HACSI SUPPORT TO INTERFAITH EDUCATION
HACSI’s long-term vision is to strive for a better understanding of the spiritual, moral and ethical values of Hindu religion. This is primarily intended to educate the younger generation of Hindus living in the United States who are often not so knowledgeable about their heritage. Equally, it will provide a vehicle for non-Hindus to understand and appreciate the seemingly unfamiliar religions of the East. HACSI proposes to achieve this objective by supporting two inter-faith educational initiatives being undertaken by two well-known organizations which operate in Greater Washington.
The first of these projects is the dissemination of the PBS Documentary: “Asian & Abrahamic Religions: A Divine Encounter in America” produced by Auteur Productions. This two-hour Documentary is intended to remove misconceptions in the western world about Hinduism and other religions such as Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism which originated in India. The Documentary which had its first airing on public television in April 2011 being shown periodically over several PBS stations nation-wide.
This is commendable in itself, but the educational outreach is only half-done, because such shows on public television are not typically watched by middle school and high school students. An effort is being made to reach the schools with the help of a It may be recalled that as a part of this effort, HACSI provided $8,500 in 2012 to distribute the DVD and the Teaching Guide to 350 High Schools and Junior colleges in District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. Auteur is currently preparing a program to conduct a series of workshops in major US metropolitan areas with the help of National Council of Social Studies experts to train Social Studies teachers in the use of the documentary and the study guide in their classrooms. Council of Hindu Temples of North America has provided $25,000 as seed money for Phase 1 of the training program costing $75,000. A few individuals interested in interfaith education have provided $26,500 to HACSI to support this effort. HACSI has disbursed $13,250 in 2015; and the balance these funds will be disbursed as the project progresses. The first workshop, which took place in March 2015 in Oakland, California, was very well received by about fifty high school teachers. Please see BOX for comments from participating teachers on the Oakland workshop to understand the critical importance of this training activity. Three other workshops are scheduled to take place in other parts of the country this fall.
STATE SOCIAL STUDIES COUNCIL 54TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE, OAKLAND, CA, USA
Comments of Teachers attending Workshop on Asian & Abrahamic Religions-March 6, 2015
A new approach gained from the film and workshop
- Increased my comfort level teaching Asian religions
- Our discussion brought out how best to teach about Hindu gods with blue skin, halos and many limbs
- Very helpful perspective on the Third Eye of wisdom both in the group discussion and on screen
- Comparing Asian religious practices to Abrahamic religions gives a student a scaffold to understand Eastern religious tradition
- The use of music, both singing and instrumental, in each religion, is a comparison that students will understand
a. How the film and workshop tries to eliminate any confusion?
- Provide similarities of spiritual texts
- Understanding the use of a triad in Judaism, Christianity and Hinduism
- What is shared in this film is the goal of a religion is to guide a person to goodness. It is imperfect humans that distort the directions of a religion.
b. Or did it raise additional questions?
- Those speaking about similarities/differences had more knowledge about each religion than I do. There is so much more to understand, especially about Sikhism in light of the number of residents in CA.
- From the sections we saw, questions arise about the role of women in each faith. For example, how do women participate in the community services and daily practices of worship?
- The film brought to mind how little I know about religious celebrations, holiday, or the role of women in the leadership of various religions
How does the film clarify Asian Religions?
- The film shows modern, real life religious practices of Asian religions in America today
- Examples of worship show the myriad of connections of the world’s religions
- The numerous details in each frame of the film can be used in a format of short clips to engage student questions and for student “response writing.”
- The visuals and the scholars make the ideas of each religious practice comprehendible
- The film is a tool to move students from being uninformed to more open-minded
- The film helps reduce ethnocentrism
How did the film show religious influences on American society?
- I like the use of American young people practicing their faith; these are our neighbors in our communities
- There are temples and religious centers for each of the Asian religions in many parts of the US and this was an important visual.
How do you think the film will help transform prejudice and stereotype to acceptance?
- Emphasizes what each religion has in common, rather than what separates
- The speakers draw so many comparisons to Abrahamic religions that it makes key beliefs and practices not so foreign
- Today was huge in helping me to understand some of the questions I have had about teaching these religions to my students. I am glad to have this film available to give me this help.
- I live in a very rural area with little diversity. Seeing this film will be an eye opener to my students.
- Hope this film will make students think of the religious beliefs they practice themselves and why or how they would want to respect other’s religion.
The second initiative which HACSI would like to support is the dissemination of “Strengthened Teaching About Religions” (STAR) and its supplements prepared by InterFaith Conference of Washington. STAR and its supplements discuss the beliefs and practices of all eleven major religions of the world. What is unique about STAR is that the chapter on each religion is prepared by scholars who are practitioners of that religion thus ensuring authenticity; and each chapter is reviewed by the directors of IFC thus ensuring objectivity. Many teachers in Virginia and Maryland are using STAR as supplemental resources in teaching about religion in classes on world history and world religion.HACSI has earmarked $5,000 towards IFC’s efforts to disseminate its STAR publications, of which $3,000 was disbursed during 2014. HACSI had provided $5,000 to IFC in May 2013 to strengthen IFC’s overall budgetary resources.
HACSI became one of the sponsors of the first-ever Hindu-Catholic Dialogue, sponsored by a group of Hindu American organizations and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, held in May 2015. V.S. Raghavan and K.N. Siva Subramanian of HACSI served on the Dialogue’s Steering Committee. HACSI and the Indian American Catholic Association of Washington are planning joint collaborative community service activities.
HACSI urges all those who are interested in encouraging the teaching about Indic religions in US school system to provide generous support to HACSI to enable it to continue its educational outreach programs.
For further information on HACSI’s proposed educational outreach, please contact
V.S.Raghavan at e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or Siva Subramanian at e-mail: email@example.com