June 23, 2009

Pluralism Project Newsletter
June 23, 2009
In this Issue:
  • Diana Eck’s Comments
  • State Department Delegation from Sweden
  • “Educating Christian, Jewish, & Muslim Leaders” Conference
  • Ning Site for High School Educators
  • “In Film”
  • Case Study Initiative
  • Global Spirit
  • National News
  • International News

Diana Eck’s Comments
[ Image: picture of Dr. Eck ]
Dear Friends,
With the transition from spring to summer, much has happened in these past weeks. First, let me recap my April-May trip to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland to deliver The Gifford Lectures. This lectureship is an annual tradition at each of the four ancient universities in Scotland with the purpose of advancing philosophical and theological thought. It was quite an extraordinary scholarly and personal experience for me, something of an intellectual (and social) marathon. I met many scholars and religious leaders who are involved in the religious dimensions of immigration in Scotland and Great Britain more broadly. With the 100th anniversary of the 1910 World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh now on the horizon, there is also increasing discussion of the theological issues of religious pluralism. I was also impressed with the energy and initiatives of the Edinburgh Inter-Faith Association.
My lectures investigated “The Age of Pluralism” through six 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; and The Pluralism Within. A brief description of these lectures can be found online at: http://www.hss.ed.ac.uk/giffordexemp/2000/details/ProfessorDianaEck.html Eventually the lectures will be streamed online, and the initial lecture on “Globalization and Religious Pluralism” is currently on YouTube with a link posted on our homepage. There will eventually be a book, but first I will need to add substantially to what are intended to be public lectures.
Then of course a few weeks later as we were marking commencement here at Harvard, President Obama was in Cairo, Egypt, delivering his “Remarks on a New Beginning.” We know that these much-anticipated remarks have already sparked conversation and dialogue, and we intend to keep a close eye on whether the Obama administration is successful in its quest to ignite a new and positive relationship between the United States and the so-called “Islamic world” through continued action. We know that many American Muslims have, to a great extent, applauded this effort as a step in the right direction.
[ Image: Group photo of Summer 2009 interns ]
That same week we welcomed our summer interns to our humble abode on Cambridge Street. Hailing from Clark University, the College of William & Mary, Harvard College and Divinity School, St. Olaf College, Tufts University, and Wellesley College, the group is a mix of undergraduate and graduate students. This year’s nine-week intensive program is focused on launching a new user interface and updating the content of our online resource, “World Religions in Greater Boston.” In addition to attending local conferences, events, and religious celebrations, we have added in a series of “Friday Workshops” to our program this year, drawing upon the work and expertise of our local affiliates. We have already had a “Case Study Workshop” offered by Pluralism Project Research Director Elinor Pierce and a “Gallery Experience” exploring the use of the museum space for education and reflection offered by Harvard University Art Museums Director of Education Ray Williams. Both have provided an exceptional opportunity for our students to engage with our ongoing work and partnerships.
We look forward to reporting on our progress later this summer, and we wish you much success with your own work.
With best wishes,

State Department Delegation from Sweden
[ Image: pic of delegation at PP ]
On May 22, 2009, the Pluralism Project hosted a State Department delegation from Sweden. The group included two representatives from Swedish Muslims for Peace and Justice; a youth immigrant contact who helps new immigrants navigate issues of religious difference and assimilation in a secular Swedish society; and the chairman of the Kista Folk High School Association, an advocate for Swedish Muslim equality. A lively conversation with the diverse delegation centered on issues of interfaith relations, perceptions of Islam, and Muslim life in the United States. After their visit to Boston, the delegation traveled to Washington, DC to continue their discussions on the political, social and educational issues affecting American Muslims.

