November 25, 2009

Pluralism Project Newsletter
November 25, 2009
In this Issue:
  • Diana Eck’s Comments
  • Fremont, USA DVDs Now Available
  • On Common Ground Third Edition CD-ROMs Now Available
  • Christian Ministry in Multi-Religious America: Boston Workshop
  • Harvard College Freshmen Dean’s Office Introduces Students to the Pluralism Project
  • Recent Visitors to the Pluralism Project
  • 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions, Melbourne, Australia
  • Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines
  • International News: Top Headlines

Diana Eck’s Comments
[ Image:  ]
Dear Friends,
It has been a busy, travel-filled fall for me as I have been sharing our work at a variety of events. Every stop has given me a renewed acquaintance with various parts of our country. In early October, I delivered the President’s Lecture at the University of Charleston, West Virginia, an event sponsored largely by a Hindu couple. In Norfolk, Virginia, I gave the Cookson Lecture sponsored by the Center for the Study of Religious Freedom (CSRF) at Virginia Wesleyan College. The Center is truly a counterpoint to the much of what is happening in our country today, and I encourage you to explore their website. It was a great pleasure to be hosted by CSRF Director Paul Rasor and our Pluralism Project affiliate, Professor Craig Wansink who has documented the world’s religions in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.
Then it was off to Chicago, where I spoke at the Art Institute of Chicago as part of the “Religion, Ethics, and Globalization” series presented with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. As I was doing our “tech check” in Fullerton Hall, a group of pilgrims was ushered up to the stage. This was the same room where Swami Vivekenanda addressed the World’s Parliament of Religions in 1893 and they wanted to visit the very spot on the stage where he had stood! My lecture was on ways in which the spirit of universalism that dominated the 1893 Parliament had become something quite different by the centennial in 1993, and had changed even more significantly with the rapid globalization of the 1990s. The visit of these Hindu pilgrims to a lecture hall in Chicago was a perfect beginning.
The next week, I was in Phoenix, Arizona, where I chaired the National Council of Churches Interfaith Relations Commission meeting. This was an important working meeting, during which we discussed the NCC response to the Muslim Letter, finalized in September, “An Ecumenical Response to ‘A Common Word Between Us and You'”. We also made a statement on behalf of the churches of the NCC in response to the fear-mongering DVD, “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” that had been distributed as a paid advertisement in millions of newspapers this fall.
Then it was back to Chicago for the American Academy of Religion annual meeting at the end of the month. It was wonderful to catch up with many of you at our reception. We also welcomed a number of special guests – namely the protagonists from two of our case studies “A Mosque in Palos Heights” and “Trouble in Troy”: Dean Koldenhoven, former mayor of Palos Heights, Kenith Bergeron from the Department of Justice, and Padma Kuppa of the Troy Interfaith Group. As you know, we also premiered our new documentary, Fremont, USA, and we were grateful to have Senior Researcher Elinor Pierce – who along with Rachel Antell produced and directed the film – present for the occasion to answer questions and to receive due honor for this marvelous project.
[ Image: Diana Eck at WWIAG 20th Anniversary Celebration ]
Last week here in Boston I was part of the 20th Anniversary celebration of the Weston-Wayland Interfaith Action Group. Leaders of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities in Weston and Wayland reflected on the major events of these twenty years. I had been asked to give the keynote and spoke about “The Local and the Global: Interfaith Movements and the Future of Pluralism.” It was a great opportunity to look back to the history of the interfaith movement in Boston, and to look forward as well.
All of us at the Pluralism Project join in wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving. Despite many challenges, there is so much to be thankful for in our nation right now. I hope that you will share with us any interfaith Thanksgiving services or projects happening in your communities, as they are becoming an important thread in our civic fabric.
Best Regards,

Fremont, USA DVDs Now Available
[ Image: Fremont, USA icon ]
Our new documentary film, Fremont, USA, is now available for purchase. Produced and directed by Rachel Antell and Elinor Pierce, and narrated by Diana Eck, Fremont, USA makes the challenges of religious diversity vivid, visible, and accessible for discussion. 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 in evidence, as Thai, Chinese, and Burmese temples – and a women’s monastic retreat center – 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? For more information, please see: or download the order form. 57 minutes total running time.

On Common Ground Third Edition CD-ROMs Now Available
[ Image: On Common Ground icon ]
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: or download the order form.

Christian Ministry in Multi-Religious America: Boston Workshop
We have recently launched a new program called, “Christian Ministry in Multi-Religious America: Boston Workshop,” which provides opportunities for Boston-based academics, ministers, ministers-in-training, and other 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.

