In this post 9/11 era, women's interfaith initiatives offer an exciting alternative to the standard model for interfaith engagement, which often presumes male (clergy) leadership. For one thing, academic and professional authorities on interfaith relations are replaced with real-life experts: women who live and breathe the challenges of religious coexistence in times of crisis. Secondly, formal dialogue is replaced with storytelling. Personal testimonies, reflections, and engagement in difficult dialogues are not limited to theological arenas of overlap and divergence, but instead focus on the day to day experiences where conflicts of identity, more often than ideology, are commonplace.
What follows is a sketch of the multi-religious women's networks of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, as well as a snapshot of women's initiatives that have developed in various parts of the United States over the past five years. The intention is to explore this new model of women's interfaith initiatives, with the idea that it is complementary to traditional models, and as such will be critical to multi-religious societies in the years to come. In the spirit of honoring these efforts, let me begin with a story.