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October 27, 1999
Harvard Symposium On Religious Plurality
J M Shenoy in Boston
The ghost of Stanley Kubrick will visit Harvard University next month when the use of Sanskrit shloka in an orgy scene in his film, Eyes Widely Shut, is expected to be discussed as part of a talk on defamation of Hinduism in the West.
And the infamous prayer book issued recently by the Southern Baptists to convert "demonic" Hindus will be also be taken up for discussion as scholars, academics, religious and community leaders at a symposium.
The 'Symposium on Civil Society and Multireligious America' will be held at Harvard University from November 18-20.
Among the Indian American participants are Vasudha Narayanan of University of Florida's Department of Religion; Rajwinder Singh of Sikh Mediawatch and Resources Taskforce; Mahesh Mehta, Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America and American Hindus Against Defamation and Surinder Bhardwaj of the Ohio Project.
The Pluralism Project was developed by Diana L Eck at Harvard University to study and document the growing religious diversity of the United States, with a special view to its new immigrant religious communities.
In the past 30 years, the religious landscape of the US has changed radically, Eck says.
"There are Islamic centers and mosques, Hindu and Buddhist temples and meditation centers in virtually every major American city," Eck says. "The encounter between people of very different religious traditions takes place in the proximity of our own cities and neighborhoods"
"How Americans of all faiths begin to engage with one another in shaping a positive pluralism is one of the most important questions American society faces in the years ahead," she adds.
Vasudha Narayanan's project involves profiling religious organizations that have an explicit "Hindu" agenda (devotional, meditational, and/or service) and inter-faith institutions that have strongly recognizable Hindu elements in them.
The mapping and creating of profiles will focus on Georgia, North Florida, parts of Michigan, and cover 18 institutions.
The religious plurality of the Midwest is also to be discussed.
"Our project is to 'map' religious communities of post-1965 immigrants in Northern Ohio," say Surinder Bhardwaj, Ohio Pluralism Project.
"In this region, the highest concentration of religious centers pertinent to our study are in the urban areas of greater Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown and Toledo. In the past 30 years, Northern Ohio has experienced a remarkable change in composition of its already diverse ethnic landscape due to immigration, especially from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America."
All events will be held in the Barker Center for the Humanities.
Thursday, November 18
Friday, November 19
9-10.30 am: Opening remarks by Diana Eck
Panelists will include Yudit Greenberg, Rollins College Affiliate Project; Sam Britt and Andrea Mills, Furman University Affiliate Project; Patrice Brodeur, The Pluralism Project at Connecticut College; David Odell-Scott and Surinder Bhardwaj, Ohio Pluralism Project; and Karen Pechilis Prentiss, Drew University Affiliate Project.
The panelists will include Aly Abuzaakouk, American Muslim Council; Rajwinder Singh, Sikh Mediawatch and Resources Taskforce; Mahesh Mehta, Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America and American Hindus Against Defamation; Sheila Decter, American Jewish Congress; and Rev Dr Welton Gaddy, The Interfaith Alliance.
The panelists will include Dr Vasudha Narayanan, University of Florida-Gainesville: Profiling Hindu
Temples; Aminah Beverly McCloud, DePaul University: Islam in the Midwest; Paul D Numrich, University of Illinois, Chicago: Buddhist Chicago Project; and Muzammil Siddiqi, California State-Fullerton.
Panelists will include Maureen Shea, The White House; AND Chaplain Russ Gunter, The Armed Forces Chaplains Board.
Saturday, November 20:
9-10.30 am: Public and Private Schools and the Shaping of Civil Society, Session 1: Framing the Issues. Charles Haynes and Marcia Beauchamp, Freedom Forum First Amendment Center.
Panelists will include Ray Williams, Five Faiths Project at the Ackland Art Museum; Tom Collins, Council for Spiritual and Ethical Education; Marcia Beauchamp, Freedom Forum First Amendment Center; Muzammil Siddiqi, Islamic Society of Orange County and Orange Crescent School; and Polly Attwood, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Seats may be limited; early registration, which is free of charge, is recommended.
Those who are interested in attending the symposium, should send an email to email@example.com, or call Ellie Pierce at (617) 496-2481.
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