This workshop, which is made possible through generous funding from the Louisville Institute and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, is envisioned as way to engage directly with the religious diversity of greater Boston, and to enrich our own work and ministries through these encounters. The Pluralism Project is serving as a liaison to the communities with whom we have built deep relationships over the years through our World Religions in Boston project, organizing site visits and opportunities for theological reflection.
[ Image: Group Photo of Sri Lakshmi Visit ]
On November 8, Workshop participants visited the Sri Lakshmi Temple in Ashland, Massachusetts to observe the Sri Venkateshwara Abhishekam Pooja and meet with hosts, and then returned to Harvard for an afternoon of theological reflection led by Dr. Diana Eck and Dr. Francis Clooney. Two more workshop days will be held in 2009, including visits to the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, and Gurudwara Guru Nanak Darbar.
We have begun to compile the materials from the workshop so that it might be replicated in other cities and contexts. Please see the for more information.

Harvard College Freshmen Dean’s Office Introduces Students to the Pluralism Project
On November 13, 2008, Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre gave an introductory presentation about the Pluralism Project to a group of freshmen students at Harvard College. The event, sponsored by the Harvard College Freshmen Dean’s Office, was intended to introduce first year students to research opportunities at the Pluralism Project, as well as to provide an overview of our history, current research initiatives, and World Religions in Boston project. The event was attended by staff of the Freshmen Dean’s Office and a dozen students, many of whom remarked that they were excited to learn about research opportunities in the humanities.

Recent Visitors to the Pluralism Project

Father Nicholas Rundle, Mission Australia
In mid-October, we were pleased to host Father Nicholas Rundle, a Senior Chaplain with Mission Australia. Father Rundle was in the United States to learn more about how Mission Australia might provide a more “faith friendly” environment for staff through programs, policies, and practices. Father Rundle then went on to Detroit, Michigan to visit the leaders of the Ford Interfaith Network at the Ford Motor Company to learn about their model.

World Council of Churches-US Conference Decade to Overcome Violence Committee
The next week, we hosted members of the World Council of Churches – US Conference Decade to Overcome Violence Committee. “The Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace 2001 – 2010 (DOV) is an initiative of the World Council of Churches. It is a global movement that strives to strengthen existing efforts and networks for preventing and overcoming violence, as well as inspire the creation of new ones.” The US Committee seeks to make these efforts visible and vital to the lives of churches in the United States. Guests included Rev. Deborah DeWinter, programme executive of the WCC-US Conference; Rev. Rothang Chhangte, Director of Ecumenical Formation, American Baptist Churches USA; Rev. Loey Powell, Co-Team Leader of the Cleveland-Based Team, Justice and Witness Minsitries, United Church of Christ; and Phil Jones, Director of the Church of the Brethren Witness/Washington Office. The meeting, which sought to identify synergies between the work of the DOV and the Pluralism Project, focused primarily on the importance of teaching children and young adults positive peacebuilding skills through a variety of ecumenical and interfaith programs and projects.

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, as are registration materials and additional information.”

[ Image: Religious Diversity News icon ]

Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines

NCC Warns About Distorted Video On Islam
The Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches expressed concern and alarm over the recent distribution of the DVD “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.”

An Interfaith Church Where Christians Are Not in Charge
Faith House Manhattan is one example of the rising number of interfaith centers across in the country.

Quinn Talks to Students of Various Faiths
Journalist Sally Quinn of The Washington Post engaged with Harvard students at a day-long event sponsored by the Harvard Chaplains, “Faith Live on the Harvard Campus.”

Religious Diversity is Topic of UC Forum
Pluralism Project Director Dr. Diana Eck gave a lecture on religious diversity at the University of Charleston, West Virginia.

Interfaith Group Hosts 20th Anniversary Celebration at St. Julia
Pluralism Project Director Dr. Diana Eck spoke on “The Local and the Global: Interfaith Movements and the Future of Pluralism” at the Weston-Wayland Interfaith Action Group’s 20th anniversary.

International News: Top Headlines

First Sikh Member in New Zealand Parliament
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi will be the first Sikh member of the New Zealand Parliament.

Woman to Lead UK Muslim Prayers
For the first time in the UK, a woman (Professor Amina Wadud) will lead an Islamic prayer service for both men and women.

Hindus Applaud Christian-Muslim Dialogue at Vatican, Calling it “Step in the Right Direction”
The president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, Rajan Zed, released a statement calling recent Christian-Muslim dialogue a “step in the right direction.”

Multi-Faith Prayers to be Considered for Parliament
The UK Parliament is considering allowing multi-faith prayers during its daily opening.

UN Adopts Inter-Religious Resolution
The United Nations recently adopted a Philippine-initiated resolution calling for member states to promote more inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue.