October 9, 2012

In this Issue:

  • A Note from Dr. Diana Eck, Director
  • New Pluralism Project Web Resource
  • 2012 Pluralism Project Photo Contest
  • Greater Boston Responds to Oak Creek Tragedy
  • Summer Highlights from Pluralism Project Alumni and Current Staff
  • Pluralism Project Interns and Research Associates
  • Affiliate Spotlight
  • Perspectives on Recent Events in the News

A Note from Dr. Diana Eck, Director

Dr. Diana Eck

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Cambridge, MA! The academic year is well underway and we here at the Pluralism Project are pleased to welcome two new student staff members to the Project and to welcome back three of our research associates and our intern. This year we’ll continue to create the web-version of On Common Ground: World Religions in America. First released as CD-ROM in the mid-1990s, we are grateful to the Lilly Endowment, Inc. for making it possible for this resource to be made available online in the coming months. This semester I’m teaching again my general education course in Harvard College, “The World’s Religions in Multicultural America – Case Studies in Religious Pluralism,” where students engage with the case study method and craft their own cases, too. To learn more about the Pluralism Project’s case study initiative, visit our website.

In the wake of the summer’s tragic shooting at the gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, the destruction of mosques in places like Joplin, Missouri, and the all-too-familiar examples of ongoing anti-Muslim rhetoric in the news, it is clear that we need religious and civic leaders who are equipped to promote understanding of and constructive engagement with America’s multi-religious reality now more than ever.  In late August, I–together with the Pluralism Project staff–gathered with hundreds of others who filled Trinity Church in Boston for a service organized by Christian, Muslim, and Jewish organizations to show solidarity and support for our Sikh brothers and sisters. The evening concluded with a langar meal hosted by local Sikh communities. Click here to read my op-ed in The Dallas Morning News responding to the tragedy in Oak Creek. Read on in this newsletter to learn more about efforts of support and solidarity in Greater Boston and around the country.

In addition to other updates from Pluralism Project staff and friends, we are happy to share a new section of our website that features resources from the Building an Interfaith Community and Leadership Seminar as well as a directory of interfaith programs for clergy and theological school students. If you find these resources useful, tell us how you plan to utilize them in your own context!

All the best,


New Pluralism Project Web Resource

Resources from the Building an Interfaith Community and Leadership Seminar are now available online. Thanks to the generous support of the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, this two-week intensive program offered theological school students the opportunity to grow in their capacity for leadership within a multi-religious context. Online materials include a course syllabus, readings, sample student reflections, and a directory of interfaith programs for clergy and theological school students.

Dr. Diana Eck and Dr. Jennifer Peace, Seminar Co-Instructors

“Learning to Build Interfaith Community” in The Interfaith Observer

Professor Jennifer Peace’s article, “Learning to Build Interfaith Community” appeared in the September 15th edition of The Interfaith Observer. Dr. Peace co-instructed the Building an Interfaith Community and Leadership Seminar. She is an assistant professor of interfaith studies at Andover Newton Theological School where she co-directs the Center for Interreligious and Communal Education (CIRCLE).

2012 Pluralism Project Photo Contest

We invite you and your students, networks, and organizations to participate in our third annual Pluralism Project Photo Contest. We are looking for high-resolution digital images that convey the vibrancy of religious diversity in the USA. One grand-prize winner will be selected; the winning photographer will receive a $250 cash prize and extended exposure in the spotlight on our homepage, www.pluralism.org.

Photos must be received by 5pm EST on October 29, 2012. All winning photos may be featured in our forthcoming online publication, On Common Ground: World Religions in America or on our website. The photographer’s name will be cited.

For more information, please visit http://www.pluralism.org/pages/contest.

Greater Boston Responds to Oak Creek Tragedy

A Service Rooted in the Sikh Tradition, Trinity Church, Boston

In the weeks following the tragic shooting at the gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike came together, showing support for those affected by this act of violence. Many took a stand to counter hatred and intolerance.  Here is a sampling of responses in Greater Boston:

