July 3, 2012

In this Issue:

  • A Note From Diana L. Eck, Director
  • Building an Interfaith Community and Leadership Seminar: The Boston Workshop
  • India: A Sacred Geography by Dr. Diana Eck
  • Pluralism Project Research Director Presents at “Multifaith Spaces: Symptoms and Agents of Religious and Social Change” in Manchester (U.K.)
  • Pluralism Project Assistant Director Attends LEarNing Spatially (LENS) Institute at the University of Redlands
  • Doctor of Ministry Earned by Marcia Sietstra, Pluralism Project Researcher
  • Pluralism Project Research Associate Awarded 2012 Greeley International Internship
  • The Pluralism Project Partners with the University of Seattle School of Theology and Ministry to Map the Religious Landscape of Greater Seattle
  • Pluralism Project On the Road
  • The Pluralism Project and the Center for the Study of World Religions Co-Host “Contours of Common Ground”
  • Around the University…
  • Pluralism Project Newsfeed

A Note From Diana L. Eck, Director

Dear Friends,

Fourth of July greetings from Cambridge, MA! As I write this, I am reminded of a Fourth of July nearly five decades ago when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act, ground-breaking legislation that would have a lasting impact on our nation’s religious diversity. At the Pluralism Project, we have been documenting this religious diversity–and responses to it–for over twenty years now. During the past several months, we have had ample opportunity to reflect on the growing presence of the interfaith movement across the nation, visible signs of how individuals and communities are choosing to engage with the realities of this religious diversity in meaningful and constructive ways.

I have just returned from the Aspen Ideas Festival, where I participated in a public discussion with Elaine Pagels, Rabbi Steven Leder, the Rev. Jane Shaw, and Anna Deavere Smith on Religion and Values. Judging by the audience response, religious pluralism is a very significant concern. I will be giving the Krister Stendahl Lecture on Nantucket on July 19, if any of you are lucky enough to be on that Island. Beyond these engagements, I am happy to be spending the summer writing.

Just to recap the last few months, in February I had the pleasure of visiting the University of North Florida (UNF) in Jacksonville at the invitation of the Interfaith Center of at the University of North Florida and OneJax, one of the region’s most well known interfaith organizations. While in Jacksonville, I shared news of the Pluralism Project’s recently launched online resource, America’s Interfaith Infrastructure: An Emerging Landscape. UNF was a fitting venue for this announcement since Jacksonville, Florida was one of the twenty cities in this pilot website where innovative and promising practices are highlighted through profiles, multimedia, and case studies.

My visit to Jacksonville coincided with the announcement by OneJax and the University North Florida of their formal partnership “to support and promote diversity,” through the creation of the OneJax Institute at the University of North Florida –an innovative and collaborative relationship that is exciting to see.

Our launch of America’s Interfaith Infrastructure: An Emerging Landscape has prompted responses from educators, activists, and students from across the nation. One activist in Greater Boston remarked, “This is truly a marvelous accomplishment, resource, and mode of interfaith conversation.” Another in the Twin Cities stated it simply: “This is so cool!” We think so, too, because the pilot website offers a selective but in-depth portrait of the interfaith movement in real-time, highlighting the incredible things happening at the grassroots level. The interfaith movement is a dynamic and diverse phenomenon and we here at the Pluralism Project continue to be inspired by the incredible efforts taking place across the nation. We’d very much like to hear about your involvement in promoting interfaith engagement, too. I invite you to visit the storytelling portal of America’s Interfaith Infrastructure and share your story.

While the stories of interfaith cooperation demonstrate how far the movement has come, it is also true that there is still so much work to be done. In February, I participated in a national forum on “Civility and American Democracy,” hosted by the Center for Civil Discourse at University of Massachusetts, Boston and co-sponsored by Mass Humanities, WBUR, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. During the session, I discussed the rise in organized hostility toward Islam within the United States after 9/11. The session in its entirety is available online.

The Pluralism Project welcomes the opportunity to promote and showcase the kind of transformative conversations that occur when people begin getting to know their neighbor’s faith and engaging in the deeper questions that arise when these interactions occur. I’m pleased to have co-instructed a two-week seminar course on interfaith leadership in June with Dr. Jennifer Howe Peace, co-author of My Neighbor’s Faith (Orbis, 2012) and co-director of the Center for Interreligious and Communal Leadership Education at Andover Newton Theological School. The course utilized case studies, site visits to local religious centers, and public narrative to invite seminary and divinity school students from Greater Boston and beyond to grapple with the challenges that face leaders in our multi-faith world.