“Educating Christian, Jewish, & Muslim Leaders” Conference
On June 15-16, 2009, the Pluralism Project participated in a conference on “Educating Christian, Jewish, & Muslim Leaders in an Age of Religious Diversity,” which took place on the neighboring campuses of Andover Newton Theological School and Hebrew College. Organized by the Boston Theological Institute, Hartford Seminary, the Interreligious Center on Public Life, the Islamic Council of New England, and the Massachusetts Council of Churches, this event sought to initiate a conversation among faculty and administrators from New England institutions about how to “best educate future religious leaders for service in a world of religious diversity.” Two Pluralism Project summer interns, Josh Daneshforooz and Claire Droste, attended along with Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre. Dr. Diana Eck participated in a public panel program on “Religious Identity in an Age of Religious Diversity” with Rabbi Arthur Green of Hebrew College and Dr. Abdel-Rahman Mohamed of the Islamic Council of New England. The conference was the first in a series of events designed for area scholars, community leaders, and activists to explore these issues, including a national conference that will be held in April 2010. This effort is supported by generous grants from the Fetzer Institute and the Henry Luce Foundation.

Ning Site for High School Educators
Our Interfaith Curriculum Consultant Rodney Yeoh has recently put together a “Ning” site for high school educators, as a forum for resource sharing and networking. Many of our resources for teachers are highlighted on this site, and there is also a place for you to contribute to a discussion forum on questions such as: “What resources do you currently use to teach religious pluralism?” and “What resources might the Pluralism Project consider developing that could facilitate your teaching?” If you would like to be added to this site, “Teaching Pluralism at the High School Level,” please visit http://pluralism.ning.com/ or contact us at staff@pluralism.org

“In Film”
[ Image: film strip icon ]
Film provides an exceptional medium for promoting pluralism across a wide spectrum of audiences. This section of our newsletter is devoted to news about documentary film projects that might be of interest to our subscribers. Please send information about other films to: staff@pluralism.org
[ Image: "Fremont, USA" icon ]
Fremont, USA
USDOJ Training in Cleveland
The United States Department of Justice Community Relations Service Region V office based in Chicago used Fremont, USA in a training with the City of Cleveland this spring. The intention was to explore how the innovations found in the Fremont story – including its Human Relations Commission and program for the elderly – might be a model for fostering pluralism in other cities and towns. We look forward to expanding the ways in which our work can resource civic leaders.
European Premiere in Berlin
Fremont, USA will have its European premiere at the 5th Globians World & Culture Documentary Film Fest in Berlin, Germany. The screening will take place on Thursday, August 13 at 2 PM under the theme, “Yes We Can! – Obama’s America.” For a full schedule of events, see: http://kinoberlin.blogspot.com/

[ Image: photo of monks in "La Trappe ]

La Trappe (The Trap)
On May 15, 2009, the Pluralism Project sponsored the US premiere of the short documentary film, La Trappe. Directed by Harvard Divinity School student Lina Verchery (MDiv ’10), this film explores the surprising connection between the French-speaking Acadian lobster fishermen of Chéticamp and their neighbors: the Buddhist monks and nuns of Gampo Abbey, Shambhala’s monastic headquarters. Although seemingly divided by language, culture and religion, these two communities nevertheless share more than meets the eye. The film was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Diana L. Eck. Panelists included Dr. Christopher Queen, lecturer on the Study of Religion at Harvard University; Frank Reynolds, former resident of Gampo Abbey; and Lina Verchery, director of La Trappe. This event was sponsored by the Pluralism Project in partnership with Alliance Française, Boston Shambhala Center, Consulate General of Boston, Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries, and the French Consulate of Boston.

[ Image: poster for "The Mosque in Morgantown" ]

Premiering on PBS in June…

The Mosque in Morgantown
On June 13, 2009, the Pluralism Project co-sponsored a screening and discussion of The Mosque in Morgantown at Harvard University. Directed by Boston-based filmmaker Brittany Huckabee, this documentary explores journalist Asra Nomani’s controversial campaign against what she believes are warning signs of Islamic extremism in her local mosque in Morgantown, West Virginia: the exclusion of women, an intolerance towards non-believers, and a growing suspicion of the West. After the screening, Dr. Diana L. Eck moderated a discussion on the film with Brittany Huckabee; Dr. Jocelyne Cesari, director of the Islam in the West Program; and Dr. Leila Ahmed, the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School. The event was co-sponsored by the Pluralism Project, Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries, and the Islam in the West Program at Harvard University. The Mosque in Morgantown premiered nationwide on PBS on June 15, 2009. A number of scholars, Muslim leaders, and community members are participating in an online forum about the film at: http://www.themosqueinmorgantown.com/forum/

