November 11, 2007

Pluralism Project Newsletter
November 11, 2007
In this Issue:
  • Diana Eck’s Comments and Invitation to AAR Reception
  • Women’s Interfaith Initiatives After 9/11
  • Case Studies Workshop
  • “Palos Hates”: A Mosque Controversy in Palos Heights, Illinois
  • Children of Abraham: A Trialogue of Civilizations
  • Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines
  • International News: Top Headlines

Diana Eck’s Comments and Invitation to AAR Reception
[ Image: photo of Diana Eck ]
Dear Friends,
It has been a busy fall here at the Pluralism Project. In September we welcomed our new Together with returning students, they will make a valuable contribution to our research.
To give you a few examples, one of our new research associates, Sabrina Zearott, is a student at Harvard College and the Publicity Chair of the Harvard College Interfaith Council (HCIC). As part of her work for us and HCIC, she recently attended the national conference of the Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago. She returned to our office brimming with ideas that will be useful to her in both contexts. We also have two graduate students at Harvard Divinity School, Sarah Hicks and Emilia Bachrach, who are working with Jain leaders from the US, Canada, and England on the International Summer School for Jain Studies, a study program which brings students and teachers to India each summer for a comprehensive introduction to Jain academic studies. Other examples of our most recent work will be detailed below.

While Election 2008 is still a year away, we have all been bombarded by media coverage on candidates and issues. Of particular interest to us is the prominent role that religion is playing on both sides of the partisan fence. In early October, I participated in a news conference with Welton Gaddy of The Interfaith Alliance and Amy Caiazza of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research on “The Role and Impact of Religion in the 2008 Presidential Election.” After each of us offered comments, journalists had an opportunity to weigh in with their questions, which made for a very interesting exchange. You can listen to this conference and read the press releases online at: You can also find coverage of Election 2008 in our Religious Diversity News.

As part of our work on religious leadership in a multireligious world, I also attended a conference sponsored by The Henry Luce Foundation that brought administrators and teachers from Christian, Jewish, and Muslim “theological schools” together at General Theological Seminary in New York. I introduced our new case-study work with a case on the National Day of Prayer in Troy, Michigan. Entitled “Trouble in Troy” it introduces the questions that arose when a Hindu woman asked to participate in what had hitherto been an entirely Christian event.

We do hope to see many of you this Friday, November 16 at our reception at the American Academy of Religion in San Diego, California. It will be held from 9:00-11:00 PM at the Marriott Hotel and Marina, room Manchester 1. Since last year’s conference, among other things, we have launched a new interface for Religious Diversity News, our World Religions in Boston resource has been revised and updated by a group of summer interns, we have hosted a seminar on “Women’s Interfaith Initiatives After 9/11,” we have been busy researching and writing case studies, and we will soon have a rough cut of our new documentary film, Fremont, USA. We also look forward to hearing updates from you as well.

Please RSVP to our research coordinator, Deonnie Moodie, at If you cannot join us, we would be grateful to receive an email update about your research and teaching which you can send to Deonnie or to We look forward to catching up soon.
All the best,

Women’s Interfaith Initiatives After 9/11
[ Image: group photo of seminar participants ]
On September 28-29, we held a seminar on “Women’s Interfaith Initiatives After 9/11” at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Women who established selected women’s interfaith organizations after 9/11 were invited to join us, our faculty colleagues, and women from other religious and interfaith organizations, for two days of presentations and discussion. In addition, we explored the models and methodologies at play, and considered the relationship of these new organizations to the women’s and interfaith movements.
Participating organizations included:
SARAH (Spiritual and Religious Alliance for Hope)
Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in MetroDetroit (WISDOM)
Women Transcending Boundaries (WTB)
Sacred Circles Conferences at the Washington National Cathedral
Interfaith Action’s Women’s Initiative.

We are in the midst of compiling seminar photos, transcripts, and video clips, which will all be available soon at:

We are very grateful to the Radcliffe Institute for making this exploratory seminar possible, and to all of the participants who invested their time and energy towards new collaborations.

