The Pluralism Project at Harvard University studies and interprets the changing religious landscape of the United States. We conduct research with the help of students, in collaboration with others in our field, and in partnership with religious communities and interfaith organizations. Our award-winning educational resources are informed by this ongoing research.
In 1991, Diana Eck first offered a course at Harvard University on “World Religions in New England.” The subject matter came organically from her growing interest in the changing religious landscape of America, a trend that could be seen in the changing face of the student body at Harvard. Twenty-five students joined Professor Eck in the inaugural course and together they set out to explore the increasingly diverse religious communities in the Boston area. From Sri Lakshmi Temple, located close to the starting point of the Boston Marathon, to New England’s first mosque, established in the shadows of the cranes of Quincy’s shipyards, students documented the post-1965 transformation of Greater Boston’s religious landscape. The result of this research was the publishing of World Religions in Boston: A Guide to Communities and Resources, a printed guidebook that would serve as a model for future research.
Based on the findings in Boston, researchers set out to investigate the changing religious landscape of other American cities, and to consider the implications of this more complex religious landscape for American public life. From the beginning, it was clear that diversity alone does not constitute pluralism. Pluralism requires a degree of engagement with our diversity and the knowledge—both of others and of ourselves—that such engagement brings. And so, in 1991, the Pluralism Project was born.
The Pluralism Project engaged the best energies of Harvard students from both the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Divinity School in “hometown” research in such cities as Denver, Houston, and Minneapolis. Some had a more specific focus: Hindu summer camps in Pennsylvania, Vietnamese Buddhist struggles with zoning laws in California, the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America in Kansas City, or the history of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Each year, during the subsequent fall semester, the researchers presented their work at a Pluralism Project research conference.
Research was then, and is today, central to the work and educational resources of the Pluralism Project, especially as we expanded our efforts into the development of multimedia, convenings, and other initiatives. Our Current initiatives include Case Studies; Interfaith Infrastructure; News & Media; and Mapping Boston. Past initiatives and events are documented in our archive.
IFYC works in higher education, partnering with U.S. colleges and universities to make interfaith cooperation a vital part of the college experience, and ultimately a positive force in our society. We believe that a less divided and more pluralistic future requires new leaders at its core. When they leave college equipped with the vision, knowledge, and skills to positively engage difference, our religiously diverse democracy can and will flourish. Throughout American history campuses have incubated transformative social movements - civil rights, gender equality, environmentalism - and shaped their leaders. That’s why IFYC’s strategy is rooted in the power and promise of U.S. higher education. Our various programs and initiatives equip campus leaders and help energize their efforts. IFYC offers free tools and other knowledge resources to students and educators, we offer grants and other funding, we organize spaces (real and virtual) to get training and share ideas, we advance research to help U.S. higher education find solutions and establish best practices, and we work directly with institutions who need a partner in engaging complex issues of religious and worldview diversity. No matter your role on campus, joining the IFYC Network gives you news, knowledge, and opportunities to advance interfaith cooperation.
WHAT WE BELIEVE
We believe that religious freedom is a foundation for American democracy
We believe that matters of personal conscience must be held sacred, but no one has the right to impose their beliefs on others.
We believe that religious and political extremists are a threat to individual liberty and democracy.
We believe that religious and cultural diversity are essential in building vibrant communities.
HOW WE MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Interfaith Alliance is the only national interfaith organization dedicated to protecting the integrity of both religion and democracy in America.
National Policy: We promote legislation that protects the boundaries between religion and government, so that politics doesn’t infringe on your faith and matters of faith don’t infringe on your freedom.
Grassroots Activism: Our local affiliates mobilize individuals on the grass-roots level to make a difference in their own communities. We offer a forum to challenge bigotry and defend religious freedom on local issues, including candidate education, religion in the public sphere, and interfaith relations.
Election Monitoring: We track the use (and misuse) of religion by candidates for public office and help religious leaders and politicians navigate the boundary between politics and religion.
Education: We facilitate interfaith dialogue to enhance mutual understanding and respect for religious differences.
WHY IT MATTERS
As religion plays an increasingly prominent role in American politics, preserving the boundary between religion and government is more vital than ever. Interfaith Alliance works to ensure that faith and freedom flourish so that individuals can worship freely or not worship at all, so they can embrace matters of personal conscience without fear of government intrusion, and so that all can live in a vibrant, healthy society.
Interfaith Alliance was created in 1994 to celebrate religious freedom and to challenge the bigotry and hatred arising from religious and political extremism infiltrating American politics. Today, Interfaith Alliance has members across the country from 75 faith traditions as well as those of no faith tradition.
There are millions of religious web sites on the Internet. Almost all explain only the beliefs of the webmaster or of the sponsoring group. Most promote only their own denomination, tradition, sect, or faith group as having the "fullness of truth."his web site is different. We try to accurately compare and contrast the beliefs of many faith groups, and how they have changed over time. We explain their similarities and differences, and how they are contributing to tolerance and intolerance in the world. We feel that sites like ours can help people understand what other people think and why they think the way that they do. The Dalai Lama expressed a simillar viewpoint: "The whole purpose of religion is to facilitate love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, and forgiveness."
Through Shoulder to Shoulder, we advance our vision by directly engaging faith leaders in the United States to be strategic partners in countering discrimination and violence against Muslims.
Why We Exist: Understanding the Problem
Discrimination, violence and bias against Muslims in the US are driven by several factors, including disproportionately negative media coverage of Muslims, negative political rhetoric, and a well-funded industry aimed at spreading misinformation and fear. Additionally, the discrimination and violence aimed at Muslims is a part of our country’s long history of racism directed towards Black Americans, Native Americans, immigrants, and others. It is also fed by some of the same forces that fuel anti-Semitism and other forms of religious-based bigotry. Anti-Muslim bigotry is not just theoretical. The widespread misinformation and fear lead to hate crimes, vandalism, bullying, and other forms of violence against Muslims, along with anti-Muslim legislation that curtails the civil rights and freedoms of Americans who are Muslim. The effects of anti-Muslim rhetoric and views have devastating impacts on our neighbors who are Muslim or who are perceived to be.
