April 9, 2009

Pluralism Project Newsletter
April 9, 2009
In this Issue:
  • Diana Eck’s Comments
  • Fremont, USA: At Harvard University and Hearts and Minds Film Festival
  • Case Study Initiative
  • Boston Workshop and Seminar
  • 2009 Costas Consultation: Mission and Multiple Religious Belonging
  • Religion Communicators Council Convention
  • Pluralism Sunday & Inclusive Day of Prayer
  • The Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue
  • FAITH book for children
  • National News: Coverage of Fremont, USA
  • International News

Diana Eck’s Comments
[ Image: picture of Dr. Eck ]
Dear Friends,
The arrival of spring is nearly palpable here in Cambridge. While the weather has been slow to change, the climate on campus has shifted to a near-frenzy, signaling that yet another academic year will soon draw to a close. The usual hope and anticipation that this time of year brings has been overshadowed by the troubling realities of the economic crisis, and its implications for the future. Universities, like every other sector, are struggling to adapt by refining priorities and downsizing programs, and our students are preparing to graduate into a market with the highest unemployment rates in over two decades. Our challenge will be to continue to find resourceful ways to develop the kinds of leaders, technologies, and ideas for building a stronger social fabric. Our foundation for this imperative work is strong.
To this end, we are grateful to the foundations, centers, and individuals that continue to support our work and partner with us in our mission to help Americans engage with religious diversity. Through this support we were recently able to fill an open position at the Pluralism Project. In early March, Erin Loeb joined our senior staff as research coordinator. A former research associate, and recent graduate of Harvard Divinity School, Erin brings both a fresh perspective and a deep familiarity with our work. We are thrilled to have her back on board.
These days my own thoughts and energies are focused, as much as possible, on preparing The Gifford Lectures that I will deliver at The University of Edinburgh in late April and early May. This lectureship is an annual tradition at each of the four ancient universities in Scotland with the purpose of “advanc[ing] philosophical and theological thought.” This opportunity is quite an honor for me.
My lectures will explore the theme, “The Age of Pluralism,” through focused lenses:
• Globalization and Religious Pluralism
• The Civic Perspective: Citizens, Nations, and the Challenges of Religious Pluralism
• The New Cosmopolis: Cities and the Realities of Religious Pluralism
• Religious Views of Religious Pluralism
• The Pluralism Within
I will be sure to offer a full report in our next e-newsletter.
In my last letter, I affirmed Obama’s pledge to “see a new way forward” with the Muslim world. During his recent trip to Turkey, we saw a glimpse of what this “way” will look like, and there are many positive signs. But there are also signs that the new way might not always diverge from the old way. In my latest blog on Politico’s “The Arena,” I explore “The Continued Blockade of Tariq Ramadan” by members of the Obama administration. How can we expect to forge a new kind of relationship with the Muslim world when we refuse entry to one of its most prominent thinkers and bridge-builders? I invite you to offer your comments there.
Finally, we look toward the summer having just finalized our slate of summer interns, which we will announce in our next newsletter. While our deadline has come and gone, there are many other opportunities in the summer and fall that are still open to applicants. You might check our listings at: http://www.pluralism.org/resources/calendar/summer_internships.php
With best wishes,

Fremont, USA: At Harvard University and Hearts and Minds Film Festival
[ Image: picture from Harvard premiere ]
Following its premiere in Fremont, California in February, our new documentary film Fremont, USA premiered at Harvard in early March. Using the themes explored in the film as a starting point, Dr. Eck moderated a lively panel discussion on civic engagement and interfaith action in Greater Boston. Special guests included Rev. Cheng Imm Tan, director, Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians; M. Bilal Kaleem, executive director, Muslim American Society – Boston Chapter; and Alexander Levering Kern, executive director, Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries. The film, panel discussion, and reception were well attended by University students, faculty, Pluralism Project researchers, local religious and civic leaders, and members of the diverse faith communities of Greater Boston.
[ Image: Hearts & Minds laurels ]
Fremont, USA was an official selection at the Hearts and Minds Film Festival in Dover, Delaware on April 4, 2009. “Hearts & Minds Film(sm) is an initiative linking socially focused films and their makers with the public through community based organizations and businesses to foster civic participation – from dialogue to action – on critical topics.” Media coverage of the fest highlighted Fremont, USA.
[ Image: "Fremont, USA" icon ]
http://www.pluralism.org/fremontusa has been updated to include recent media coverage, an interactive map, a study guide, and other resources for groups and individuals.

Case Study Initiative

Our Case Study Initiative was featured in the most recent edition of Religious Studies News, a quarterly publication of the American Academy of Religion. As a result, we have received inquiries from faculty in religious and theological studies who are interested in partnering with us on this work, including many who are already using the case method in their classrooms.

