Faithful Diversity Displayed in Boston's Immigrants

August 19, 2000

Source: Patriot-Ledger

On August 19, 2000 the Patriot-Ledger reported, "If you want to learn about a community, visit the place where people worship. But most of us don't do that. We feel like an intrusive outsider and don't understand the religious service unless we're accompanied by a congregation member. So it's a treat to find a new exhibit that introduces us to Buddhists and their temple in Quincy, as well as to five other religious groups in the Boston area. 'Faithful Boston: The Religion of Boston Immigrants' is on view in the changing gallery of the new Dreams of Freedom immigration exhibit, which opened Aug. 1 in downtown Boston. Working with curator Cathie Zusy, each religious group tells its story through a personal statement of faith, artifacts, photographs, and recordings of singing and chants. 'Often people think that their religious group might be on a little higher plane than another religious group,' said Zusy. 'My hope is that this will give visitors an intimate look and make them aware of the richness of religions and the religious wealth in their own neighborhood.'' The Thousand Buddha Temple in Quincy, for example, was started by a nun, the Rev. Sik Kuan Yen, who responded to the yearnings of Chinese immigrants in Quincy and other communities... With funds from local Buddhists, the Rev. Yen bought a house in Wollaston in 1989, and after the congregation outgrew that space, they built the current temple four years ago. Photographs in the exhibit show the colorful gold-and-red arched roof of the temple, Buddhists meditating while they walk around the shrine room, and a wall holding 3,000 small Buddha statues. From the images, the captions and the text, visitors get a sense of the main tenets of the faith and its meaning to its practitioners. Of visual interest are the religious items n Buddhist and Hindu statues on altars, the Christian sacrament, a Jewish torah cover and breast plate, a Muslim prayer shawl, copies of prayer books, and a Sikh sword and shield. The congregations also answer questions they're commonly asked such as why Hindus have a dot on their foreheads, why Muslim women cover up, why Sikhs wear turbans, why there are so many Buddhas, and what are the Christian Trinity or the Jewish High Holy Days."