In 2010, at the height of a wave of anti-Muslim rhetoric and hate in the United States, Rev. Richard Killmer, then with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, then with the Islamic Society of North America, devised a plan to gather high level U.S. faith leaders to collectively address this crisis. Rev. Killmer and Dr. Elsanousi organized 40 heads of Christian, Jewish and other religious denominations and faith-based organizations, including the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, The Episcopal Church, the National Council of Churches, and many more at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to publicly commit themselves to standing against anti-Muslim bigotry and to work toward the American ideals of religious freedom and pluralism. The meeting, which included a press conference and the release of a joint statement, gave birth to Shoulder to Shoulder, and many of the faith groups present joined the organization as founding members shortly thereafter. The joint statement and the founding organizations can be viewed here. Rich and Mohamed served as co-chairs of the organization for several years and provided leadership as the organization structure was created and grew in capacity. In the early years, the co-founders convened the denominations and other religious organizations listed above, raised funds for the organization, secured ISNA as the fiscal and administrative agent, hired staff, and provided leadership to programmatic efforts. The founding organizations continue to play an important role in Shoulder to Shoulder. Their ownership of the organization from the beginning has been critical to the significant impact the Campaign has been able to have as an interfaith coalition. Several representatives from founding organizations serve on the Executive Committee as a sign of continued support and leadership.
THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE
On Pentecost Sunday, 1964, Pope Paul VI instituted a special department of the Roman Curia for relatons with the people of other religions. Know at first as the Secretariat for Non Christians, in 1988 it was renamed the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID).
A) Nature and Goals of PCID
The PCID is the central office of the Catholic Church for the promotion of interreligious dialogue in accordance with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, in particular the declaration "Nostra Aetate". It has the following responsabilities:
1) to promote mutual understanding, respect and collaboration between Catholics and the followers of others religious traditions;
2) to encourage the study of religions;
3) to promote the formation of persons dedicated to dialogue.
N.B. It should be noted that the PCID does not have responsability for Christian-Jewish relations. These are the competence of the Commission for religious Relations with Jews, which comes under the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
B) Methodology of PCID
1) Dialogue is a two-way communication. It implies speaking and listening, giving and receiving, for mutual growth and enrichment. It includes witness to one's own faith as well as an openess to that of the other. It is not a betrayal of mission of the Church, nor is it a new method of conversion to Christianity. This has been clearly stated in the encyclical letter of Pope John Paul II "Redemptoris Missio". This view is also developed in the two documents produced by the PCID: The Attitude of the Catholic Church towards the Followers of Other Religious Traditions: reflections on Dialogue and Mission (1984), e Dialogue and Proclamation (1991).
2) Although the PCID is the central office for dialogue in the Catholic Church, dialogue is mainly carried out in and through the Local Churches. Many Local Churches have dialogue commissions, at the national or regional level. The PCID works in close collaboration with these, and encourages their formation where they do not yet exist.
3) The ecumenical dimension of interreligious dialogue is kept in mind. The PCID has an ongoing relationship with the corresponding office in the World Council of Churches.
4) The PCID restricts itself to religious questions. Its brief does not extend to socio-political issues. The Roman Curia has various departments, each with its own specific competence. Broader issues are discussed in inter-departmental meetings.
C) Structure of the PCID
1) Decision-making body: this is composed of the Members of the Council, about 30 in number, Cardinals and Bishops, from different parts of the world. Every two or three years a Plenary Assembly is held in order to discuss important issues and to set guidelines for the work of the Council.
2) Advisory body: the PCID has about 50 advisors, called Consultors, specialists in religious studies or in the practice of interreligious dialogue, residing in all continents. They assist the PCID through their research, information and suggestions. Periodically meetings of Consultors are held, often on a continental level.
3) Executive body: the permanent staff in Rome, made up of President, Secretary, Under-Secretary, bureau chief for Islam, staff members for Africa and Asia, a staff member for New Religious ovements, an administrative assistant and support staff.
1) Welcoming Visitors. The PCID receives many visits from religious leaders. They are invited to dialogue with staff members. Where appropriate Audiences are arranged with H.H. the Pope. There are also meetings with bishops coming to Rome for their five-yearly "ad limina" visits, and with other groups of visitors.
2) Visits. The President and the Secretary visit local Churches to become more familiar with the local situation and to encourage dialogue. On these occasions they visit leaders of other religions and different institutions in order to promote better understanding and collaboration.
3) Meetings. The Council organizes dialogue meetings, or more often participates in such meetings organized by oher bodies, at regional, national or international levels. These meetings may be bilateral or multilateral.
4) Publications. A number of books and pamphlets have been published on different aspects of interreligious dialogue. The Council usually publishes the Acts of the dialogue meetings it organizes. A bulletin, called "Pro Dialogo", is published regularly three times a year, containing significant Church texts on dialogue, articles, and news of dialogue activities throughout the world. An Interreligious Dialogue Directory has also been published.
E) Commission for religious relations with Muslims
The PCID has a special commission for relations with Muslims. This is composed of a President, Vice-President and Secretary, and has a small group of eight Consultors. It engages in studies on different aspects of Christian-Muslim relations.
F) Foundation "Nostra Aetate"
The PCID has set up a Foundation whose purpose is to promote dialogue, mainly by according grants to people of other religio[ns] who wish to study Christianity.