  • The New England Sikh Study Circle, Inc. in Milford welcomed over three hundred people for a candlelight vigil and langar meal on the evening of August 6th, just a day after the shooting. Members of the local Muslim community prayed and broke their Ramadan fast on the front lawn of the gurdwara;
  • Guru Nanak Darbar in Medford organized a prayer service one week after the shooting, an event that included remarks from leaders within the Christian, Zoroastrian, and Humanist communities. Chris Stedman, Assistant Humanist Chaplain at Harvard and coordinator of the Harvard Humanist Community’s Values in Action program, showed support for the Sikh community by organizing an interfaith group of Atheists, Humanists, Christians, Muslims, Pagans, Sikhs and Zoroastrians to attend. At the invitation of the event’s organizers, several guests, including Stedman, offered remarks;
  • A candlelight vigil was held on the campus of Boston University and included educational programming about Sikhism;
  • An estimated fifteen hundred people filled Trinity Church in Boston’s Copley Square on Thursday, August 23rd for “A Service Rooted in the Sikh Tradition: A Demonstration of Solidarity and Support.” The event was hosted by the Massachusetts Council of Churches, the Jewish Community Relations Council, and the Islamic Council of New England. Musicians from local gurdwaras played shabads (songs) from the Gurmat Sangeet (Sikh Sacred Music Tradition). A langar meal offered by the Sikh communities in Greater Boston followed. Some traveling from the surrounding area even organized chartered buses to attend the event.

Summer Highlights from Pluralism Project Alumni and Current Staff

 Notes from NAIN Connect 2012

Jason Smith, a participant in the Building an Interfaith Community and Leadership Seminar and a former Pluralism Project intern, attended the NAINConnect conference in Atlanta, GA and had this reflection.

The North American Interfaith Network (NAIN) continues to find new ways to inspire, and after each NAINConnect I feel refreshed and re-energized, ready to take on another year of exciting interfaith opportunities and events!  It was particularly nice to see a significant increase in youth attendance and participation at this year’s conference in Atlanta – NAIN continues to provide scholarships for young adults to attend the Connect each year, and many of the workshops were led by young adults or focused on the topic of youth involvement in interfaith initiatives.  Fresh out of the Pluralism Project’s summer seminar on interfaith leadership, it was wonderful to witness a new generation young leaders ready to take charge of the movement, and I have renewed confidence that the interfaith movement will continue to grow in numbers and play an important role in our world for many years to come.

Click here to read Jason’s report on NAINConnect 2012.

Update from the Field: Pluralism Project Research Associate April Winebrenner-Palo and Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light

This summer, April Winebrenner-Palo, current Pluralism Project research associate and returning student at Harvard Divinity School, spent the summer in her home state of Minnesota, serving as an interfaith community organizer around the urgent issue of climate change.

As the Interfaith Outreach Coordinator for Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light (MN IPL), I witnessed several amazing examples of religious pluralism in the Twin Cities. During the holy month of Ramadan, over ten Twin Cities mosques participated in a massive interfaith iftar series coordinated by the Minnesota Council of Churches. Throughout Ramadan, mosques in the Twin Cities were filled to bursting with hundreds of diverse Minnesotans sharing food and friendship together. In August, MN IPL also coordinated a successful interfaith service project and arts contest: nearly sixty people attended, over a dozen letters were written to urge United States senators to support wind energy, and fourteen amateur art projects won prizes donated by the interfaith planning committee. In October, MN IPL is partnering with Environment MN to hold an interfaith dialogue breakfast, themed around environmental stewardship in the Islamic and Christian traditions. It is an excellent time to get involved in multireligious work in Minnesota!

Pluralism Project Interns and Research Associates

As the academic year kicks off, the Pluralism Project would like to thank our high school interns, Reva Nohria and Emily Kremer-McNeil and Pluralism Project staff member, Crystal Alburger, for their work at our Cambridge office this summer. We’d also like to acknowledge the fieldwork done by Pluralism Project interns in New York City, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, CA by Najira Ahmed, Io Montecillo, and Aaron Lerner, respectively.

We are excited to welcome our new research associates Paul Escobar and Sarah Lytle and to welcome back returning research associates Melissa Nozell, April Winebrenner-Palo, and Crystal Alburger, as well as Amrita Dani, research intern. Click here to read more about our team!

Affiliate Spotlight

Matt Ozug and Julia Elliott recently launched “Faith in the Five Boroughs,” a project documenting faith among immigrant communities in New York City. Matt worked at the Pluralism Project as an undergraduate and Julia is a graduate of the Harvard Divinity School. To learn more about “Faith in the Five Boroughs,” visit the project’s website, http://faithinthefiveboroughs.org/.

Perspectives on Recent Events in the News

Oak Creek and the Future of Sikhs in America” by Dave Sidhu, Pluralism Project Affiliate (The Washington Post)

The Sin of Sowing Hatred of Islam,” by Rabbi Rick Jacobs (The New York Times)

“What Would Muhammad Do?,” by Omid Safi (Religion News Service)

To Bigotry No Sanction” by Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer (The Huffington Post)