Religious Diversity in Minnesota Initiative

Three mourners in Columbia Heights for a funeral
Three mourners in Columbia Heights for a funeral
Three mourners in Columbia Heights for a funeral

Mourners walk to Abukhadra Masjid in Columbia Heights, MN for a Funeral

Family Sunday-Mother's Day
Family Sunday-Mother's Day
Family Sunday-Mother's Day

Family Sunday—Mother's Day Planting at the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center in Minneapolis, MN

Wa Shoua Vang's txiv neeb (Hmong Shaman's) altar
Wa Shoua Vang's txiv neeb (Hmong Shaman's) altar
Wa Shoua Vang's txiv neeb (Hmong Shaman's) altar

Hmong Shaman's Altar in Minneapolis Home

Picture of Buddha Statue
Picture of Buddha Statue
Picture of Buddha Statue

The Buddha who has moved with practitioners to various venues throughout the life of the Northfield Buddhist Meditation Center in Northfield, MN

Prayer Service at Bethlehem Baptist Church
Prayer Service at Bethlehem Baptist Church
Prayer Service at Bethlehem Baptist Church

Congregation in Prayer at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN

Minnesota Hindu Temple
Minnesota Hindu Temple
Minnesota Hindu Temple

The Hindu Temple of Minnesota in Maple Grove, MN

Photograph of Compass App at Masjid
Photograph of Compass App at Masjid
Photograph of Compass App at Masjid

Masjid leaders explain how an iPhone Compass App helps worshippers to determine the proper orientation for their prayers. At the Abubakarsidiq Islamic Center in Faribault, MN

Lake Superior
Lake Superior
Lake Superior

Lake Superior, MN

Swami Ganeshananda Mother's Day Concert
Swami Ganeshananda Mother's Day Concert
Swami Ganeshananda Mother's Day Concert

Swami Ganeshananda at the Mother's Day Concert at the Minnesota Hindu Milan Mandir in Farmington, MN

St. George's Cathedral Sanctuary
St. George's Cathedral Sanctuary
St. George's Cathedral Sanctuary

Sanctuary at St. George's Greek Orthodox Church in St. Paul, MN

Lonsdale, MN—September 21, 2016
Lonsdale, MN—September 21, 2016
Lonsdale, MN—September 21, 2016

One example of the rise in Islamophobic sentiments in recent years and the public nature of many of these expressions. This sign could be seen just outside a store located in Rice County, not far from Carleton College. Muslim communities in MN have experienced a range of troubling incidents in recent years, including the posting of offensive cartoons outside Somali businesses and homes in St. Cloud and the discovery of pig intensines and parts on the doorsteps and front doors of Somali homes and businesses.  

Guru Maharaj visiting Hindu Milan Mandir, Farmington
Guru Maharaj visiting Hindu Milan Mandir, Farmington
Guru Maharaj visiting Hindu Milan Mandir, Farmington

Shrine with image of Guru Maharaj, Swami Pranavananda, and other dieties at the MN Hindu Milan Mandir in Farmington, MN

Sacred Pipe at Pipestone National Monument
Sacred Pipe at Pipestone National Monument
Sacred Pipe at Pipestone National Monument

A bowl for a sacred pipe being carved at Pipestone National Monument in Pipestone, MN

Shreyasi Kambale teaching Marathi at the Chinmaya Mission
Shreyasi Kambale teaching Marathi at the Chinmaya Mission
Shreyasi Kambale teaching Marathi at the Chinmaya Mission

Marathi Class at the Chinmaya Mission in Chaska, MN

Shrine to Buddha at Sitagu Dhamma Vihara, Burmese Monastery
Shrine to Buddha at Sitagu Dhamma Vihara, Burmese Monastery
Shrine to Buddha at Sitagu Dhamma Vihara, Burmese Monastery

Shrine at Sitagu Dhamma Vihara in Chisago City, MN

Friday Langar at Sikh Gurdwara, MN
Friday Langar at Sikh Gurdwara, MN
Friday Langar at Sikh Gurdwara, MN

Langar (communal meal) at the Sikh Society of Minnesota in Bloomington

The ECK Temple
The ECK Temple
The ECK Temple

The Temple of Eck in Chanhassen, MN

Ancestor Worship
Ancestor Worship
Ancestor Worship

Reverence for the Ancestors at Chùa Phât Ân Vietnamese Buddhist Temple and Association in Roseville, MN

New Temple Exterior
New Temple Exterior
New Temple Exterior

Watt Munisotaram, Cambodian Buddhist Temple in rural Hampton, MN

Visahka Puja at Watt Munisotaram
Visahka Puja at Watt Munisotaram
Photograph of wedding henna, forearms
Photograph of wedding henna, forearms
Photograph of wedding henna, forearms

Hennah in Preparation for a Somali Muslim Wedding in Faribault, MN

Wattanak Celebration
Wattanak Celebration
Wattanak Celebration

Wattanak Celebration at Watt Munisotaram Cambodian Buddhist Temple in Hampton, MN

About the Religious Diversity in Minnesota Initiative

The Religious Diversity in Minnesota Initiative brings together scholars specialized in a range of religious traditions with Minnesota’s communities and professional organizations to help Minnesotans navigate challenges, promote greater religious literacy, foster nuanced and informed public conversation about and across religious difference, and provide publicly accessible web-based local resources to support that effort. Rather than keep the rich knowledge and wealth of research within the confines of the academy, this project seeks to promote collaborations with community partners to help Minnesota communities access and leverage scholarly resources for public good.

