People of Faith Need to Share Wisdom

SiVIC joins other interfaith councils around the Bay Area in call for faithful work

Over a dozen leaders of interfaith councils, including SiVIC, issued a statement concerning what faith groups can uniquely offer to our shared community life in the Bay Area and beyond. The statement reads:

We as a society are in a tumultuous moment—not only politically but morally. Millions of people find the actions of the Administration, and of Congress also, deeply immoral, and they are taking to the streets to voice their discontent. People of faith, individually and as communities, are prominent among them.

But do people of faith have anything unique to bring to the struggles of the present moment? Can they do more than simply swell the multitudes protesting in the street or overwhelming Capitol telephone lines?

Yes, they can. In a moment where the latest executive order or the latest protest threatens to suck up all the world’s attention, people of faith have resources and wisdom that reach back millennia, and we need to bring them to bear on our current struggles. Here are some of them:

  • Religious and ethical resources bearing on today’s contentious questions: The questions roiling the public today touch directly on issues about which our various traditions have much to say. This rests on the wisdom of centuries and cannot be written off as manifestations of modern liberalism. People of faith have rich spiritual and ethical resources that speak to today’s debates, including traditions and teachings addressing peace, nonviolence, mutual respect, hospitality, charity, and pluralism; and these resources point to basic values shared by all major world religions and also by humanists and other non-religious people. In the current climate, where certain religions (primarily, of course, Islam and Judaism) are openly or implicitly demonized, it is vital to point out these shared values and to use them as a starting point for addressing the ethical issues entailed in today’s conflicts. The issue of the reception of refugees, for instance, touches directly on questions of hospitality and care for the vulnerable that virtually all religious and ethical traditions address.
  • Spiritual resources for selfcare: Dealing with deeply-felt political and moral issues can easily lead to burn-out or, worse yet, to self-righteousness and anger that trigger speech and action that violate the very values we are trying to inculcate. Here, too, our traditions have rich resources to offer, including approaches to prayer and meditation, sacred texts that profoundly and powerfully express the truths and values that should inform our grappling with current issues, and the examples of adherents past and present who have lived by the virtues that we wish to see emulated. People of faith and spirit need to avail themselves of these resources and encourage fellow activists to draw on them.
  • Hope: This could have been included under either of the two preceding points, but it so undergirds and completes everything we seek to say here that it deserves consideration on its own. Particularly when one is, politically speaking, the underdog, it’s easy to be overcome by frustration and even despair. But whether one believes in a beneficent deity or divine reality or simply in the potential of the human mind and spirit, our religious and ethical traditions offer assurance that evil does not have the final word—that, as Martin Luther King said, echoing words from a long tradition, “the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice.” Our spiritual traditions empower us to see that long arc beyond any current defeats. The current moment requires people who can draw on those traditions to kindle hope as we tread a challenging path of resistance.

Merely having these resources is not enough. We need to be both media-savvy and organizationally savvy—media savvy to draw media attention to our presence and our message, and organizationally savvy to initiate prayerful and spiritual events that build awareness of our values and resources among a broader public and inject them into current debates. The current Administration appears to be listening to the voices of only one segment of our country’s broad spectrum of faiths and faith communities. We, who on the basis of our faith share the moral concerns of so many of our fellow citizens, need to raise our voices to ensure that the values we seek to live by are heard above the din.


  1. Rev. Ken Chambers, Interim Board President , Interfaith Council of Alameda County
  2. Linda L. Crawford, Executive Director, Interfaith Center at the Presidio
  3. Rev. Kristi Denham, Co-President, Peninsula Multifaith Coalition
  4. Maha Elgenaidi, Executive Director, Islamic Networks Group (ING)
  5. Fatih Ferdi Ates, Director, Pacifica Institute
  6. Diane Fisher, Director, Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley
  7. D. Andrew Kille, Chair, Silicon Valley Interreligious Council (SiVIC)
  8. Will McGarvey, Executive Director, Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County
  9. Michael G. Pappas, M.Div, Executive Director, San Francisco Interfaith Council (SFIC)
  10. Steven A. Pinkston, Director of Christian Service, Bellarmine College Prep
  11. Scott Quinn, Acting Director, Marin Interfaith Council
  12. Rita R. Semel, Founder and past Chair, San Francisco Interfaith Council
  13. Moina Shaiq, President, Tri-City Interfaith Council
  14. Stephanie S. Spencer, President-elect, Eden Area Interfaith Council
  15. Jessica Trubowitch, Director, Public Policy and Community Building, Jewish Community Relations Council – San Francisco Bay Area
  16. Ardisanne Turner, Chair, United Religions Initiative North America

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Know Your Neighbor: Call to Action

SiVIC has joined the ING Know Your Neighbors program and a coalition of faith-based and humanist groups in responding to presidential orders restricting immigration from Middle Eastern and African countries:

Faith-based and humanist groups call on government to reaffirm American values

“Although the U.S. is a nation of immigrants and has a long history of welcoming refugees from diverse lands, we also have a history of different periods of xenophobia and exclusion, including the Chinese Exclusion Act, the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and the rejection of Jewish refugees from Nazi persecution and genocide. None of these actions made our country more secure, and we can be certain that the great majority of our people do not support a repeat of such episodes.”
—Maha Elgenaidi, Executive Director of the Islamic Networks Group

