March 14, 2008

Pluralism Project Newsletter
March 14, 2008
In this Issue:
  • Diana Eck’s Comments
  • National Interfaith Awareness Week, April 2008
  • Middle East Dialogue Quilt
  • Islamization in Malaysia and Indonesia: A Comparison
  • Summer 2008 Internship Opportunities
  • Interfaith Youth Initiative in Boston
  • Face to Face/Faith to Faith Program
  • “Feminist Theologies: Heritage and Future” a Summer Forum
  • Pew Forum Releases “US Religious Landscape Survey”
  • The Vision and Art of Shinjo Ito Art Exhibition
  • Renewal Explores Religious-Environmental Movement
  • Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines
  • International News: Top Headlines

Diana Eck’s Comments
[ Image: photo of Diana Eck ]
Dear Friends,
Warm greetings from the Pluralism Project. In the midst of all of the political campaigning over these past several weeks, I am heartened to note the kinds of efforts that students are organizing and leading – efforts that truly strengthen our vision for a positive pluralism in our cities, country and world. As the presidential candidates have done little to address the religious diversity that forms the basis for “We the people,” our young people are really carrying this banner forward. This e-newsletter focuses, in large part, on the accomplishments of our students, and provides links to opportunities for students to develop knowledge, leadership skills, and experience in the field of religious pluralism. We hope that you will pass this e-newsletter along to the young people in your networks.
[ Image: Dr. Eck with moderator Victor Kazanjian, and co-panelists Marc Gopin and Mohammed Abu-Nimer. ]
On March 2, I participated in a keynote panel for a conference sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security and hosted by Tufts University entitled, “Religious Pluralism in a Time of Extremism: The Campus Responds”. My co-panelists included Mohammed Abu-Nimer of American University and Marc Gopin of George Mason University. Together we discussed, “The Imperative for Sustaining Dialogue in Difficult Times,” and I was able to draw upon the many examples of difficult dialogues that we have studied and supported through our research at the Pluralism Project. This one-day conference was careful to include the varied perspectives of youth and women, and proved to be an important forum for students in the Greater Boston area to learn with and from each other about how to build a positive pluralism in our city.
[ Image: Photo of delegation with Dr. Eck. ]
On Thursday, March 13, we hosted a State Department delegation from India. The delegation, which was dedicated to exploring interfaith dialogue in the United States, made stops in Washington, DC, Houston, Los Angeles, and Louisville before coming to Boston. The group included a professor of Arabic Studies; a president of a peace council that advocates for a modern, secular Islam; a director of several educational institutions that focus on public health issues; and a businessman who promotes education for Muslim children. After meeting with me and Pluralism Project staff, they also attended my course, “Hindu Myth, Image and Pilgrimage,” and visited the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School.
I was deeply saddened to learn in late January about the passing of our dear colleague and friend, Dr. Lowell Livezey. His work on urban religion, particularly in Chicago, Boston, and New York, has been an inspiration to many of us as colleagues and students. The Ecologies of Learning Project at New York Theological Seminary, which Lowell founded and directed, will carry on his vision of “add[ing] to both the scholarly and the public understanding of religion and cities.” Their website includes a description of Lowell’s lifetime professional accomplishments, as well as a link to contribute to the Lowell W. Livezey Fund.
Best wishes,

National Interfaith Awareness Week, April 2008
[ Image: NIAW logo ]
Sabrina Zearott, one of our current research associates, is organizing an event called National Interfaith Awareness Week (NIAW) that will take place in April 2008. Inspired by the Pluralism Project and the Interfaith Youth Core, this week will provide a national platform for campus-based student organizations to organize interfaith events, and to link together as part of the interfaith youth movement in the US. This week will occur in conjunction with Interfaith Youth Core’s annual Days of Interfaith Youth Service, and IFYC is collaborating with Sabrina to provide publicity through its Different Conversation site and student networks. To get your organization or campus involved in NIAW, go to the NIAW website and register (there are no fees). The NIAW team will send you a logo and participant information, including a list of suggestions for your week. After NIAW 2008, the team will put together a report from campuses and organizations across the nation on the NIAW website for next year’s participants to find ideas and inspiration.

Middle East Dialogue Quilt
[ Image: Emily Ronald displaying the quilt. ]
Former Pluralism Project Research Associate Emily Ronald, who is now a doctoral student at Boston University, organized a “Middle East Dialogue Quilt” project just a little over a year ago. Cosponsored by the Pluralism Project, the Public Conversations Project, and the Dialogue Forum, the mission of the project is “to use the art form of collaborative quilting to design and build a quilt around the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Over the last few months, the Pluralism Project conference room has been a place where Emily has welcomed other quilters to join her in putting the finishing touches on the quilt. Now complete, the quilt masterfully portrays a vision of coexistence and peace in the Middle East, and arguably here in Boston as well. The quilt is a donation to Jean Zaru and the Friends Meeting House in Ramallah, and it will hang in the entryway there as “a visual expression of hope and a message from people of many diverse communities.” If you will be traveling to Ramallah, and would be willing to deliver the quilt, please contact us at

Islamization in Malaysia and Indonesia: A Comparison

Former Pluralism Project Research Associate Rodney Yeoh, a native of Malaysia who worked with us from 2006-2007, delivered a talk to members of the Gerakan political party on December 27, 2007 entitled, “Islamization in Malaysia and Indonesia: A Comparison.” Invited by Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, the chief minister of Penang, and the head of the Gerakan party, Rodney based his talk on his Pluralism Project research report entitled, “Malaysia, Truly Asia? Religious Pluralism in Malaysia”. This is but one example of the ripple effect of much of our work, and the impact young people are having on civic affairs as they relate to religious pluralism.

Summer 2008 Internship Opportunities

We have compiled an extensive listing of summer internship opportunities related to the field of religious pluralism, available at: The Pluralism Project will not be offering internships this year. However, students who will be in the greater Boston area may send a cover letter and resume to be considered for high-level, independent research opportunities related to our resource, World Religions in Boston. Please send documents to Kathryn Lohre, assistant director, at Be sure to include your area of study and contact information for three references. Decisions will be made on a rolling basis.

Interfaith Youth Initiative in Boston

The Interfaith Youth Initiative (I-FYI) of Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries in Boston is currently seeking college students and seminarians ages 15-18 to serve as staff for their Summer Institute. This nine day residential immersion experience will take place July 12-20, with ongoing opportunities in the academic year for mentoring, retreats, and support in pursuing your academic and professional dreams. The theme is: “Be the Change You Wish to See in the World.” This program 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. For more information, see:

Face to Face/Faith to Faith Program
[ Image: photo from Face to Face 2007 ]
Face to Face/Faith to Faith, a program of Auburn Seminary in partnership with Seeking Common Ground, is an international multifaith youth leadership program that brings together Jewish, Muslim and Christian teenagers from areas of conflict around the world. In its seventh year, Face to Face develops a new generation of leaders trained to negotiate conflict in a global community. The program’s approach recognizes the power of the world’s religions as a resource for waging peace, not war. It brings together teenagers from four countries or regions: the Middle East; Northern Ireland; South Africa; and the United States. The year-long program begins with a two-week summer intensive in New York where students engage in dialogue across boundaries, expose stereotypes and begin to understand diverse perspectives. Throughout the year participants integrate their experiences of the summer intensive with the reality of life back home by planning bridge-building and co-existence initiatives that take place in their schools, families and communities.

