March 18, 2013

In this Issue:

  • Letter from Diana Eck, Director
  • Former Assistant Director at the Presidential Inauguration PrayerPrayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. It may consist of fixed words, spontaneous words, or rest in silence with no words at all. Some forms of prayer are accompanied with specific postures or gestures, while others are not. 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 TemplesA Hindu temple will be called a mandir in northern parts of India or a koyil in the south. There are many styles of temples and temple-complexes, but most temples are laid out according to precise dimensions and proportions and erected to be the symbolic ...
  • 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 GandhiM.K. Gandhi (1869-1948) was one of the great religious leaders and social reformers of the twentieth century. He came to be called Mahatma, the “Great Soul.” Born in western India in Gujarat, he studied law in London and then spent twenty years with t...: Then and Now and another on dialogue and diasporaA Greek word first used in the Hellenistic period, Diaspora refers to the “dispersion” of Jewish communities living in countries other than Israel. Today, the term Diaspora is also used to describe other religious communities, living apart from their ... 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, HebrewHebrew is the ancient language of the Israelites in which the Bible and most of Jewish liturgy is written. 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 ChurchesThe term church has come to wide use to refer to the organized and gathered religious community. In the Christian tradition, church refers to the organic, interdependent “body” of Christ’s followers, the community of Christians. Secondarily, church ..., led congregationalThe congregational form of Protestant Christianity has traditionally affirmed the autonomy and authority of the local congregation in calling and ordaining its ministers and organizing its affairs. In the 17th century, the English Puritans introduced cong... 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 EvangelicalThe Greek word euangelion means “good news” and an evangelist is one who proclaims and shares the good news of Christ. Evangelism is the preaching and witnessing to that good news. Evangelicals are Christians who emphasize the personal experience of G... LutheranLutheranism is a Protestant tradition following the theology of Martin Luther (1483-1546), the reformer who was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church and launched the German reformation. He emphasized the sole authority of the Bible, the priesthoo... ChurchThe term church has come to wide use to refer to the organized and gathered religious community. In the Christian tradition, church refers to the organic, interdependent “body” of Christ’s followers, the community of Christians. Secondarily, 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 RabbiRabbi means “my master,” an authorized teacher or master of the Torah and the classical Jewish tradition. After the fall of the second Temple in 70 CE and the scattering of the Jewish people in exile, the role of the rabbi became very important in gat... Or Rose. Dr. Ali Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures at Harvard University, and the Rev. Janet Cooper Nelson, ChaplainA chaplain is a member of the clergy who serves in a prison, a hospital, a college, or some other institution outside the context of the normal congregational life of a religious community. 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 ChaplainsA chaplain is a member of the clergy who serves in a prison, a hospital, a college, or some other institution outside the context of the normal congregational life of a religious community., 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 SwamiSwami means “master” or “lord.” In the Hindu and Jain traditions of India it is used as a title of respect for deities, gurus (spiritual teachers), and sadhus (ascetics). 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 DanaDana is a religious gift as well as the quality of liberality or generosity. In the Buddhist tradition, generosity is one of the six paramitas (“perfections”) that one cultivates on the bodhisattva path. The other perfections are. discipline, forbeara... 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. PaulPaul, an early Jewish convert to the way of Christ (about 33 CE), became the Apostle to the Gentiles, preaching the Gospel and establishing churches in Greece, Asia Minor, and Rome. Some thirteen letters of Paul to these early churches have become part of... 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 GodGod is a term used to refer to the Divine, the Supreme being, Transcendent deity, or Ultimate reality.? 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, EpiscopalEpiscopal refers to any church in which authority is vested in a bishop (Greek episkopos). More particularly it refers to the Episcopal Church in America, which developed from the Church of England after the American Revolution., and Foursquare chaplaincies, the Humanist Community at HarvardThe Humanist Community Project is an initiative of the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard that seeks to research and resource the Humanist, skeptic, atheist, and not religious communities of America., 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 MonasteryA monastery is the residence of monks, or monastics; the term is commonly used in both the Christian and Buddhist traditions. Monasticism refers to the life of work, study, and discipline led by monks and nuns. 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 TemplesA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref...

Pluralism Project affiliate Pankaj Jain, in partnership with Hindu America SevaSeva means service, a religious obligation of both renunciants and laity in the religious traditions of India. 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-DharmaDharma means religion, religious duty, religious teaching. The word dharma comes from a Sanskrit root meaning “to uphold, support, bear,” thus dharma is that order of things which informs the whole world, from the laws of nature to the inner workings ... and Bhumi-Seva Project. Click here for more information on these initiatives.

StarhawkWriter, ritualist, and teacher of the late 20th and early 21st century whose book The Spiral Dance is considered a primary text on Witchcraft. She frequently engages in political activism, including protesting nuclear development and advocating for gay ri... 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 WiccanWicca is the name of one of the major streams of contemporary American Paganism. It is a form of religious witchcraft, sometimes simply called the Craft. Many Wiccans in America today call themselves “witches,” claiming the name under which women and ... veneration of the GoddessGoddess is a term used to refer to the female deity, either in the singular as the supreme divine reality, or in the plural as one of many particular or localized feminine deities. In the Hindu tradition, the Goddess refers to the very powerful, even supr... and GodThe term god with a small “g” is used to refer to a deity or class of deities whose power is understood to be circumscribed or localized rather than universal, or to refer to a plurality of deities.; 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