March 18, 2013

In this Issue:

  • Letter from Diana Eck, Director
  • Former Assistant Director at the Presidential Inauguration Prayer Service
  •  Pluralism Project Co-Hosts “My Neighbor’s Faith: A Critical Conversation”
  • Harvard Celebrates World Interfaith Harmony Week
  • Pluralism Project Staff on the Road and in Cyberspace
  • Pluralism Project Partners with Campus Groups to Host Veritas Forum
  • “La Trappe” and “In Ordinary Life” Film Screenings at Harvard
  • Pluralism Project Affiliate Leads Effort to “Green” Hindu Temples
  • Summer Internship Opportunities!
  • In the News | Papal Selection in a Religiously Diverse World Edition

Letter from Diana Eck, Director

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Cambridge! We here at the Pluralism Project hope that 2013 has found you and yours happy and well. During the month of January, I traveled with nearly fifty Harvard colleagues and students from across the University to Allahabad where we joined 30 million Hindu pilgrims for the centuries old pilgrimage, the Kumbh Mela. The trip was jointly coordinated by the South Asia Institute at Harvard and the Harvard Global Health Institute. In the Fall I, along with my colleague Rahul Mehrotra of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, taught a course on the Kumbh Mela which happens once every twelve years. Here’s a link to a story in the Harvard Gazette about our trip. You can also read more on our team’s blog, Mapping the Mela.

Now, the semester is well underway and I am teaching two courses—a seminar on Gandhi: Then and Now and another on dialogue and diaspora in world religions. We kicked off the semester here by celebrating World Interfaith Harmony Week with many campus partners. The Pluralism Project co-hosted with the Center for the Study of World Religions a panel discussion of the book My Neighbor’s Faith: Stories of Interreligious Encounter, Growth, and Transformation (Orbis, 2012). I had the pleasure of introducing the panel, which included colleagues from Harvard, Andover Newton Theological School, Hebrew College, and Brown University. This month we co-hosted with the Center for the Study of World Religions a very successful film screening featuring the work of long-time Pluralism Project and Harvard Divinity School alumna, Lina Verchery.

Another Pluralism Project alum, Abhishek Raman, invited me to speak to his colleagues at the Interfaith Youth Core. It was wonderful to reflect on my own experiences in the interfaith movement and to hear about some of the challenges and opportunities IFYC staff encounter as they work to promote interfaith engagement and leadership on campuses across the nation—all via Skype!

Although it is only March, many are looking ahead to warmer months and exploring new opportunities for the summer. Check out the summer internships page on our website. Or, would your organization like to add a listing to our summer internships page? Click here for more information on how to share this news with us. If you are a graduate, undergraduate, or a high school student (or know someone who is) and are interested in interning with the Pluralism Project this summer, there’s more information for that, too!

In closing, I’d like to take a moment to say a heartfelt thank you to all who contributed in recent months for our annual appeal campaign. On behalf of the entire Pluralism Project staff, we thank you for your ongoing support which helps to make our work possible. If you didn’t get a chance to donate, you can do so online at any time by visiting

All the best,


Former Assistant Director at the Presidential Inauguration Prayer Service

Kathryn Lohre, President of the National Council of Churches, led congregational prayer at the Washington National Cathedral during the Presidential Inauguration Prayer Service. Lohre served as the Assistant Director of the Pluralism Project from 2005 to 2011 before taking on her current role as the Director of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Click here to watch C-SPAN coverage of Kathryn’s remarks. 

 Pluralism Project Co-Hosts “My Neighbor’s Faith: A Critical Conversation”

On Tuesday, February 5th the Pluralism Project and the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School co-hosted a panel discussion of the book My Neighbor’s Faith: Stories of Interreligious Encounter, Growth, and Transformation (Orbis 2012).  Panelists included two of the book’s editors and co-directors of the Center for Inter-Religious and Communal Leadership Education, Dr. Jennifer Peace and Rabbi Or Rose. Dr. Ali Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures at Harvard University, and the Rev. Janet Cooper Nelson, Chaplain of the University at Brown, were also panelists and spoke about the personal stories they contributed to the collection. Dr. Francis X. Clooney, Director of the Center for the Study of World Religions, served as a respondent and Dr. Diana Eck, Director of the Pluralism Project, gave introductory remarks.

Over seventy-five people attended the panel and rich discussion continued into the reception that followed. We would like to extend a special thanks to the Center for the Study of World Religions Field Education Intern Morgan Howard and Pluralism Project Research Associate April Winebrenner-Palo who organized the event.

Harvard Celebrates World Interfaith Harmony Week

In 2010, the United Nations declared the first week of each February “World Interfaith Harmony Week.” Since its inception the following year, members of the Harvard University community have offered programming to the campus and beyond. Partners included the Harvard Chaplains, the Harvard Undergraduate Interfaith Council, the Center for the Study of World Religions, and the Pluralism Project. This year, the week’s events included a screening of the film Soundtrack to a Revolution: A Documentary; a panel discussion of the book My Neighbor’s Faith; a brown bag lunch conversation about the exhibit “Multifaith Spaces: Symptoms and Agents of Change”; and a student panel on “Doubt and Religion.” Two events, one commemorating Swami Vivekananda’s 150th birthday and another a service project, were rescheduled for March due to the snowstorm that hit the Northeast on February 8th. Click here for more information about World Interfaith Harmony Week.

Pluralism Project Staff on the Road and in Cyberspace

Recently, Assistant Director Whittney Barth discussed our work with Professor Jay McDaniel’s undergraduate religion class at Hendrix College via Skype. Professor McDaniel and his students are exploring the religious diversity of Arkansas this semester, including field research in Little Rock.

