October 20, 2014

In this Issue:

  • Fourth Annual Pluralism Project Photo Contest
  • Pluralism Project on the Road
  • Pluralism Project Alumni Spotlight
  • AAR Save the Date: Sunday, November 23rd—See you in San Diego!
  • Vanderbilt University Survey
  • Parliament of the World’s Religions Announced for 2015 in Salt Lake City

Greetings from the Director

Dear Friends,

We are well into a fast-paced new school year here in Cambridge, MA and we’re delighted once again to welcome students back to campus. This fall, I am teaching a course on texts and traditions of religion in India and preparing for another iteration of my case studies in multi-religious America course in the spring.

We had a fantastic group of summer research interns working with us across the country: Los Angeles, Chicago, Milwaukee, Jersey City, Washington, D.C., and the list goes on. You can read more about the team here. Findings from the summer will be added to the rich trove of resources available at pluralism.org. As you’ll see as you read on in this newsletter, things didn’t slow down for us this summer at the Pluralism Project! The academic year has also brought with it renewed energy.

In June, I co-taught a four-day seminar for college professors on teaching interfaith understanding with Catherine Cornille, Professor and Chair of the Theology Department at Boston College. The seminar, which was organized by the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) and the Council for Independent Colleges, took place in Boston. A second seminar, led by Eboo Patel, of IFYC, and Laurie Patton, of Trinity College, took place in Chicago in August.

In late August I, along with my long-time friend and colleague Ali Asani, Director of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Islamic Studies Program at Harvard, met with a group of international journalists participating in an East-West Center seminar on religious pluralism. Together, we discussed the role and possibility of pluralism in multi-religious societies, with a particular focus on Islam.

The summer also brought sad news of the passing of Margot Adler, Wiccan priestess and author, NPR correspondent, and long-time advisor to the Pluralism Project. Margot’s in-depth reporting on so many subjects and her efforts to educate the public about Paganism in America will be sorely missed. Our condolences go out to her family, especially her son, and friends. A memorial service will be held October 31st at All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City.

Every day we are reminded of how critical is the work of education and dialogue across difference in a conflict-ridden world. As you’ll see from our summer research and news sections below, religion certainly plays a role in these conversations. The role of the academy in public deliberation is also a live topic. I recently joined some of my HDS colleagues at the Center for the Study of World Religions to reflect on how to balance the roles of public figure, academic, and educator. You can view the conversaton here.

The Pluralism Project, to be sure, is also a voice in this public conversation. Through our research and case studies we hope to equip people with tools to constructively engage with the realities of religious diversity. We’re excited and grateful to announce that the Pluralism Project has received a grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations’ Religion Program. This critical support will allow us to build capacity through a redesign of our website and an expansion of our Case Study Initiative. Stay tuned for more news as these projects unfold!

Finally, we delighted to welcome our new and returning student staff at the Pluralism Project. Welcome Abhishek, Cody, Maggie, and Mary Kate! The year ahead looks to be one of great promise.

Wishing you and yours all the best,


Summer Research

Thank you to all of our student research interns for all of their hard work this summer. Researchers were documenting interfaith initiatives and religious diversity in Bloomington-Normal, IL, Boston, MA, Chicago, IL, Jersey City, NJ, Los Angeles, CA, Milwaukee, WI, Portland, OR, Salt Lake City, UT, and Washington, D.C.

In addition to cataloguing interfaith organizations, and religious organizations, researchers contributed promising practices, profiles of religious centers, and/or research reports. Here’s a preview of some of the promising practices:

A final report on the interfaith work happening in these cities is forthcoming.

A hearty thank you to all of our summer researchers and to the representatives of religious communities and interfaith organizations who welcomed and spoke with our team this summer.

Fourth Annual Pluralism Project Photo Contest

We invite you and your students, networks, and organizations to participate in our fourth annual Pluralism Project Photo Contest. We are looking for high-resolution digital images that convey the vibrancy ofreligious diversity in the USA. We are particularly interested in images in the following categories:

  • Religious practices and rituals
  • Religious centers, including festivals, center openings, and parades
  • Participation of religious groups in American civic life
  • Interfaith encounter or social action
  • Women’s leadership and participation
  • Emerging leadership within Muslim and Sikh communities
  • Images of the Atheist/Humanist, Bahá’í, Buddhist, Confucian, Daoist, Hindu, Muslim, Native American, Shintō, Sikh, Unitarian Universalist, and Zoroastrian communities in the USA

One grand-prize winner will be selected; the winning photographer will receive a $250 cash prize and an extended exposé in the spotlight on our homepage, www.pluralism.org. Entries must be received by December 31st, 2014 at 5pm EST.

