February 4, 2009

Pluralism Project Newsletter
February 4, 2009
In this Issue:
  • Diana Eck’s Comments
  • Summer Internships 2009
  • Fremont, USA to Premiere at Harvard University March 5
  • Affiliate Douglas Hicks Launches New Book
  • Student Affiliate Om Lala Explores FBOs in South Africa
  • Innovative Interfaith Model: “One Town, Many Initiatives”
  • “The Religious-Secular Divide: The US Case” Conference, March 5-6
  • Domestic Stories
  • International Stories

Diana Eck’s Comments
[ Image: photo of Diana Eck ]
Dear friends,
These first weeks of 2009 give us good reason to pause. We recently witnessed the newly-inaugurated President Barack Obama affirm what we have worked so hard over the years to promote: “our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. [That] we are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers.” This historically unprecedented naming of our rich religious diversity changes the way in which “we the people” see ourselves, and the ways in which others around the world see us, too. Click here to read my memo to President Obama entitled, “Becoming a More Complex ‘We,'” published in the December-January issue of Tikkun.
Obama’s pledge to “see a new way forward” with the Muslim world, and the concrete steps has made towards that in the first weeks of his administration are heartening. Yet we have also witnessed the profound grief and tragedy that has unfolded in Gaza since late December, and felt the reverberations of that war in our own cities and towns here in America. I have been contributing regularly to Arena’s Politico blog, and I invite you to read my reflections on these and other topics, as well as those offered by an array of academics, policymakers, and authors.
Ours is a world that is interconnected, and so the projects and programs that many of us invest ourselves in – be they academic, civic, or interfaith – remain critical to building a culture of peace here in the US and around the world. We are grateful to have you as partners in this Project.

All the best in the new year,

Summer Internships 2009

In 2009 the Pluralism Project will offer 6 summer internships for undergraduate students and 4 independent research opportunities for graduate students. Two of these positions will be devoted to website development and design, and we encourage undergraduate and graduate candidates with skills in HTML and PHP to apply. Summer projects will focus on our World Religions in Boston resource and our Case Study Initiative. Interns and independent researchers will be offered modest stipends, but are advised to seek additional funding from their colleges, universities, or other sources. Please click here for more information, including how to apply. Application deadline: February 28, 2009.

If you scroll down past our internships on the webpage, you will find listings for a variety of other internships being offered by partner organizations. We encourage you to share this link with the young people in your networks. If you have an internship that you think should be added to this list, please email a brief summary and link to staff@pluralism.org

Fremont, USA to Premiere at Harvard University March 5
[ Image: Fremont, USA icon ]
We invite you to join us for the Harvard premiere of our new documentary film, Fremont, USA at 3 PM on Thursday, March 5 in the Fong Auditorium, Boylston Hall. This film explores immigrant civic engagement and interfaith relations in a California city known for its diversity, and will offer a starting point for a discussion of these issues in Greater Boston. A panel of special guests, including Rev. Cheng Imm Tan, Director of the Mayors Office of New Bostonians, and M. Bilal Kaleem, Executive Director of the Muslim American Society Boston Chapter, will provide key insights into the Boston landscape, and help to lead an enriching audience discussion. A celebratory reception will follow. Please RSVP to staff@pluralism.org by February 28.
[ Image: Accolade Award Laurels ]
In December 2008, Fremont, USA won an Accolade Award. This international competition “recognizes filmmakers, large and small, who demonstrate exceptional achievement in craft and creativity.” We invite you to consider hosting a local screening of this award-winning film, and to partner with other civic, religious, and interfaith organizations. Please contact us for ideas and resources.

The Fremont Alliance for a Hate-Free Community will be holding a free public screening on Monday, February 9 at 7 PM at Niles Congregational Church, 225 H Street in Fremont. More info: www.pluralism.org/fremontusa or (510) 797-0895

Affiliate Douglas Hicks Launches New Book
Pluralism Project Affiliate Douglas Hicks launched his new book in January at the Library of Virginia. God on All Sides: Leadership in a Devout and Diverse America, is a timely exploration of the unique challenges faced by elected officials, school principals, corporate leaders, and many others in light of our new religious diversity. You can watch Hick’s “Book Talk” on C-SPAN2’s Book TV. Dr. Hicks is Associate Professor of Leadership Studies and Religion in the Jepson School of Leadership Studies and Executive Director of the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement at the University of Richmond. He is also the author of Religion and the Workplace: Pluralism, Spirituality, Leadership and Inequality and Christian Ethics.

Student Affiliate Om Lala Explores FBOs in South Africa

Pluralism Project Student Affiliate Om Lala’s dissertation, titled: “The Role of Faith-Based Organizations in Mitigating HIV/AIDS-Related Stigma in Religious Communities”, is now available for download on our website. Lala explores the important new countercultural role that faith-based organizations (FBOs) can play in combating the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS through the lens of one Christian, one Muslim, and one Hindu organization in Kwazulu Natal and Western Cape, South Africa.

Innovative Interfaith Model: “One Town, Many Initiatives”
[ Image: Interfaith Action, Inc. logo ]
Interfaith Action, Inc. and The Sharon Pluralism Network in Sharon, Massachusetts have recently launched a series of initiatives to build a culture of pluralism in this small but diverse community, and to “be a resource to other cities and towns interested in collaborating to strengthen the bonds of civil society.”
“One Town, Many Initiatives” includes:
“One Town, Many Traditions” Photography Exhibit
“One Town, Many Cultures” Film Festival
“One Town, Many Stories” Oral History Project Featured on Sharon Community Television
• “One Bag, One Life” Campaign to Combat Malaria.
The Interfaith Action Youth Leadership Program will be sponsoring its 2009 Teen Interfaith Diversity Education Conference on Sunday, March 15 at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. Click here to register. Check out www.ifaction.org for more information on any of these initiatives or events.

“The Religious-Secular Divide: The US Case” Conference, March 5-6
The New School for Social Research in New York City will host a conference on March 5-6, 2009 called, “The Religious-Secular Divide: The US Case.” “As tensions sharpen, join distinguished scholars and intellectuals to explore the nature and future of religion, spirituality, and secularism in the United States, looking at their changing relations both historically and through contemporary debates. This conference will look backward at the religious secular divide and forward to what the future may have in store. The keynote address will be given by Charles Taylor.” For more information, go to: http://www.socres.org/religiousseculardivide/

[ Image: RDN logo ]

Domestic Stories

Inaugural Prayers Aim for a More Diverse America
Prayers offered by Rick Warren and Joseph Lowery at the inauguration of President Barack Obama sought to acknowledge the diversity of religious beliefs held by Americans.

Becoming a More Complex “We”
A memo from Diana L. Eck to President Obama reflecting on the impact of his words and actions related to American religious pluralism.

Dartmouth’s Interfaith Floor Creates a New Kind of Community
A new “Interfaith Living and Learning Community” at Dartmouth offers real-life opportunities for students to engage across religious lines.

South Florida Muslims Use Bus Ads, Hotline to Counter “Obsession” DVD Campaign
In response to the distribution of the fear-mongering DVD, the local chapter of CAIR launches a campaign to answer questions about Islam.

International Stories

Open Letter to Obama In New York Times Calls for Even-Handed Mideast Policy
Among other advocacy groups, the Muslim Public Affairs Council calls on President Obama to adopt policies for sustainable peace in the Middle East.

Hub Religious Voices Call for Gaza Cease-Fire
Boston religious leaders issue a joint statement calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.

Religion Now More Divisive Than Race, Says Public
A recent survey in the UK indicates that religion has surpassed race as a divisive issue.

Global Conf. On World’s Religions Post-September 11 to Be Held At Jamia
Canada’s McGill University and the Jamia Millia Islamia are jointly collaborating on a Global Congress to explore world religions from an Asian perspective.