From Jacksonville to Chicago, Hartford to Abilene, Seattle to right here in our own backyard, engagement with religious diversity is taking on new forms and gaining traction. The Pluralism Project is proud to be a documenting and resourcing this work. How will you join us?

Sincerely,


Building an Interfaith Community and Leadership Seminar: The Boston Workshop

Seminar participants converse after panel discussion on "Models of Interfaith Engagement"

During the first two weeks of June, the Pluralism Project at Harvard University and Andover Newton Theological School hosted an intensive summer seminar in Greater Boston that challenged participants to grow in their leadership capacity by discussing case studies, making site visits to local religious communities, and learning how to be effective in public narrative. Twenty-two students from the Boston-area theological schools and two Pluralism Project undergraduate interns participated in the “Building an Interfaith Community and Leadership: The Boston Workshop,” a seminar made possible by generous support from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. Guest instructors from local Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish communities introduced participants to their houses of worship and religious practices. Case studies and discussion, led by co-instructors Dr. Diana Eck and Dr. Jennifer Peace, invited the cohort to explore the challenges and opportunities that arise when building an interfaith community. Participants also attended a day-long training on the use of public narrative, led by Dr. Marshall Ganz of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Our sincere thanks to all who contributed to this collaborative effort, especially the guest instructors!

More information about the seminar, including reflections on the experience from participants, will be made available on the Pluralism Project website later this summer.


India: A Sacred Geography by Dr. Diana Eck

Click here to read a review of Dr. Eck’s newest book, India: A Sacred Geography (Harmony, 2012) from The Economist. On Friday, April 13th, colleagues, students, and friends of Dr. Eck gathered in the Junior Common Room of Lowell House to celebrate the launch of India: A Sacred Geography. The event was co-sponsored by the Department of South Asian Studies and Lowell House.


Pluralism Project Research Director Presents at “Multifaith Spaces: Symptoms and Agents of Religious and Social Change” in Manchester (U.K.)

On March 20-22, Research Director Elinor Pierce joined our colleagues at the University of Manchester (U.K.) for an advisory council meeting and conference of “Multifaith Spaces: Symptoms and Agents of Religious and Social Change.”  This international conference, which brought together architects, academics, administrators, and others involved with Multi-Faith Spaces, featured creative responses to changing religious needs. The work of Ingeborg Meulendijiks, designer of the Zorg Compas Chapel in Rotterdam (right), offers one stunning example.

This three-year study of Multi-Faith Spaces, initiated by Dr. Ralf Brand, Dr. Andrew Crompton, Rev. Dr. Terry Biddington, and Dr. Chris Hewson, concludes in late 2012. For more information about this study, or for information about their traveling exhibition, please contact: mfs@manchester.ac.uk


Pluralism Project Assistant Director Attends LEarNing Spatially (LENS) Institute at the University of Redlands

In June, Assistant Director Whittney Barth attended the LEarNing Spatially (LENS) Summer Institute, a program of the Redlands Institute that invites scholars and educators to Redlands, CA to collaborate on best practices for integrating spatial technologies into their classrooms and research initiatives. For more information about the 2012 LENS Summer Institute, themed “Mapping Communities,” please click here.


Doctor of Ministry Earned by Marcia Sietstra, Pluralism Project Researcher

The Pluralism Project would like to congratulate the Reverend Marcia Sietstra on the completion of her Doctor of Ministry, conferred by Andover Newton Theological School (ANTS). A portion of Marcia’s project, a case study on the Tri-Faith Initiative in Omaha, Nebraska, can be found online in the Omaha portal of America’s Interfaith Infrastructure: An Emerging Landscape. Marcia (pictured here with Ellie Pierce [L] and Dr. Diana Eck [R]) also served as a guest lecturer during the Building an Interfaith Community and Leadership Seminar co-hosted by The Pluralism Project and Andover Newton Theological School.