The 2016 election is but one example of the fact that Minnesota is no outlier to the divisions in America. As Donald Trump was elected to White House, Ilhan Omar was the first Somali Muslim woman elected to the Minnesota State legislature -- two years later she became the first Somali, the first refugee, and one of the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress. Just two days before their 2016 victories, Trump spoke to a large crowd at the MSP airport, saying: “Here in Minnesota, you’ve seen firsthand the problems caused with faulty refugee vetting, with large numbers of Somali refugees coming into your state…without your support…with some of them…joining ISIS and spreading their extremist views all over our country….” These sentiments, which found enthusiastic supporters among some in the state, reveal the wide-range of perspectives about immigrants in Minnesota. Like Americans generally, Minnesotans find themselves neighbors with people they not only don’t know, but feel they can never understand.

The divides are racial, ethnic, economic, generational and geographical in nature, but they are increasingly and crucially religious. Talk of registering Muslim neighbors simply because of their religion has found disturbing traction in the mainstream of public discourse.  By turns, evangelical Christians of a wide array of political, social, and theological positions are lumped together as though they think and act as a single entity. The particular circumstances, histories, and nuanced perspectives that shape Minnesota's diverse communities are often lost in a sea of generalization. 

At the same time as Minnesota is not unlike other states, it has enjoyed a reputation for social capital and civic capacity to address these challenges. To be sure, the murder of George Floyd in 2020 at the hands of Minneapolis Police and of Philando Castille in 2016 by a police officer from St. Anthony laid bare what the state's people of color have known all along: that what was once dubbed the "Minnesota Miracle" is belied by some of America's worst racial gaps in educational and economic achievement, social well being, and safety. Still, whether measured by electoral participation, volunteerism, charitable giving, or refugee resettlement Minnesota has a capacity for civic engagement and an ethos of neighborliness that, fragile and limited as it is, can be commended and drawn upon as a powerful resource for healing divisions in the current climate.

ReligionsMN aspires to address some of the challenges of religious difference by tapping into this ethos of neighborliness and nurturing it through accessible public scholarship that helps Minnesotans understand one another’s religious commitments in all their difference and commonality. We believe this endeavor to be all the more important as we continue to see profound changes in Minnesota’s religious landscape coupled with an increasingly charged political climate over religious and ethnic difference.

The visibility and pace of these changes have generated enormous tensions in civic life, as workplaces, public spaces, schoolrooms, hospitals, and courtrooms contend with new realities and unexamined assumptions. Minnesota’s religious and ethnic communities have found themselves, often for the first time, in the position of having to educate others about their religious beliefs and practices. Navigating cultural and religious difference presents on-going and ever-shifting challenges and we hope this project helps, in some small way, to address them. 

Please Be Patient. This Site Is Currently Under Construction.

Minnesota Hindu Milan Mandir when it was located in the a converted garage of the founder's private home in Eagan, MN.
Minnesota Hindu Milan Mandir when it was located in the a converted garage of the founder's private home in Eagan, MN.
Minnesota Hindu Milan Mandir when it was located in the a converted garage of the founder's private home in Eagan, MN.

Minnnesota Hindu Milan Mandir at its first location in a converted garage in Eagan, MN

Bat Mitzvah at Shir Tikvah Synagogue
Bat Mitzvah at Shir Tikvah Synagogue
Bat Mitzvah at Shir Tikvah Synagogue

Bat Mitzvah receieves blessing from Rabbi at Shir Tikvah Congregation in Minneapolis

Minnesota Eruv Map
Minnesota Eruv Map
Minnesota Eruv Map

St. Louis Park/Minneapolis Eruv Map, deliniating a ritually defined area in which observant Jews are permitted to carry on the Sabbath

Pastor Wal Reat of the Sudanese Congregation in Faribault
Pastor Wal Reat of the Sudanese Congregation in Faribault
Pastor Wal Reat of the Sudanese Congregation in Faribault

Pastor Wal Reat, at Nile Our Savior Lutheran Church, a Sudanese Congregation, in Faribault, MN

Living Word Christian Church, Fifth Service
Living Word Christian Church, Fifth Service
Living Word Christian Church, Fifth Service

Services at Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park, MN

Pang Ter Heurh
Pang Ter Heurh
Pang Ter Heurh

First Hmong Assembly of God Church in St. Paul, MN