Case Studies Workshop
[ Image: photo of workshop participants ]
On November 5, the Pluralism Project convened a case studies workshop at the Center for the Study of World Religions. Twenty Harvard faculty and doctoral candidates from Harvard Graduate School, Harvard Divinity School and the Kennedy School of Government participated in a workshop on the case study method. As an example, Dr. Eck utilized the case developed by our senior researcher, Ellie Pierce, entitled “A Mosque in Palos Heights.” This case explores the problems and promise of pluralism in Palos Heights, Illinois where a mosque foundation was offered $200,000 by the city council to walk away from a real estate deal with a local church.

Many thanks to the Center for the Study of World Religions for their sponsorship of this important work and their gracious hospitality in hosting this workshop.

“Palos Hates”: A Mosque Controversy in Palos Heights, Illinois
[ Image: photo of Mayor Dean Koldenhoven ]
On the afternoon of November 5, Mayor Dean Koldenhoven, former mayor of Palos Heights, Illinois spoke with a gathering of about thirty Harvard students at the Center for the Study of World Religions. He is the protagonist in the forthcoming case study, “A Mosque in Palos Heights,” described above. Many of the students who attended this event are part of Dr. Eck’s “Religion in Multicultural America: Case Studies in Religious Pluralism” course this semester, where this case study was examined. Mayor Koldenhoven brought to life his role in the mosque controversy: against popular opinion, he supported the mosque foundation’s plans to purchase a local church. In 2002, he received a John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award for his actions.

We are grateful to Mayor Dean Koldenhoven for traveling from Palos Heights, Illinois to speak with us and to the Center for the Study of World Religions for sponsoring and hosting this event.

Children of Abraham: A Trialogue of Civilizations

On October 22-23, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs sponsored a conference titled “Children of Abraham: A Trialogue of Civilizations.” Held at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge, panelists explored religious themes, medieval times, Jerusalem, interfaith initiatives, education, and contemporary relations. Dr. Eck spoke on the topic of “Difficult Dialogues Among the Children of Abraham.” For event information and transcripts, visit:

[ Image: Religious Diversity News icon ]

Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines

Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week
Continuing coverage includes opposition to the initiative and specific events on campuses across the country.

The Awakening
After years of work, in 2005 Rev. Youngju Kim opened a Won-Buddhist temple in the Boston area that serves the needs of both ethnic Koreans and others interested in learning more about Buddhism.

Diwali Resolution Passes by Overwhelming Margin in House of Representatives
In a 358 to 0 vote, the House of Representatives passed a bill recognizing the “religious and historical significance of the festival of Diwali.”

Sikh Temple Invites Prominent Hindu Chaplain Zed
The Reno Sikh Temple invited a prominent Hindu chaplain, Rajan Zed, to read the historic prayer that he recited in the U.S. Senate in July 2006 during its Sunday service.

American Youths Bridge Religious Divides
As religious holidays converged again this fall, teens in Sharon, Massachusetts hosted a “Sacred Seasons” event to honor the religious diversity in their community.

International News: Top Headlines

Myanmar’s Buddhist Monks Protest
Continuing coverage includes recent developments in the situation in Myanmar and responses from communities in the United States.

New Appointments at WCC Specialise in Advocacy and Interfaith Dialogue
The Geneva-based World Council of Churches has appointed two individuals known for their achievements in faith-based advocacy and interfaith dialogue, Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory and Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana.

Religious Freedom Under Threat in Many Countries, Holy See Says at UN Debate
The Holy See warned the General Assembly of the United Nations that the right to religious freedom is still ignored and even violated in many countries.

Berlin to Get Largest Hindu Temple in Europe Outside Britain
Construction of Europe’s second largest Hindu temple began on October 28 in the Berlin suburb of Neukoelln.

First World Sikh Summit to be Held in London Next Week
The first World Sikh Summit, focusing on the creation of a common strategy to address the range of challenges Sikhs face, was held in London on September 17.