Pluralism Project Research Associate Awarded 2012 Greeley International Internship

Melissa Nozell, current research associate at the Pluralism Project and first-year Master of Theological Studies candidate at Harvard Divinity School, has been named the Greeley International Intern for Summer 2012. This competitive award is given in honor of the Rev. Dana McLean Greeley and offered by the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School is given annually to a current student. Melissa is currently working in Amman, Jordan with the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center. Congratulations, Melissa!


The Pluralism Project Partners with the University of Seattle School of Theology and Ministry to Map the Religious Landscape of Greater Seattle

The Pluralism Project is pleased to have partnered with Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry (SUSTM) to map the diverse religious landscape of Greater Seattle. Pluralism Project research associate, April Winebrenner-Palo, researched and mapped the religious diversity of King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties. The results of this partnership were showcased in May at a regional conference on the “State of the Church Today.” April’s research will be included in the updated version of On Common Ground, a resource that will be available online through the Pluralism Project’s website in the coming months.

Want more information about how your institution or organization might partner with us to explore the religious diversity of your city or region? Send us an e-mail at staff@pluralism.org.


Pluralism Project On the Road

  • Assistant Director Whittney Barth returned to her undergraduate alma mater to discuss with the Miami University campus and wider Oxford, Ohio communities preliminary results from the Pluralism Project’s pilot study “America’s Interfaith Infrastructure: An Emerging Landscape” and the role of interfaith engagement on college campuses.
  • Pluralism Project staff taught a case study in an Intercultural Communication course at Lasell College in February and led a case study discussion with the Addir Interfaith Fellows at MIT during the group’s Spring retreat in April.
  • The Pluralism Project participated in a panel discussing efforts to promote peace and conflict resolution at the Rotary International District #7950 Conference in Newport, Rhode Island.

The Pluralism Project and the Center for the Study of World Religions Co-Host “Contours of Common Ground”

In February, the Pluralism Project and the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School hosted a panel event entitled “The Contours of Common Ground.” The event gave panelists an opportunity to reflect on different conceptions of “common ground” and its role in fostering interfaith engagement.

The Pluralism Project would like to extend our thanks to Lucia Hulsether, field education intern at the CSWR, and the Project’s own April Winebrenner-Palo for organizing this event! Video of the event is available on the Harvard Divinity School website.


Around the University…

The Pluralism Project Participates in Harvard’s Interfaith Awareness Week, Inspired by the United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week

In early February, Harvard University chaplains, staff, students, and faculty organized interfaith events on and around campus to celebrate World Interfaith Harmony Week, first designated the first week of February by the United Nations in 2011. The Memorial Church and the Harvard Interfaith Collaborative welcomed Rami Nashashibi, Executive Director of Inner-City Muslim Action Network in Chicago, Illinois, to campus to speak on the spiritual legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Pluralism Project hosted a film screening and discussion of Valarie Kaur’s film “Divided We Fall.” The week also included an interfaith arts festival, a panel discussing the “Contours of Common Ground” in interfaith work (see above), and a service opportunity to alleviate hunger in Greater Boston.

Love, InshAllah Reading and Discussion at Harvard University

On February 13th, The Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program at Harvard University, The Harvard Islamic Society, The Islam in the West Program, and the Pluralism Project co-sponsored a reading of Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women and a conversation with co-editors Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi. Love, InshAllah is a collection that sweep aside stereotypes as 25 Muslim American writers share their personal stories.

“Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football” Film Screening at Harvard University

On April 12th, The Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program at Harvard University, the Harvard Foundation, and the Pluralism Project hosted a screening of the film “Fordson: Faith, Fasting, and Football.” The film follows a predominately Arab-American high school football team from a working-class Detroit suburb as they practice for their big cross-town rivalry game during the last ten days of Ramadan, revealing a community holding onto its Islamic faith while they struggle for acceptance in post 9/11 America.

The screening was followed by a discussion with the film’s director and executive producer, Rashid Ghazi. Click here to view the trailer.

Pluralism Project Welcomes Interfaith Delegation from Bosnia-Herzegovina

In May, Diana Eck, Whittney Barth and intern Amrita Dani welcomed to the Pluralism Project a delegation from the Inter-religious Council of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The delegation, comprised of leaders within the Christian, Jewish, and Muslims faiths, was hosted by the Harvard University Marshall’s Office in conjunction with WorldBoston. They were as heartened to hear about the energies of the interfaith movement in the U.S., as we were in hearing about the growth of local interfaith councils in Bosnia-Herzegovina.