All winning photos may be featured in the online publication, On Common Ground: World Religions in America, on the Pluralism Project website, or on the Pluralism Project at Harvard University Facebook page and Twitter feed. The photographer’s name will be cited.

For more information and for guidelines on how to submit photos, please visit: http://www.pluralism.org/pages/contest.

To view slideshows of previous years’ winners, check out 2013, 2012, and 2011.

Pluralism Project on the Road

  • Senior Research Associate Brendan Randall represented the Pluralism Project at the 2014 Interfaith Understanding Conference for ELCA Colleges and Universities. The conference took place in early June at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois
  • Assistant Director Whittney Barth was selected to participate in a two-week Summer Civic Studies Institute at Tufts University. During the Institute, she led a case discussion of “Sign of Division” and was a panelist during the workshop “Faith Communities and Democratic Work: Beyond the Culture Wars,” which took place at the end of the Institute during the Frontiers of Democracy conference. 
  • In late July, Whittney led a case study workshop for schoolteachers participating in “Religious Worlds of New York,” a National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminar co-sponsored by the Interfaith Center of New York and Union Theological Seminary. The group discussed “Adding Eid,” a case whose protagonist, a school superintendent, must determine his options when considering whether to add Eid to the public school calendar.  
  • In August, Research Associate Cody Musselman attended the North American Interfaith Network conference in Detroit, MI. Cody was a recipient of a NAIN young adult scholarship. Read Cody’s report from NAIN 2014.

Pluralism Project Alumni Spotlight

Melissa Nozell

Melissa Nozell (HDS ’12) recently joined the Religion & Peacebuilding Center at the United States Institute of Peace as a program specialist. While the Center’s focus is thematic, addressing a wide range of issues pertaining to religion and religious leadership, Melissa’s current work supports projects in North Africa and South Asia. Congratulations, Melissa!

Are you an alum or affiliate of the Pluralism Project and have an update to share? E-mail us at staff@pluralism.org.

AAR Save the Date: Sunday, November 23rd—See you in San Diego!

On Sunday, November 23rd the Pluralism Project and the KAICIID Dialogue Centre will co-host two events at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting.

  • The Case Method: Teaching and Writing Case Studies with Dr. Diana L. Eck, Sunday, November 23: 2-4 PM | This two-hour workshop will provide an overview of the case method and its application to religious studies and interfaith/interreligious relations. The workshop will include a case discussion facilitated by Diana Eck and an introduction to writing case studies. Reception to follow. Jointly presented by the Pluralism Project at Harvard University and the KAICIID Dialogue Centre (King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue). RSVP by November 12 to Whittney Barth, Assistant Director of the Pluralism Project: wbarth@mail.harvard.edu.
  • Joint Reception of the Pluralism Project and the KAICIID Dialogue Centre, Sunday, November 23: 5-7 PM | The Pluralism Project and the KAICIID Dialogue Centre (King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue) cordially invite friends and colleagues, old and new, to a reception at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion in San Diego. We look forward to hearing your professional updates as well as to sharing with you more about the international work of KAICIID and the ongoing work of the Pluralism Project. RSVPs are requested but not required to staff@pluralism.org.

Vanderbilt University Survey

Researchers from Vanderbilt University are conducting a survey on interfaith organizations. The purpose of this study is to understand how interfaith organizations form and develop, and to understand the experiences of individuals within these organizations. Through this research, we hope to understand how interfaith organizations work with individuals from differing faith backgrounds. We would also like to help these organizations be more effective and improve how they work with their surrounding communities. If you are a member of an interfaith organization and would like to complete this survey, or have questions about the survey, please visit http://tinyurl.com/lu4hsjy.

Parliament of the World’s Religions Announced for 2015 in Salt Lake City

Recently, the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions announced that the Parliament of the World’s Religions would be held every two years, beginning in 2015. Salt Lake City will host next year’s Parliament, which will take place from October 15-19, 2015. Registration is now open with discounted rates through November. Students and young adults are strongly encouraged to attend and may do so at reduced rates. For more information and to register, please visit this page. Interested in proposing a session at the Parliament? Find out how by visiting www.parliamentofreligions.org.

You can read more about the historic 1893 and 1993 Parliaments in On Common Ground: World Religions in America.

In the News

For more news stories, please subscribe to our Religion Diversity Newsfeed, www.pluralism.org/newsfeed