Whittney also led a case study discussion at Lasell College in Newton, Massachusetts as a part of Professor Dana Janbeck’s course on intercultural communications. Students deliberated the case “Driven by Faith,” which presents the controversy that arose when Somali Muslim taxi drivers at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport who, citing religious convictions, refuse to transport passengers who carry alcohol. For more on the Case Study Initiative, visit

Pluralism Project Partners with Campus Groups to Host Veritas Forum

On Tuesday, March 5th nearly eight hundred people packed Sanders Theater at Harvard University for “Under God? The Role of Religion in Public Life,” a conversation with University of Chicago Divinity School ethicist Jean Bethke Elshtain and Harvard University professor Michael Sandel. This was the seventeenth annual Veritas Forum to be held at the University. Professor Diana Eck and Sri Lankan theologian Vinoth Ramachandra were speakers in 2011.

The event was sponsored by several Christian ministries at Harvard in partnership with Harvard Hillel, Harvard Buddhist, Episcopal, and Foursquare chaplaincies, the Humanist Community at Harvard, the Pluralism Project, the Philosophy Department, and the Center for the Study of World Religions.

“La Trappe” and “In Ordinary Life” Film Screenings at Harvard

The Center for the Study of World Religions and the Pluralism Project partnered to screen the films “La Trappe” and “In Ordinary Life” on Tuesday, March 12th.  A question and answer session with the films’ director, Canadian filmmaker and Harvard PhD student Lina Verchery, followed. Despite inclement weather, the evening drew over thirty people.

“La Trappe” explores the delicate connections that exist between Buddhist monastics and lobster fisherman who, despite difference of language, culture,and religion, share a belief in life as a cycle. “In Ordinary Life” highlights everyday experiences of life and death through the eyes of the Buddhist monastics at the Avatamsaka Sagely Monastery in Calgary, Alberta. To view “La Trappe” on the National Film Board of Canada’s website, please visit

Pluralism Project Affiliate Leads Effort to “Green” Hindu Temples

Pluralism Project affiliate Pankaj Jain, in partnership with Hindu America Seva Charities, Oxford University’s Bhumi Project, and Green Faith, is working with Hindu communities across the United States to promote greening efforts at temples nationwide. These initiatives include, among others, community gardening and educational resource sharing. Jain is Assistant Professor at the University of North Texas and currently directs the Eco-Dharma and Bhumi-Seva Project. Click here for more information on these initiatives.

Starhawk Visits Harvard Divinity School

On March 7, Harvard Divinity School welcomed Starhawk, the founder of the Reclaiming Tradition, a prolific author on feminism and neopaganism, and an influential global justice activist. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Starhawk was one of the first to blend the emerging women’s liberation movement with the Wiccan veneration of the Goddess and God; these projects were formally organized as Reclaiming in 1981. Drawing from the rich, sacred resources of the Reclaiming Tradition, Starhawk’s address to the HDS community was titled “Permaculture and the Sacred: A Conversation with Starhawk.”

Speaking to a packed house in Andover Hall, Starhawk explained that permaculture is the project of meeting human needs without destroying the earth. Care for the earth, care for people, and care for the future were touchstones of Starhawk’s address. On today’s environmental and social crises, Starhawk emphasized: “It’s worse than you thought, but it can be better than you can imagine.” Discussing material ranging from the ancient spiritual functions of the elderberry plant to her 2003 protest of the World Trade Organization in Mexico, Starhawk argued that simple, natural solutions are best. “Propose a different kind of solution,” she concluded. “Feed what you want to grow.”

This event was sponsored by the Center for the Study of the World’s Religions, the Women’s Studies in Religion Program, and the Reading Group on Ecology in the Divinity School Curriculum, with special leadership provided by HDS student Leigh Ann Hildebrand. Video of the event can be found on the Harvard Divinity School website. (Report and photos filed by April Winebrenner-Palo, Pluralism Project Research Associate)

Summer Internship Opportunities!

Are you looking for a summer internship? Check out the growing list of summer opportunities posted on our website. The are opportunity available to undergraduate and graduate school students who seek to gain experience with research, interfaith, or tradition-specific organizations.

If there is an internship opportunity through your organization that you would like us to consider including in this list, please send an e-mail to with the title of the internship(s), name of the organization, location, a brief description, and a link or contact information for more information.

If you are interested in interning with the Pluralism Project this summer and are a high school, undergraduate, or graduate student, please send to an up-to-date resume and brief letter explaining your interest in studying religious diversity and highlighting any related experience, academic or otherwise. A limited number of spots are available and requests for internships will be evaluated on a rolling basis.

State of Formation Seeking Nominations for Contributing Scholars

State of Formation is currently seeking nominations for contributing scholars who would like to join a cohort of seminarians, rabbinical students, graduate students in redefining the ethical discourse of our day. State of Formation was founded by the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue, and is a project of the Center for Inter-Religious & Communal Leadership Education at Andover Newton Theological School and Hebrew College and collaborates with the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.”

Nominees should be currently enrolled in a seminary, rabbinical school, graduate program, or another institution for theological or philosophical formation—or up to three years out of their graduate program in a professional setting. (On rare occasions, exceptions will be made to these guidelines in order to increase the diversity of the writers.) Contributors should be able to commit to post monthly articles on the forum and comment on other articles while showing respect others from different traditions.

Click here for more information and a nomination form.

In the News | Papal Selection in a Religiously Diverse World Edition