells

As Emerson put it, in his Divinity School address, “In this refulgent summer, it has been a luxury to draw the breath of life.” Indeed, it has.
All the best,

Summer Interns
[ Image: photo of Dr. Eck with the summer interns ]
In early June, the Pluralism Project welcomed eleven summer interns to our office in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This year’s talented team hails from Colgate University, Connecticut College, The George Washington University, Harvard Divinity School, Mt. Holyoke College, Transylvania University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Vassar College. The focus of our summer work is on revising and updating our World Religions in Boston resource. Through site visits and ethnographic research, they are experiencing the religious landscape of Boston firsthand — reconnecting with old friends of the Project and building new relationships. They are also assisting with various events and in-house projects, and maintenance of our Religious Diversity News database. We are grateful to Amy Beckhusen, Kate Conmy, Alexis Gewertz, Nour Goda, Julia Gooding, Sarah Harcourt, Claire-Marie Hefner, Katie Merriman, Kayla Parker, Carissa Sharp, and Kate DeConinck for all of their energy and enthusiasm for this work!

Interfaith Academies for Religious Leaders
[ Image: photo of Vern Barnet ]
In late June, our senior researcher Ellie Pierce traveled to Kansas City, Missouri for the Interfaith Academies for Religious Leaders. These academies, which were a collaborative effort of The Pluralism Project, Religions for Peace-USA, Saint Paul School of Theology, and the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, were an opportunity for religious leaders and emerging religious leaders alike to learn more about other faiths and engaging across faith traditions. Ellie taught a case study she has written on Palos Heights, Illinois (see below). We are grateful that her excellent work on case studies research is helping to move the Pluralism Project in new directions. Pictured here is Vern Barnet, director of the Center for Religious Experience and Study (CRES) in Kansas City, and local coordinator of the Interfaith Academies.

Thank You to Funders of Case Study Research

The Pluralism Project has been awarded a Faculty Grant from the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School. This funding, combined with funding from The Henry Luce Foundation, will enable us to continue to develop case studies, with the very real dilemmas of our multireligious society as our primary texts. For example, “A Mosque in Palos Heights” explores the problems and the promise of pluralism in Palos Heights, Illinois where a mosque was offered $200,000 by the city council to walk away from a real estate deal with a local church. As a research organization, The Pluralism Project is well-positioned to create case studies, and to engage colleagues in using them as tools for teaching in the theological and religious studies classroom. Dr. Eck’s fall course, “Religion in Multicultural America, A Case Study Approach,” will begin to utilize the case study method. Thank you to the Center for the Study of World Religions and The Henry Luce Foundation for helping us to move toward this goal.

TIDE: The Wave of Change Conference
[ Image: Interfaith Action logo ]
On Tuesday, June 26, the Pluralism Project sponsored a day-long conference organized by Interfaith Action’s Youth Leadership Program in Sharon, Massachusetts. This day-long conference called, “Teenage Interfaith Diversity Education (TIDE): “The Wave of Change Conference,” was held at Harvard Divinity School. High school youth from Sharon led workshops, activities, and dialogue sessions designed to equip other youth participants with the skills they need to engage with religious difference in their own communities. While most participants were from the Greater Boston area, there were also participants from New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Maine, and Rhode Island. There was a simultaneous track for adults accompanying these youth, either as youth leaders or as parents/guardians. We are grateful for this successful partnership with Interfaith Action.

The Pluralism Project Welcomes New Research Coordinator
[ Image: photo of Deonnie Moodie ]
As of July 1, 2007 Deonnie Moodie will be the new Research Coordinator at The Pluralism Project. She joins us full-time after having worked with us as a part-time research associate throughout her three years as a student at Harvard Divinity School. Deonnie has worked on various projects including Religious Diversity News, World Religions in Boston, and the StoryCorps project (in conjunction with NPR and the Library of Congress). She has also conducted research on Hinduism in the United States and assisted with numerous events and conferences hosted by the Pluralism Project. She will continue these projects moving forward, as well as coordinating staff research.

Upcoming: Inter-Faith Youth Initiative of Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries

The Inter-Faith Youth Initiative (I-FYI) of Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries will take place in Boston from July 7-15, 2007. The theme is “Living the Beloved Community,” drawn from Dr. King’s radical spiritual vision of justice and peace. This program, which is designed for teens (ages 15-18), as well as college and graduate students serving as mentors and staff, offers a powerful, fun, and dynamic mix of community building, workshops, service experiences, and learning trips which will engage urban and suburban realities. Participants will learn about their own leadership and peacemaking styles and develop new skills for transformation in their schools, communities, and congregations. Youth will create film, art, poetry/spoken word, dance and theological reflections: a vision of justice and peace. Participants will come from diverse religious backgrounds and grow more deeply in their own faith traditions through dialogue and action with others. Leadership will come from the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions. I-FYI will focus on 5 Core Values: Building Bridges, Training Leaders, Engaging Faith, Making Peace, and Serving Others. All are welcome.

To learn more about I-FYI, visit: http://www.coopmet.org/I-FYI.htm or contact Alex Kern at 617-244-3650, or Matt Carriker at IFYI@coopmet.org

Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation

In his memoir, Acts of Faith, Eboo Patel chronicles the life journey that led him to found the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core in 1998, which brings together thousands of youth in a spirit of pluralism. Patel describes his youth and early adulthood as he sought to forge an identity as an American that did not compromise the Ismaili Muslim tradition of his family. Patel demonstrates that this struggle of identity formation, common among youth born in America to immigrant families, leads some to religious extremism and others to pluralism. The purpose of the Interfaith Youth Core, then, is to combat religious extremism among America’s youth through engagement and service — and commitment to pluralism.

For more information, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Acts-Faith-American-Struggle-Generation/dp/080700622X

[ Image: Religious Diversity News icon ]

Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines

US Based Hindu Chaplain Reads Hindu Prayer at Nevada Senate Session
For the first time in its 143 year history, the Nevada State Senate was opened with a Hindu prayer by Rajan Zed, a Hindu chaplain and Director of Interfaith Relations of the Hindu Temple of Northern Nevada.

Canopy’s Rise Signals End of Mosque’s Plight
The capping of the minaret of the Islamic Society of Boston’s new cultural center in Roxbury signifies the end of a lengthy legal dispute that was dropped last month.

Laotian Group’s Quest Ends In Opening of Morris Temple
The Lao Buddha Ariyamettaram Temple was recently opened in Morris, Connecticut to serve the growing Laotian Buddhist community there.

Sikh Parade Extols Peace
8,000 people gathered in the Bay Area this month to celebrate Nagar Kirtan, a Sikh holiday commemorating the martyrdom of Sri Guru Arjan Dev Sahib Ji.

International News: Top Headlines

Saga Dawa Celebrations in the Russian Buddhist Region of Kalmykia (Russia)
The celebration of the Buddha’s birthday drew large crowds to the Golden Abode of Buddha Shakyamuni Temple in Elista.

NZ Hosts Peace, Religious Tolerance Conference (New Zealand)
Amid protests, academics, religious leaders and officials from the Asia-Pacific region gathered in Waitangi for a three-day conference promoting religious tolerance in the region.

Pope Reinstates Islam Department (Vatican City)
Reversing a decision he made a year ago, Pope Benedict XVI has reinstated the department at the Vatican that deals with the Islamic world.

Confucius Makes Comeback
In China, Confucian ideas are emerging once again into the mainstream through Confucian study programs, books, and television series.