February 28, 2011

In this Issue:

  • New Interfaith Research Grants
  • New Research Affiliates
  • State of Formation Collaboration
  • Upcoming Opportunities for Youth Across the US
  • Case Study Initiative Updates
  • Recent Pluralism Project Events
  • Donate

Dear Friends,

Even now, at the end of February, we can say with confidence that this is a year to remember. Like many of you, after the victory in Tunisia in mid-January, I closely watched the coverage of Al Jazeera English as the protests mounted in Egypt, and as revolt transformed into revolution once again. The subsequent events in Bahrain, Yemen, and of course the most recent uprising now unfolding in Libya, gives us pause to reflect on the implications of this wave of political unrest in North Africa and the Middle East. Given the considerable immigrant communities in the US from these countries and contexts, we might also ponder the ways in which these global events become part of our own national public narrative. I have recently written a piece, “Gandhi in Egypt,” which I will post on our website.

Here at home, we are concerned about pressure to reject certain communities as less than fully “American.” I join others in their rising alarm over Representative Peter King’s (R-NY) plans to hold Congressional hearings to investigate “radicalization” within the American Muslim community. Speaking out with concern were more than 80 religious leaders from Long Island who sent a letter to King, stating that, “a commitment to pluralism and respect for diversity are strengths in the fight against terrorism.” They called King to a “more constructive approach,” which would convene a dialogue among faith leaders, law enforcement, and elected officials.

I would like to extend a special word of thanks to those of you who were able to offer financial support to the Pluralism Project during our recent annual appeal. These have been uncertain times for us, but we believe that there is much work left to do. Requests for collaboration, partnership, affiliation, and consultation daily overwhelm our small but efficient staff. We are pleased to announce that we have recently received two modest grants, detailed below, that will enable us to take the next critical steps forward. There is, as you will find in this long e-news edition, much to celebrate in our work of these recent months, and much to look forward to in the months ahead.

Finally, I have recently developed a new personal website. I would welcome you to visit me there at: http://scholar.harvard.edu/dianaeck/home

Best wishes,


New Interfaith Research Grants

Arthur Vining Davis Foundations’ Grant

We are pleased to announce that we have been selected by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations’ Religion Program to receive a grant under its new “Interfaith Dialogue and Understanding” pilot program. Through this project, titled “The Interfaith Infrastructure: Citizenship and Leadership in the Multi-Religious City,” our task will be twofold: to chart the typologies at work in the interfaith infrastructure in the United States; and to map best practices for building a culture of pluralism in select American cities. We look forward to collaborating with our interfaith partners and research affiliates, in this cities-based, systematic research of and reflective dialogue on the emerging interfaith infrastructure in the US. Thank you to the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations for inviting us to undertake this critical work.

Odyssey Networks Production Grant

We are also pleased to announce that we have been selected by Odyssey Networks to receive a production grant to develop four innovative video case studies. Through our project, titled, “What Would You Do? Case Studies in Interfaith Engagement,” we will pair two to three minute segments: in the first episode (A), the dilemma is introduced; the second episode (B) presents what decisions were made and how the dilemma was resolved. Through our case study initiative we have adapted real-life dilemmas into text-based cases to help stimulate critical thinking: these short videos, designed for mobile devices and the web, will model constructive responses to conflict in a new, visual format.

“Call on Faith” Mobile Channel

As a member of Odyssey Networks, we would like to introduce you to their new mobile channel, “Call on Faith.” This inspirational app is available for download to your smartphone at http://callonfaith.com/  “Odyssey Networks is the nation’s largest multi-faith coalition dedicated to promoting tolerance, peace and social justice through the production and distribution of media.”

New Research Affiliates

We are pleased to welcome three new research affiliates. Please click on the links below for full project descriptions and biographical information.

  • Jared Akama, Center for Partnership and Civic Engagement, Nairobi, Kenya

Developing Local Inter-Faith Capacity in Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding in Kenya 

  • Ahmed Krausen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Mosques in Europe – People and Architecture: Photography Exhibition 

  • Larry Ulrich, Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago

Historical Documentation and Future Planning for CRLMC

State of Formation Collaboration

In January, Dr. Eck met with the leaders behind the new State of Formation blog, founded in late 2010 by the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue, run in partnership with Hebrew College and Andover Newton Theological School, and in collaboration with the Parliament of the World’s Religions. The blog features fresh, insightful posts from emerging religious leaders in the US, who are seeking to “redefine the ethical discourse today.” The Pluralism Project has recently engaged in this collaboration as a partner organization, offering weekly posts, and in turn spreading the word about this critical addition to the blogosphere.  Visit the blog at: www.stateofformation.org Join us on Facebook, where we will feature weekly blogs.

