October 3, 2008

Pluralism Project Newsletter
October 3, 2008
In this Issue:
  • Diana Eck’s Comments
  • Please Join Us at the American Academy of Religion
  • Thank You to the Ford Foundation
  • On Common Ground Third Edition Available
  • “On Faith” Symposium at Harvard
  • Beyond Our Differences Documentary Film
  • 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions, Melbourne, Australia
  • Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines
  • International News: Top Headlines

Diana Eck’s Comments
[ Image: photo of Diana Eck with bells at Danilov Monastery ]
Dear Friends,
As fall term was about to begin here, I was in Moscow for a week for the last phase of the five-year project I have undertaken as Master of Lowell House to return a set of 17 historic bells to the Danilov Monastery. Some of you may know that this set of Russian bells were purchased and given to Harvard in 1930, at a time when the church was under attack in Stalin’s Russia. Most of Russia’s great bell-sets were destroyed, so the bells we have had in the Lowell House tower here at Harvard are truly national treasures in Russia. Now, after nearly 80 years, we have been able to return these, and we have had a new set cast at one of the newly-opened foundries in Russia. If you want to read more about this, do look at the Lowell House website at Harvard and the website of the Danilov Monastery in Moscow.

As we round the corner to November 4, we at the Pluralism Project have been paying close attention to the role of religion in Election 2008. How are the campaigns reaching out to religious minority groups? How are Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus generating discussion of the issues and candidates? The recent news of the distribution of 28 million copies of the DVD Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West in over 70 US newspapers has been particularly alarming, since its main thrust is to create a climate of fear. It is said to have been distributed most pointedly in so-called “battleground states.” One of our affiliates, Omid Safi, has done some critical research into who’s behind this DVD and its distribution. We have included his response here, a piece called, “Who Put Hate in My Sunday Paper?” We’ll continue to monitor these issues, as I’m sure you will, too.
Over the last few weeks our http://pluralism.org/about/who-we-are/staff-and-interns/archive/ has come together – both returning and new students – to begin our work for this academic year. Welcome back to Ryan Overbey, Kimberly Richards, Derek Shepard, and Sabrina Zearott. Three of our former summer interns have joined us again, now as students at the Divinity School: Kate Deconinck, Sarah Harcourt, and Katie Merriman. Three former students of mine will be assisting on our case study initiative: Roger Baumann, Thomas Leenders, and Iram Nadroo. Finally, we welcome Tiffany Curtis, Michael Looft, and Babak Mostaghimi. We look forward to working together on many exciting projects this year including: revitalizing the online interface for World Religions in Boston, the premiere of our new documentary film Fremont, USA, and a new Boston Workshop that will explore issues of Christian identity in multireligious America.
I want to be sure to invite you to join us for the premiere of our new documentary film, Fremont, USA, on Friday, October 31 at the AAR in Chicago. The details are listed below. As usual, we will have an opportunity to hear updates from each of you, and we look forward to that.
Best Regards,

Please Join Us at the American Academy of Religion
Friday, October 31, 2008, 8:30-11:00 PM
American Academy of Religion
Chicago Hilton, Continental C
Please RSVP to staff@pluralism.org

You are invited to the Pluralism Project reception and the premiere of Fremont, USA, our new documentary film narrated by Diana Eck. Fremont, California is home to Peace Terrace, where Muslims and Methodists built houses of worship side by side and Gurdwara Road, where a large Sikh community engages in creative forms of outreach. The diversity of the global Buddhist community is also present: Thai, Chinese, and Burmese temples dot the landscape. As initial filming was underway, Alia Ansari, an Afghan-American woman, was murdered while walking along a street with her daughter. Was she killed because of her headscarf? Was it a hate crime? How will the larger community respond? This film will make the challenges of religious diversity vivid, visible, and accessible for discussion.

We also look forward to hearing updates from you as well. Join us at 8:30 PM for introductions prior to the film screening. Please RSVP to staff@pluralism.org. If you cannot join us, we would be grateful to receive an email update.

Thank You to the Ford Foundation
Over the summer months we were delighted to learn that the Ford Foundation will renew their generous funding of the work of the Pluralism Project. In the next grant cycle, we will focus our efforts on further developing our research base; creating and extending the impact of case studies; and expanding our website. Thank you to the Ford Foundation for helping us to move toward these goals.

On Common Ground Third Edition Available
[ Image: On Common Ground ]
The third edition of the Pluralism Project’s multimedia interactive CD-ROM, On Common Ground: World Religions in America, is now available. First published by Columbia University Press in 1997, the primary content of the CD-ROM remains as it was in the first version: through text, image, and sound, On Common Ground provides a snapshot of a historical moment in an emerging multireligious America. We are now taking orders for the third edition of the CD-ROM, which is Windows compatible only. For more information, please see: http://www.pluralism.org/ocg/index.php or download the order form.

“On Faith” Symposium at Harvard
On September 23, 2008, the Pluralism Project participated in a one-day symposium sponsored by the Harvard chaplains called “On Faith at Harvard.” The symposium explored the question of the role of religion at Harvard, and in higher education in general. The Pluralism Project offered a presentation entitled “Engaging Religious Difference,” which included a sneak-peak of our new documentary film, Fremont, USA. Highlights of the day included an interfaith Iftar sponsored by the Harvard Islamic Society and a keynote address by journalist Sally Quinn.

Beyond Our Differences Documentary Film
[ Image: film poster ]
Beyond Our Differences is a documentary film directed by Peter Bisanz that explores the fundamental unity among world religions. Interviews with politicians, scholars, and religious leaders like His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu are woven with the stories of everyday individuals who are putting their faith to good work. Filmed across Asia, Africa, North America, Europe, and the Middle East, Beyond Our Differences reveals the important role of religion in our increasingly global community. The documentary will premiere at the New York Independent International Film and Video Festival, with a broadcast on Bill Moyers Journal this December to follow; the film has also been accepted at four other festivals across the country.

2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions, Melbourne, Australia
[ Image: CPWR logo ]
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions invites all people of faith, spirit and goodwill to encounter the vast and rich diversity of the world’s religious and spiritual traditions. Take part in over 500 events in Melbourne, Australia from December 3-9, 2009, including keynote addresses, seminars, conferences, dialogues, performances, concerts and exhibitions on the theme, “Make a World of Difference: Hearing each other, Healing the earth.”
Key topics of global concern will be addressed from religious and spiritual perspectives:
• Healing the Earth with Care and Concern
• Reconciling with Indigenous Peoples
• Overcoming Poverty in a Patriarchal World
• Securing Food and Water for all People
• Building Peace in the Pursuit of Justice
• Sharing Wisdom in the Search for Inner Peace
Consider submitting a proposal to present on one of these topics, or other areas of pressing concern. Full instructions are available online at www.parliamentofreligions.org, as are registration materials and additional information. Congratulations to Grove Harris, our former managing director, who is now program director for the Parliament.

[ Image: Religious Diversity News icon ]

Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines

Three Faiths, Three Friends: Seattle’s Interfaith Amigos
The work of Rabbi Ted Falcon, Pastor Don Mackenzie and Brother Jamal Rahman, Seattle’s “Interfaith Amigos,” is an example of the grassroots interfaith movements that are beginning to emerge across the United States.

Documentary Film Inspires National Dialogue on Race and Religion During 9/11 Anniversary
Divided We Fall, a film documenting hate violence after 9/11, screened in cities across the country this September, fostering extensive dialogue on issues of race and religion.

Sikh Civil Rights Office Opens in Fremont
The Sikh Coalition recently opened its newest office in Fremont, California, home to the country’s largest Sikh population.

Making Peace, and Prayers: Mosque Opens its Doors as Controversy Fades
After years of controversy, the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center opened its doors to worshippers for the holy month of Ramadan.

115 Years Didn’t Dim a Dream of Hindus
The Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Homer Glen, Illinois recently opened a new temple, believed to be the fulfillment of Swami Vivekananda’s dream of a “universal” temple.

International News: Top Headlines

Berlin’s Hindus Are Building Two New Temples
Berlin’s Hindu population plans to build two new temples in the suburb of Neukoelln.

NCC Governing Board Responds to ‘A Common Word,’ and Calls for Immigration Reform and an End to Trafficking
The National Council of Churches Governing Board recently issued a response to the ‘A Common Word’ letter, affirming the need for Muslim-Christian dialogue and highlighting the love of God both religions share.

Women in Christian-Muslim Dialogue Want to Break Down Stereotypes
In an interfaith dialogue titled “Moving towards peace through religion,” Muslim and Christian women met in Sweden to discuss and work to overcome stereotypes about both religions.

Buddhist Centre Opens
The Palpung Kagyu Samten Choeling Tibetan Buddhist Institute opened in New Zealand in mid-September.

Jain Temple in UK Completes 20 Years
The Jain Center of Leicester celebrated the twentieth anniversary of its founding in September.