[ Image: poster for "New Muslim Cool" ]

New Muslim Cool
New Muslim Cool, a documentary by Jennifer Maytorena Taylor, will premiere on PBS: POV on June 23. The film tells the life story of Hamza Pérez, a Puerto Rican American hip hop artist who converted to Islam at age 21, pulling himself off the streets to become a community activist and rising star. Forging unlikely friendships with a Jewish poet, a prison chaplain, and many others along his surprising spiritual journey, Hamza faces challenges with a message of hope, finding his balance in a world that never stops changing. The Pluralism Project will be partnering with Harvard University Art Museums and Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries in October for a screening featuring Hamza Pérez. Stay tuned for more information in the fall.

Case Study Initiative
We are pleased to announce that we have recently received a grant that will enable us to expand this initiative. We are deeply grateful to the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School for their decision to award a 2009-2010 Faculty Grant to Dr. Diana L. Eck. The project, titled “Teaching Pluralism: Case Studies for the Theological and Religious Studies Classroom” was initiated in 2007. We look forward to continuing this partnership.
Rabbi Justus Baird, director of the Center for Multifaith Education at Auburn Seminary, used a Pluralism Project case when he led a session on the use of the case study method at the first AAR Summer Seminar on Theologies of Religious Pluralism and Comparative Theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Made possible through a generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, these seminars are designed to provide training to theological educators to meet their ongoing scholarly and curricular development needs.

Global Spirit
[ Image: still shot of Global Spirit series ]
Global Spirit is a unique television series, bringing to light the various practices – spiritual, mental and physical – that help us define who we are as human beings and explore how this affects our relationships to our families, our communities, ourselves and the world at large. The show features a diverse group of experts, including Karen Armstrong, Bob Thurman, Chief Oren Lyons and Sobonfu Some. This series aims to foster a global spirit of acceptance and mutual understanding and encourage viewers’ “internal journey” towards personal and social transformation. All episodes are available free online at: http://www.linktv.org/globalspirit/video

[ Image: RDN icon ]

National News
Mothers Honored With Buddha In Central Square
On May 10, the Greater Boston Buddhist Cultural Center celebrated both the birth of Buddha and Mother’s Day in Central Square.

Obama Approval High Among Muslims, Jews, And Catholics
A Gallup poll tracking public opinion of Obama’s first 100 days in office found broad approval of the President among US Muslims, Jews, and Catholics.

Students Develop Interfaith Group On Campus
Students at Syracuse University recently formed the Interfaith Student Movement, with members who are members of the Christian, Sikh, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu traditions.

California Passes Bill On Sikh Symbol Kirpan
On June 1, the California Assembly passed Bill AB-504, which requires the state to train law enforcement agencies about the Sikh kirpan.

City Mayors to Inaugurate Hindu Festival
City mayors Ralph Becker, Kent Money, and JoAnn Sehgeni inaugurated the “Rathothsava” and Annual Day of Celebrations of Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple and India Cultural Center in South Jordan, Utah.

International News

Obama Calls for End to Discord With Muslim World
In a speech from Cairo, Egypt, President Obama called for a new beginning in relations between the United States and the Islamic world.

New Association for Sikh Police
The newly formed British Sikh Police Association will give Sikh officers across the United Kingdom an “officially recognized voice.”

Dutch Officials Visit Dearborn to Learn About Improving Muslim Relations
Dutch Cabinet Minister Francis Timmermans and other officials met with local religious leaders in Dearborn, Michigan, in an attempt to understand why Muslims are more widely accepted in the United States than in The Netherlands.

Bulgaria to Ban Religious Symbols In Schools
The Bulgarian government has approved a bill banning the hijab and other religious symbols in schools.

Hindus & Jews Want Australian Parliament to Shift to Multi-Faith Opening Prayers
American Hindu and Jewish leaders have called upon the Australian Parliament to allow a rotation of opening prayers that represents a variety of major religious traditions and aboriginal spirituality.