Upcoming Opportunities for Youth Across the US

Teenage Interfaith Diversity Education Conference

Interfaith Action’s Youth Leadership Program will host its fifth annual Teenage Interfaith Diversity Education (TIDE) Conference at Northeastern University over Memorial Day Weekend, May 27-29, 2011. The goals of the conference are to train teens to communicate respectfully and use their skills in discussions about highly charged issues; develop interfaith leadership and facilitation skills; and foster bonds and lasting friendships. More information about the conference and how you can register is available at http://www.ifaction.org  Workshop proposals will be accepted until April 1, 2011. Please contact Jason Smith, Youth Program Director, at Jason@ifaction.org with questions or for additional information.

Summer Internships

The Pluralism Project has completed its 2011 internship application process. We are currently considering the nearly 100 highly qualified candidates, and we look forward to announcing our decisions later this spring. Though our deadline has passed, several programs and organizations featured in our internship listings are still receiving applications; please consider passing these opportunities along to young people in your networks: http://www.pluralism.org/resources/calendar/summer_internships.php

NAINConnect 2011 Young Adult Scholarships

The North American Interfaith Network (NAIN) is now accepting scholarship applications for young adults (ages 16-35) to attend NAINConnect, July 24-26, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. “This scholarship recognizes young adults across the continent who are actively engaged in important work at the high school, college, graduate, and professional level.” The deadline is April 15. More information is available here: http://www.nain.org/young-adults.html

World Council of Churches’ Interfaith Seminar

Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre just returned from a meeting of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee in Geneva, Switzerland. The WCC, “a worldwide fellowship of 349 churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service,” names inter-religious dialogue and cooperation among its priorities in an increasingly multi-religious world. The affiliated Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland is offering an international month-long seminar this July for Jews, Christians, and Muslims ages 25-35 entitled, “Building an Interfaith Community.” Information about the program, tuition and fees, and application materials can be found online here.

Case Study Initiative Updates

Auburn Case Studies Minimester

Pluralism Project case studies were again featured in the 2010 fall minimester course sponsored by Auburn Theological Seminary entitled, “Religious Leadership in a Multifaith World.” Seminary students from six schools in the New York region took part in case discussions of religious and civic leadership, “analyz[ing] each scenario with colleagues from different faith backgrounds, and then reflect[ing] on what kind of leadership they hope to offer in such a situation.” The minimester is anticipated to be offered again in 2011.

Workshop with MIT Addir Fellows

In November 2010 Summer Fellow Brendan Randall offered a case study workshop to the MIT Addir Fellows during their fall retreat. The Addir program’s mission is “to equip individuals of different faiths with the skills to engage with and understand those from whom they differ; to enhance inter-group relations on the MIT campus, and to deepen individuals’ self-awareness.” The Fellows discussed “Adding Eid,” a Pluralism Project case study about a decision by the Cambridge Public Schools Superintendent to add Eid as a holiday to the district calendar.

Mosques in America Event at Fordham Law School

In response to mosque controversies across the US, and in New York City in particular, the Institute on Religion, Law, & Lawyer’s Work at Fordham University School of Law sponsored an event titled, “Mosques in America: an Exercise in Dialogue” in November 2011. Rabbi Justus Baird, director of the Center for Multifaith Education from the Auburn Theological Seminary, a longtime collaborator on our Case Study Initiative, co-led a case discussion of, “A Mosque in Palos Heights.” This case, among our first developed, explores the mosque controversy in Palos Heights, Illinois that unfolded in 2000, before the frame of 9/11 informed public discourse. Event participants were encouraged to apply their legal education to a real-life scenario. This event is an example of how we are exploring more deliberately the interdisciplinary potential of our Case Study Initiative.

“In Pursuit of Justice” Discussed by AJWS Alumni

Over the past several months, we have worked with the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) to collaboratively develop a case study for rabbinical students and rabbis. This case, “In Pursuit of Justice,” explores the resistance faced by a young rabbi who wants to refine her synagogue’s mitzvah program to be more in line with the social justice ethos of the congregation. This case was used in a session at the recent AJWS Rabbinical Students’ Delegation (RSD) Alumni Institute, held in Baltimore, Maryland, February 20-23, on the theme, Leveraging Our Power. RSD alumni have previously traveled with AJWS in delegations to the developing world, where they live and work with grassroots partners for a period of two weeks, grappling with “Jewish texts and theology in order to make sense of the struggles for social justice and human rights. Upon return, they work together, as part of the [RSD Alumni Network], to bring a sophisticated understanding of global citizenship to their communities.” If you’d like to use this case in your own teaching, please contact education@ajws.org.

