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Published: Saturday, 7/10/2004

Growing diversity is reflected in book

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR

Fifty one years later, a sequel, Religion in Ohio: Profiles of Faith Communities, spotlights 40 Christian denominations, the Jewish community, plus chapters on Native Americans, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Baha'is, Jains, and Zoroastrians.

The editors of the updated book, which officially was released on Sunday, said that not only were Ohio's religious demographics changed in the last half century, but so has awareness of smaller faith communities that previously were overlooked.

"I think that each book is a reflection of its own time," said co-editor Tarunjit Singh Butalia of Columbus. "In 1953, the predominant faiths in Ohio were Christians and Jews. There were other faith traditions, but they were small enough to not be noticed. This is a different time."

Although Ohio University Press officially released the book Sunday, 2,600 copies have been sent, free of charge, to public and private middle schools and high schools and historical societies throughout the state.

Making the book available to schoolchildren was an important part of the project from the start, said co-editor Dianne P. Small, of Columbus.

"We wanted to do something that would have some kind of impact. We wrote the book at the eighth-grade reading level because we wanted it to be accessible, not something scholarly and above people's ability to understand," she said.

"We wanted the schoolchildren to feel more comfortable with their peers," Ms. Small said. "If someone is a Hindu or a Buddhist, they're not all that different from you or me. This book shows what they believe."

"Religion In Ohio" edited by Dianne P. Small and Tarunjit Butalia and published by Ohio Unviversity Press. "Religion In Ohio" edited by Dianne P. Small and Tarunjit Butalia and published by Ohio Unviversity Press.
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Each of the chapters was written by a member of the specific faith group because the editors wanted each community to tell their own story, Ms. Small said.

"We thought about doing a history by one author, but then we thought: 'Oh my, how presumptuous! Who am I or who is anybody to write about the history of the Jewish faith in Ohio if I'm not Jewish?'‚óŹ"

Two Toledo-area residents contributed to the book: Meena Khan wrote the chapter on Islam, and Paul F. H. Reichert II penned one on Lutherans.

Mr. Butalia, who is a member of the Sikh faith, said he believes one reason the 1953 book included only Christians and Jews was because adherents to some of the smaller religious groups did not feel as if they belonged to the local culture.

"It was a different time. They saw themselves as not being a part of the fabric of Ohio. Home for them was someplace else," Mr. Butalia said. "That has changed significantly since 1953. Many immigrants who come to Ohio now feel that they are part of Ohio, that their home is here now."

The book, which took about four years to produce, includes groups that the editors felt were important to document, no matter how large or small.

There are only about 100 Zoroastrians in Ohio, for example, but Mr. Butalia said he felt it was an important faith to include. And it's not the smallest group profiled. The book includes a chapter on Shakers, officially known as the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Coming, even though there are no remaining Shakers in the state.

"But we believe the Shakers had a significant impact on the state and should be documented," Mr. Butalia said.

The Shaker sect, which was established in the United states in 1774, came to Ohio after the Great Kentucky Revival of 1801 and reached its peak in the state during the mid 19th century.

The editors and writers of Religion in Ohio volunteered their time to the book, whose publication and distribution costs were funded by a $41,500 grant from the Ohio Bicentennial Commission and $30,000 donated by more than 60 faith-based organizations.

Mr. Butalia said the purpose of the book is to increase awareness, and once that is accomplished, to "move beyond awareness to understanding."

"I think this book is the beginning of a journey of awareness, and I hope it will transform people by creating more interfaith understanding and respect," he said. "The differences between religious groups is significant, but that doesn't mean we can't get along."

Religion in Ohio: Profiles of Faith Communities is available from Ohio University Press at 740-593-1158 or online at www.ohiou.edu/oupress.



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