December 12, 2007

Pluralism Project Newsletter
December 12, 2007
[ Image: Diana L. Eck ]
Dear Friends,
Like many of you, in July of this year we followed the story of Rajan Zed, the first Hindu to offer prayersPrayer 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. in the US Senate. Zed, director of interfaith relations at the Hindu 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... of Northern Nevada in Reno and Hindu 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. of the Indian Association of Northern Nevada, recited the Gayatri MantraA mantra is a sequence of spiritually-potent sounds or syllables used for meditation, prayer, or to accompany ritual enactments. Mantras are important in the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain traditions. The repeated oral or mental recitation of a mantra is said ... from the Rig-VedaVeda means “wisdom” and specifically refers to the sacred wisdom of the four Vedic collections: Rig, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva Vedas. Associated with each of these Vedas is literature called Brahmanas, which are concerned especially with rituals, and U.... Protestors from the American Family Association marred this historic occasion from the gallery with shouts of: “Lord JesusJesus is the historical figure considered by Christians to be the Christ, the Messiah, whose life and teachings, death and resurrection give clear evidence of God’s love for humankind. Jesus was born shortly before the death of Herod the Great (d. 4 BCE..., protect us from this abomination,” and were quickly removed and arrested. In the weeks that followed, there was an outpouring of support for Zed. The interfaith community of Nevada gathered in early August to honor him with a reception that was also attended by political, community, and student leaders. Senators, academics, and leaders from across the country offered words of support and congratulations in their statements. In the end, the protestors did not have the last word, but we know that their voices are persistent in resisting the very idea of a multi-religious America.
Events like this demonstrate the ongoing relevance of our work. Throughout the year, you have read in our e-newsletter about the many critical research projects, resources, events, and leadership development opportunities that we have created to build our prospects for a positive pluralism. Looking ahead, we have identified five priorities:

Case Studies Initiative. This year we began to develop a series of case studies as teaching tools for critical thinking about religious pluralism. Draft cases currently include: “A MosqueMasjid (plural masajid) in Arabic means “place of prostration,” or the place where Muslims bow in prayer; in English, this word has become “mosque.” A masjid contains a prayer hall in which there is a mihrab or prayer niche, and a minbar or pulpit... in Palos Heights” and “Trouble in Troy.” Our hope is to polish and publish these case studies in order to make them widely accessible. A gift of $500 will support the publication of one case study.

Fremont, USA. We are also working on a documentary film project to explore the problems and promise of pluralism in one of the country’s most diverse cities. Fremont, USA will make the challenges of religious diversity vivid, visible, and accessible for discussion. A gift of $1000 will support its final production and distribution.

Student Research Support. Our student staff – including our college interns and graduate student research associates – constitute the lifeblood of the Pluralism Project. Supporting the dedication of these future civic and religious leaders to this Project is our priority. A gift of $1000 will support a student work-study position; $2000 will fund a student summer project.

Religious Diversity News. This year, we launched a series of upgrades to our unique online multi-religious news source, Religious Diversity News, providing new functionalities for sorting, saving, and sharing articles. There is so much happening – and so much that is hopeful; RDN can help us spread the news. A gift of $5000 will fund a staff member’s work on RDN.

Our research home in Cambridge. Our office, located in the heart of Cambridge, provides space for us all to work as well as a small conference room where we have hosted international delegations, staff meetings, and local events. Here we are able to make real the connections we have cultivated between the university, the city, and its diverse religious communities. 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 consider adding the Pluralism Project to your gift list. As our partners and friends, we know that you are committed to this work, which is a source of hope and encouragement for many people. 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. We believe in a society that is safe for religious difference and made stronger by the creative engagement of our differences. With your support, we can do this.

Information about giving to the Pluralism Project can be found at:

My sincere thanks and best wishes to you for a new year filled with hope and peace.


Diana L. Eck
Director, The Pluralism Project
Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies
Fredric Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society