June 8, 2010

Dear Friends,

Early June is a busy and engaging time here at the Pluralism Project. We have just finished Harvard’s commencement and have said farewell to some of our Project student affiliates. We also celebrated Diana Eck’s commencement address, “Faith and the Global Future,” and her honorary doctorate from Berea College in Kentucky, an inspiring college in the heart of Appalachia.  As we start the summer season, we want to take a moment to introduce you to our summer research team, and provide you with information about new opportunities for connecting with us, including our exciting summer photo and video contest. Finally, as we approach the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s United We Serve initiative, we are pleased to share with you the pioneering research of “Hindu American Seva Charities” and information about a recent convening at the White House. Enjoy!

Best regards,

Pluralism Project Staff

Summer Program 2010

This year, our summer program will focus on furthering our Case Study Initiative. One intern, four Summer Fellows, and two Community Associates have joined us for the next eight weeks to develop new case studies, and to help us think about how to adapt them for various educational settings and age groups. We invite you to meet these impressive scholars, and to join us in welcoming them.

2010 Summer Staff

Dr. Ryan Overbey

In July our Webmaster, Dr. Ryan Overbey, will begin a year-long Postdoctoral Fellowship with us. His work will focus on creating an online digital archive of the resources on our CD-ROM, On Common Ground: World Religions in America. We are delighted to welcome Ryan in this new capacity, and we congratulate him on his recent graduation with a PhD in the Study of Religion from Harvard University.

Connecting with the Pluralism Project

The Pluralism Project is, at its core, a network of researchers, educators, religious leaders, and civic-minded people who are invested in our mission to help Americans engage with the realities of religious diversity. In order to enhance our connections with and among you, we invite you to:

Fill out our Connect Form online. This will enable us to update or add your contact information to our database, and will allow you to subscribe to our monthly e-newsletters, our weekly Religious Diversity News updates, and our occasional email event notices. Please fill out the form, even if you think we already have your contact info!

Please “friend” us on Facebook, where you can find regular updates on our work and connect with colleagues, friends, and alumni.

Check out our new YouTube channel, featuring videos of Dr. Eck’s talks, as well as footage from World Religions in Greater Boston.

Photo & Video Contest

We invite you to participate in our first-ever Pluralism Project Photo & Video contest! We are looking for high-resolution (300 dpi) digital images and digital videos (max. 3 min.) that convey the vibrancy of religious diversity in the USA.

Photos/videos might feature:

  • Religious practices and rituals
  • Religious centers, including festivals & center openings
  • Participation of religious groups in American civic life
  • Interfaith encounter or social action
  • Women’s leadership and participation

One photographer and one videographer will be selected as grand prize winners, each receiving a $250 cash prize. The winning photograph and video will be spotlighted on our homepage, www.pluralism.org. The deadline is 5 PM on Sunday, August 1, 2010. For complete details and instructions, click here.

White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Hindu American Seva Charities

Almost a year ago, President Obama announced the United We Serve initiative, “calling on all Americans to participate in our nation’s recovery and renewal by serving in our communities.” In turn, the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (OFBNP) set out to mobilize its constituencies to service, including religious communities across the country.

One of the many responses to this initiative was the founding of a new organization called Hindu American Seva Charities by an inspired group of Hindu participants. Their success was, not least of all, in mobilizing the diverse Hindu American community to service as part of this national movement; more than 120 “Seva Centers” conducted over 1,300 service projects, many of them interfaith. The organization also conducted pioneering research into the Hindu institutions and grassroots initiatives that seek to provide service in the American context, and provided an assessment of the needs of the community. A report of this research was presented to President Obama and the OFBNP earlier this year. In the opening letter, Anju Bhargava, the Founder-Convener of Hindu American Seva Charities notes: “We hope our research and findings will enhance understanding of our needs, encourage greater integration of America’s growing pluralism and religious diversity and open wider the door President Obama has unlocked.”

Advancing Interfaith and Community Service on College and University Campuses

In response to the recommendations of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Advisory Council, delivered in its March 2010 report, the White House OFBNP convened a half day meeting on June 7 on “Advancing Interfaith and Community Service on College and University Campuses.” Participants included campus leaders and chaplains, religious studies faculty and administrators, community and interfaith leaders, and students; the Pluralism Project was represented by Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre.

OFBNP Deputy Director Mara Vanderslice stated that the primary goal of the meeting was to find ways to partner together to “scale and strengthen interfaith service on college campuses.” Eboo Patel, the Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core framed the opportunity for launching a movement for interfaith cooperation, and defined the critical role of college campuses in social change. A group of panelists then explored successful models, and breakout sessions provided an opportunity for participants to enter the conversation. We welcome you to share with us the models for for interfaith and community service that have been successful on your campus.

Panelists (left to right): Rev. Janet Cooper-Nelson (moderator); Fr. Dennis Holtschneider; Rabbi Or Rose; Lynn Szwaja; Jennifer Bailey; and Stephen Prothero.