April 24, 2008

Pluralism Project Newsletter
April 24, 2008
In this Issue:
  • Diana Eck’s Comments
  • A Dream in Doubt
  • “Interfaith and Inter-religious Dialogue at Connecticut College”
  • Crisis in Faith: Zoroastrians Today
  • National Interfaith Awareness Week a Success
  • Women’s Interfaith Initiatives After 9/11 Web Page
  • Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines
  • International News: Top Headlines

Diana Eck’s Comments
[ Image: photo of Diana Eck ]
Dear Friends,
The days are becoming longer and warmer here in Cambridge, reminding us that another academic year is quickly coming to a close. In mid-April, I traveled to Syracuse, New York for “A Celebration Symposium on Religious Diversity in honor of Dr. James B. Wiggins,” executive director of InterFaith Works of Central New York and Remington Professor of Religion, Emeritus, Syracuse University. I had the honor of joining Dr. Chester Gillis of Georgetown University as a keynote presenter on this occasion to honor Jim’s contributions to his community and to academia. The formal program was followed by a celebratory banquet – a marvelous event.
Next week I will travel to Sharon, Massachusetts to give the 3rd Annual Robert W. Bullock Memorial Lecture at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church. This annual lecture was established to honor the memory of Father Robert Bullock, who was a champion of interfaith dialogue in the diverse city of Sharon. My talk, “The Case for Pluralism: Difficult Dialogues in Multireligious America,” will draw upon our work over the years at the Pluralism Project, as well as the inspiring new model for inter-community engagement offered by InterFaith Action in Sharon.
At the very end of the semester in May, we will be hosting the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA for a two day meeting at Harvard. The commission, which I am currently chairing, is tasked with helping the NCC and its member communions “explore the the challenges and opportunities of living among people of other faiths.” During this visit, I hope to share some of the unique challenges and opportunities we have faced in building a positive pluralism in the city of Boston. We look forward to learning from this gathering as we prepare to organize a “Boston Workshop” next fall that will engage Christian clergy in theological reflection on living in a multi-religious city.
We are preparing to bid a fond farewell to some wonderful graduating students. Thank you to research associates Geoff Barstow, Erin Loeb, and Chris Morales who will receive their degrees from Harvard Divinity School in June. Congratulations and best wishes.
We are also saying so long, but not farewell, to our research coordinator, Deonnie Moodie. Deonnie has been a tremendous asset to The Pluralism Project during her three years as a research associate, and in this past year in a staff capacity. Deonnie will spend the summer studying Bengali in Bangladesh, and then enter the doctoral program at Harvard in the fall. Deonnie, we wish you the best as you enter this new phase of your research.
One of the most difficult farewells this year is to our beloved webmaster, Alan Wagner. For nearly 10 years, Alan has been the dedicated soul behind our award-winning website. Without him, and his vision for our work, we would not be the organization that we are today. Alan will be granted his PhD in the Study of Religion, with a focus on Chinese Buddhism in June, and will be moving to France with his family shortly thereafter. Congratulations and many, many thanks, Alan. We are deeply indebted to you, and we will most certainly be in touch.
As we approach the summer months, we see exciting transitions. In late May, Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre will begin a maternity leave and all of us are on tip-toe with anticipation. At the Cambridge Street office we will have a few independent researchers doing field work in the Greater Boston area, and student researchers will be providing weekly updates to Religious Diversity News. Rest assured that we will keep you up to date, but with our core staff reduced for the summer, we may not be as prompt in responding should you need us.
September will be upon us before we know it! We wish you all a marvelous end to the academic year and a restful summer. We will be back in touch in the fall.
Best Regards,

A Dream in Doubt
On March 19, the Pluralism Project co-sponsored a screening of the documentary, A Dream in Doubt, presented by the Harvard Graduate School of Education Diversity Innovation Fund and the Committee on the Study of Religion. The film’s producer, Preetmohan Singh, Deputy Director of Public Policy at the Interfaith Alliance in Washington, D.C. was present. This award-winning documentary explores the fate of the Sikh-American community in Phoenix, Arizona in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks. It features Rana Sodhi, an Indian immigrant whose turban and beard—articles of his Sikh faith—now symbolize 
America’s new enemy. More information about the film can be found at: www.adreamindoubt.org

“Interfaith and Inter-religious Dialogue at Connecticut College”
On April 9, Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre joined former interns Kate DeConinck and Nour Goda for an evening of sharing and discussion on “Interfaith and Inter-religious Dialogue at Connecticut College.” The event was sponsored by the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life at Connecticut College, and was hosted by the Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life, Claudia Highbaugh. Kathryn gave an introductory presentation about the Pluralism Project, including our work on World Religions in Boston (WRB). Kate and Nour each presented their summer research that contributed to the Hinduism, Islam, and Interfaith sections of WRB, and current research associate and Connecticut College alumna Kimberly Richards presented her work on Religious Diversity News. The event, which included an international dinner and table discussions, was well attended by students, faculty, and staff.

Crisis in Faith: Zoroastrians Today
[ Image: photo of panelists ]
On April 18, the Pluralism Project hosted a partial screening and panel discussion of Tenaz Dubash’s documentary film, Crisis in Faith: Zoroastrians Today, at Harvard Divinity School. Crisis in Faith is a personal journey about Tenaz’s quest for the truth around the controversies facing followers of her faith today, focusing on the dwindling number of Zoroastrians worldwide and the treatment of Zoroastrians as a religious minority in Iran. The film was shot in Boston, Chicago, Iran, India, New York, and Vancouver. Tenaz was present for a panel discussion with scholars Dina McIntyre (retired lawyer and member of the Zoroastrian community), Dr. P. Oktor Skjaervo (Harvard University), Dr. Nasswan Dossabhoy (Harvard Zoroastrian Association & Endicott College) and Dr. Diana Eck (Harvard University & The Pluralism Project). The event was co-sponsored by the Pluralism Project, ZAGBA (Zoroastrian Association of the Greater Boston Area), and the Zoroastrian Associations of Harvard and MIT.

National Interfaith Awareness Week a Success
[ Image: NIAW logo ]
In our last e-newsletter, we shared that Research Associate Sabrina Zearott was organizing an event called National Interfaith Awareness Week (NIAW). Inspired by the Pluralism Project and the Interfaith Youth Core, this week was held April 14-18 and it provided 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. 14 campuses nationwide participated in this inaugural year, and information about their respective weeks will soon be available at the NIAW website. At Harvard, students participated in a variety of events co-sponsored by 14 campus organizations and student religious groups, including a kickoff festival, a panel discussion on the “A Common Word” document, a service event, a screening of Acting on Faith: Women’s New Religious Activism in America, and a trivia night. Sabrina and the NIAW team are already looking forward to expanding this week in 2009.

Women’s Interfaith Initiatives After 9/11 Web Page
[ Image: seminar group photo ]
Last fall, we held a seminar on “Women’s Interfaith Initiatives After 9/11” at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Leaders of five women’s interfaith organizations that were formed after 9/11 joined us, our faculty colleagues, and women from other religious and interfaith organizations for two days of presentations and discussion. We now have a web page that offers highlights of this seminar, including the agenda, participant bios, photos, a powerpoint overview, and transcripts.

[ Image: Religious Diversity News icon ]

Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines

Coalition Releases Civil Rights Report and Civil Rights Agenda for City Sikhs
New York Sikhs gathered at City Hall to celebrate Vaisakhi by releasing “Making Our Voices Heard: A Civil Rights Agenda for New York City Sikhs.”

Muslim Women Start Law Firm with Sense of ‘Hope’
The recently formed Amal Law Group LLC in Palos Heights, Illinois, which consists of only Muslim women attorneys, claims to be the largest firm of its kind in the United States.

Breaking Bread and Boundaries
Over 300 participants in the Denver area have gathered to discuss their diverse faith traditions at dinner parties organized by the nonprofit, Common Tables.

A Blending of Cultures
In Scranton, Pennsylvania Hindus celebrated Holi as Iranian-Americans celebrated Norooz, or the Persian New Year.

Second Muslim Elected to Congress
In March, Andre Carson was elected to Congress by Indiana voters.

International News: Top Headlines

Hindus, Sikhs Most Likely to Vote in Britain: Study
A study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation revealed that South Asians – Hindus and Sikhs specifically – are more likely to vote in British elections than any other citizen group.

US Hindu Leaders Defend Their Meeting with Pope
US Hindu and Jain leaders attended an interfaith meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in Washington, D.C. despite other religious groups’ refusals to do so.

Religious Freedom Panel Urges Bush to Boycott Beijing Games
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom called on President Bush to boycott the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games unless China opens talks with the Dalai Lama.

Teachers in Bid to Boost Religious Tolerance
High school teachers in Australian Christian and Muslim schools are collaborating on a joint curriculum to foster religious tolerance among students.

Monk-Led Protests Show Buddhist Activism
Asia’s Buddhist communities are becoming more involved in politics and social justice, as evidenced by recent protests in both Myanmar and Tibet.