“Feminist Theologies: Heritage and Future” a Summer Forum

The Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) and Feminist Studies in Religion, Inc. (FSR) are pleased to invite graduate students and junior faculty to apply for the first Summer Forum on Feminist Theologies in Washington, DC, June 15-20, 2008. This inaugural year will focus on “Making the Connections: Claiming Our Past—Envisioning Our Future Together.” This residential program provides the space and opportunity to work with colleagues across generations, religions, racial/ethnic, and disciplinary lines creating new knowledge and deepening feminist scholarly collaboration. Distinguished scholars in the field, including Katie Geneva Cannon, Mary E. Hunt, Judith Plaskow, Kwok Pui-lan, Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, and Deborah Whitehead have agreed to provide leadership for the entire week of lively discussions and creative debate in a communal atmosphere. The application deadline is April 1, 2008. For more information, including the application form, please visit:

Pew Forum Releases “US Religious Landscape Survey”

The “US Religious Landscape Survey”, recently released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, is an extensive survey based on interviews with more than 35,000 Americans over the age of 18. The full report “details the religious affiliation of the American public and explores the remarkable dynamism of the US religious marketplace.” A number of tools that accompany the report, including maps, portraits, and demographic comparisons, allow users to engage directly with the data.

The Vision and Art of Shinjo Ito Art Exhibition

The Vision and Art of Shinjo Ito, a “landmark exhibition that commemorates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Shinjo Ito, the founder of the Shinnyo-en order of Buddhism and a major Buddhist sculptor of Japan’s Showa Era (1924-1989),” will be on view in the coming weeks and months at the Milk Gallery in New York (2/21-3/30), the Chicago Illuminating Company (4/8-5/1), and the Westwood Art Forum in Los Angeles (5/8-6/29). For more information, see:

Renewal Explores Religious-Environmental Movement
[ Image: still shot from <i>Renewal</i> ]
Over the past few years, the environmental movement has gathered momentum, with rallying contributions from political, music, film, and journalistic personalities. Marty Ostrow and Terry Kay Rockefeller’s feature-length documentary Renewal brings to light, for the first time, the contributions of America’s religious institutions. This compelling film explores eight diverse faith-based initiatives that exemplify the range and vitality of America’s religious-environmental movement, from Evangelical Christians protesting mountaintop removal coal mining in Kentucky to a Muslim organization supporting sustainable farming. National groups such as Interfaith Power and Light as well as local organizers such as New Jersey’s GreenFaith coalition are highlighted. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts is currently running an engagement of Renewal on April 20 at 12:30 PM; information about ticket prices can be found at: For more information about how the film can be used in communities like yours, see:

[ Image: Religious Diversity News icon ]

Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines

Renewal Spreads the Environmental Gospel
Marty Ostrow and Terry Kay Rockefeller follow environmental activism among diverse religious communities in the United States in their documentary, Renewal.

Peace Workshop Inspired by King
The Interfaith Youth Initiative of Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries in Boston is hosting a Summer Institute on peacemaking which is inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s “beloved community.”

Soldier of Faith
Reserve Major Shareda Hosein is the first female graduate of a degree program for Islamic chaplains at Hartford Seminary, an honor she hopes will allow her to become the first female Muslim chaplain in the US army.

Utah Temple Attracts Hindus from All Around the West
The Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple in South Jordan draws 1000 worshipers from Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado.

Some Non-Christians Feel Left Out of Election
As candidates in the US presidential campaign stress their commitments to the Christian faith, Muslims, Atheists and Hindus express concern that their faith commitments are excluded.

International News: Top Headlines

Muslim Leaders Issue Letter to Improve Relations with Jewish Community
Muslims leaders issued a call to the world’s Jewish community, urging constructive action that would improve Muslim-Jewish relations.

Kenya: New Interfaith Peace Initiative Launched
Following the footsteps of Kofi Annan’s peace-making efforts, Christians and Muslims in Kenya launched an interfaith peace initiative.

Faith Groups Want More Aid for Poor Nations (United States)
Leaders of the Bay Area’s diverse religious communities announced plans to lobby congress to increase aid to poor nations.

Worshippers Unite for Trip to New Sikh Temple (United Kingdom)
The Peterborough Interfaith Group celebrated their 30 year anniversary by embarking on a series of visits to different places of worship, including the new Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Bedford.

Adding a Little Harmony (New Zealand)
A Stupa, thought to promote harmony, was completed after eight years of work by the Tibetan Buddhist Centre in Whangarei, New Zealand.