Faith and Leadership J-Term Workshop

In late January, the Harvard Kennedy School offered a J-Term leadership immersion workshop entitled, “Faith and Leadership in a Fragmented World,” co-taught by Dr. Diana Eck; Dr. Nitin Nohria, Richard P. Chapman Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School; Dr. Marshall Ganz, Lecturer in Public Policy, Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations, Harvard Kennedy School; and Dr. Bernie Steinberg, President and Director, Harvard Hillel and Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School. This immensely popular case-based workshop, taught for the first time in 2010, explored the role of faith and spirituality in public leadership, utilizing Pluralism Project cases as course material, and engaging students across a range of fields in the difficult dilemmas of public leadership in multi-religious societies.

Case Studies in Religious Pluralism Spring Course

This semester Dr. Eck is teaching a course entitled, “The World’s Religions in Multicultural America – Case Studies in Religious Pluralism.” Pluralism Project case studies serve as primary texts to explore how America is changing as religious communities struggle with civic, constitutional, ethical, and theological issues, especially in the post-9/11 period. The strong turnout of students enrolling in this course, and their ongoing feedback about their positive experiences with the pedagogy, gives us great motivation to deepen our focus on this research initiative.

Recent Pluralism Project Events

Eck Addresses Phillips Academy Students on Pluralism

On January 12, Dr. Eck addressed students of Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts during their weekly All School Meeting on the topic of religious pluralism in America. Phillips Academy, a residential secondary school in the liberal arts tradition, is home to six student religious organizations, including an Interfaith Council, and groups for Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian students.

Meeting of the Boston Chapter of the Religion Communicators Council (RCC)

On February 4, Pluralism Project Research Coordinator Erin Loeb presented on the Pluralism Project at a meeting of the Boston Chapter of the Religion Communicators Council (RCC).  Erin provided an overview of the work of the Project, followed by an in-depth introduction to World Religions in Greater Boston and Religious Diversity News, explaining their value as tools for religion communicators. The presentation was followed by a discussion about the emerging role of social media in communicating about religion.

Pluralism Project Co-Sponsors Harvard Interfaith Awareness Week

The Pluralism Project was one of several co-sponsors of Harvard Interfaith Awareness Week, February 7-11, coinciding with the first-ever annual UN World Interfaith Harmony Week. As one of the week’s events, on February 9, the Pluralism Project sponsored a screening of Fremont, USA: A City’s Encounter with Religious Diversity. Dr. Diana Eck offered introductory remarks, and Pluralism Project Research Director Elinor Pierce – who co-directed and co-produced the film with longtime affiliate Rachel Antell – responded to audience questions about the filmmaking process, and provided updates on how interfaith activity and civic engagement in Fremont, California have continued to evolve. Dr. Diana Eck and Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre were featured in an Odyssey Networks video series on UN World Interfaith Harmony Week.

Pluralism Project Screens Fremont, USA at Lasell College 

On February 15, Pluralism Project Research Director Elinor Pierce led a screening of the film Fremont, USA: A City’s Encounter with Religious Diversity. The screening was organized for Dr. Dana Janbek’s “Intercultural Communication” courses at Lasell College in Newton, Massachusetts, and was open to the entire college. Following the screening, Ellie led a Q&A session with audience members, responding to questions at the intersection of religion and communication, and relating the film’s core issues to the context of Greater Boston.

Pluralism Project Hosts Author of Growing Up Global

On February 9, the Pluralism Project welcomed Homa S. Tavanger, author of Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be at Home in the World, as a special guest. She spoke to staff and student researchers about the links between global citizenship and the challenges of parenting in multi-religious America. Ms. Tavanger, who is active in the interfaith movement in her native Philadelphia, was in town to speak to a Greater Boston Business Network event, co-sponsored by Primary Source.


We invite you to consider making a donation to the Pluralism Project. 100% of your tax-deductible gift will go directly to supporting the Pluralism Project’s mission, and will enable us to engage the next generation of student researchers. For more information, click here. We would like to offer a special thanks to our friends who participated in our 2010 annual appeal.