Boston Workshop and Seminar
[ Image: picture of group at Milford Gurdwara Sahib ]
In early March, we concluded our Boston Workshop series with a visit to the Milford Gurdwara Sahib, where we experienced the generous hospitality of the Sikh community.
This three-day workshop brought together academics, ministers, seminarians, and other Christian leaders to develop tools for a Christian ministry that is effectively grounded in the complex issues and urgent realities of our increasingly multi-religious city. While the formal site visits and reflections sessions are now complete, participants will continue to share their reflections and sermons, and these will be posted to our website. Students in the concurrent seminar will also contribute to this collection.
The relationships that these religious professionals have built with leaders in other religious communities will be invaluable as they carry out their ministries and studies throughout Greater Boston. Thank you to each of our gracious hosts this year: Kumar Nochur at the Sri Lakshmi Temple; Bilal Kaleem and Lizzy Dann at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center; and Inderpreet Singh and Harpreet Singh at the Milford Gurdwara Sahib.
We would also like to thank the Louisville Institute and the Carpenter Foundation for making this Workshop and Seminar possible.

2009 Costas Consultation: Mission and Multiple Religious Belonging

On February 27, 2009, the Pluralism Project participated in the 2009 Costas Consultation in Global Mission sponsored by the schools of the Boston Theological Institute and hosted by the Episcopal Divinity School. This year’s theme was “Mission and Multiple Religious Belonging.” Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre offered a workshop with Dr. Timothy Tennent, Professor of World Missions and Indian Studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary on the topic of “Multiple Belonging in the Age of Pluralism.” Other workshop topics included mystical paths, inter-religious religiosity, and the politics of multiple belonging. A keynote address was given by Joe Montville of George Mason University.

Religion Communicators Council Convention

Celebrating its 80th anniversary, the Religion Communicators Council National Convention took place in Boston March 26-28, 2009. The convention theme, “Identity Amid Diversity,” was explored through a keynote address by Dr. Richard Parker of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Breakout sessions focused on branding, messaging, and “nurtur[ing] strong identity while creating vibrant and mutually productive partnerships across religious and cultural lines.” The Pluralism Project hosted an exhibition table throughout the convention, and Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre offered a presentation about how to enhance the religious diversity represented by media, highlighting our Religious Diversity News database, and Fremont, USA. We have been invited to play a role in next year’s Congress in Chicago, and we look forward to continuing to serve as a resource for today’s religion communicators.

Pluralism Sunday & Inclusive Day of Prayer
On Sunday, May 3, 2009 churches around the world will participate in “Pluralism Sunday,” an initiative of The Center for Progressive Christianity. This effort “recognize[s] that other religions can be as good for others as [Christianity] is for [Christians]. We can grow closer to God and deeper in compassion—and we can understand our own traditions better—through a more intimate awareness of the world’s religions.” Churches will integrate elements from other traditions into their services, feature guest speakers, or host an exchange with another local religious center. The extensive website for this effort – www.pluralismsunday.org – also includes a link to the initiative “For a Pluralistic, Inclusive National Day of Prayer.”

The Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue
[ Image: JIRD logo ]
The inaugural edition of The Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue will be published on May 1, 2009. The Journal is a forum for academic, social, and timely issues affecting religious communities around the world. It is designed to increase the quality and frequency of interchanges between religious groups and their leaders. The Journal seeks to build an inter-religious community of scholars, in which people of different traditions learn from one another and work together for the common good.
The first edition will be dedicated to the dynamics of dialogue itself. With articles from students, scholars, and leaders around the world, it aims to enrich discourse about the benefits and challenges of interacting, both as individuals and communities, with different religious traditions. You are invited to take part in this conversation and to share your personal perspectives and experiences as a person of faith, or no faith at all, living in a multi-religious world. See http://irdialogue.org for more information.

FAITH book for children
[ Image: <i>Faith</i> book cover ]
The Global Fund for Children recently published a children’s book entitled, FAITH. This book celebrates the diversity of religious expression around the world, revealed through stunning photographs of children praying, singing, learning, and caring for one another and their communities. Intended for ages 4 through 10, Faith introduces young readers to religious tolerance by highlighting common threads that bring people together in reverence and joy. Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre and former Research Coordinator Deonnie Moodie reviewed manuscripts for this project in 2008.

[ Image: RDN icon ]

National News: Coverage of Fremont, USA
Filmmakers Focus Cameras on Personal Stories, Societal Issues
Coverage of the Hearts and Minds Film Festival in Dover, Delaware, featuring Fremont, USA.

A Round Of Applause for Fremont, USA
The lessons of Fremont, USA offer a model for cultural cohesion and religious pluralism.

Religious Diversity Explored At Local Level
The Harvard premiere of Fremont, USA and the panel discussion that followed explored interfaith relations and civic engagement in Greater Boston.

Fremont’s Story Hits the Big Screen
Fremont, USA portrays an unexamined side of this California suburb, raising questions about changes happening in cities and towns across the country.

International News

The Continued Blockade of Tariq Ramadan
Members of the Obama administration continue to block a respected Muslim scholar from entering the US based on donations he made to a Palestinian relief charity that was later blacklisted.

US Judge Strikes Down Policy On Religious Visas
A US District Judge struck down a government policy that tightened restrictions on religious workers seeking permanent residency.

Report Reveals Sikhs Share Rights Issues Around the World
The first comprehensive report on the state of Sikh civil rights worldwide shows that the scope of discrimination faced by Sikhs is greater than previously thought.

Coalition to Advance UN Decade for Inter-Religious Cooperation for Peace
Members from diverse religious and interfaith organizations agreed to propose a “United Nations Decade for Inter-religious and Intercultural Dialogue, Understanding, and Cooperation for Peace” at the UN General Assembly in September 2009.