“Any attempt to ban Muslim refugees based on their religion betrays our values and sends the un-American message that there are second-class faiths. Our country, founded by immigrants who established religious freedom as a bedrock principle, is better than this. A threat to anyone’s religious liberty is a threat to everyone’s religious liberty, and we as Baptists stand with those facing religious persecution around the world, regardless of their faith.”
—Amanda Tyler, Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty

San Jose – The Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters campaign, a program of the Islamic Networks Group (ING), released the following statement today in reaction to executive orders signed by President Donald Trump restricting immigration from a number of Middle Eastern and African countries.

The executive orders issued today and earlier this week by President Donald Trump require us to reaffirm basic values that we share with the great majority of Americans:

  • Respect for diversity, pluralism, and religious freedom: Although the executive orders do not explicitly mention Muslims or their faith, several provisions target Muslims. As such, they violate the principles embodied in the First Amendment and our country’s commitment to religious neutrality.
  • Care for the stranger and the needy: Except for the native peoples, since its founding the United States has been a nation of immigrants. Our country has a long tradition of welcoming and supporting immigrants and the needy; the rejection of refugees fleeing horrific violence flies in the face of the obligation to help and the hospitality that the American people have traditionally shown to those in need.
  • Civil liberties: While these orders do not explicitly target particular groups, they clearly impact primarily one religion (Muslim) and one ethnicity (Latino). Singling out these groups reinforces and encourages existing prejudice and discrimination against them, including U.S. citizens and documented immigrants belonging to these groups.
  • Unity and solidarity: Policies whose effect is to single out specific religious or ethnic groups violate the sense of national unity and solidarity that allows the diverse people of our nation to live in peace and harmony.

Although these measures purport to deal with the threat of terrorism, there is little evidence to support this claim. What they do, however, is to cast a dark cloud over the entire American Muslim population, making it all too clear that their significant contributions to American life are not welcomed. This impacts women in headscarves who have been the object of increased harassment and students in schools who have seen a rise in bullying in recent years due to anti-Muslim rhetoric which will increase with these policies. In response to the Executive Orders, we faith-based and humanist organizations call for an increase in:

  • Interfaith engagement, including both interfaith dialogues and events bringing people of diverse traditions together for mutual encounter and learning. To get started, see this page.
  • Education about Muslims and Islam, including presentations by Muslim speakers and “meet a Muslim” events in houses of worship or other public venues. To get started, see this page.
  • Commitment to and training in being “upstanders” who respond supportively to incidents of hate and bigotry.

This is a time to come together as a community and uphold our sacred values. Therefore, in responding to the current situation, and to prepare for possible actions in the future that may likewise call our fundamental values into question, we commit ourselves, and call on all who share our concerns, to respect the principle of nonviolence in thought, word, and deed.

  • We will maintain an attitude of charity and openness to all, including those with whom we most profoundly disagree. We will seek to understand their motivations and assume that they are sincerely seeking what is right unless presented with clear evidence to the contrary. If we are people of prayer, then we will pray for their well-being and for wisdom for them and for ourselves.
  • In our statements, we will condemn actions but not persons. We will speak firmly but respectfully of and with those whose words and actions we oppose.


American Muslim Advisory Council
Arizona Jews for Justice
Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty
Bay Area Interfaith Connect
Bridges of Faith Trialogue, Cincinnati
California Institute for Human Science Interfaith Circle
Center for Inquiry
Colorado Muslim Speakers Bureau
Council of Islamic Organizations of Kentucky
Delaware Valley Speakers Bureau
Euphrates Institute
Global Immersion Project
Interfaith Alliance
Interfaith Arkansas
Interfaith Center at the Presidio
Interfaith Center of New York
Interfaith Council of Central Florida
Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, Ann Arbor
Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston
Interfaith Paths to Peace
Interfaith Youth Core
Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati
Islamic Education & Resources Network (ILearn)
Islamic Networks Group
Islamic Society of Greater Houston
Islamic Speakers Bureau of Alabama
Islamic Speakers Bureau of Arizona
Islamic Speakers Bureau of Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
Islamic Speakers Bureau of Edmonton, Canada
Islamic Speakers Bureau of Greater Houston
Islamic Speakers Bureau of Saint Louis
Islamic Speakers Bureau of San Diego
Islamic Speakers Bureau of Santa Barbara
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest
Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light
Monmouth Center for World Religions and Ethical Thought
Muslim Coalition of Connecticut
Muslim Community Center, East Bay
National Council of Churches
National Sikh Campaign
Network of Spiritual Progressives
New Jersey Islamic Networks Group
Religions for Peace USA
Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism
San Francisco Interfaith Council
Seattle Islamic Speakers Bureau
Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign
Silicon Valley Interreligious Council
Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom
South Coast Interfaith Council
Speakers Bureau of Nebraska
Spokane Interfaith Council
Tikkun Magazine
Tri City Interfaith Council
United Religions Initiative
United We Dream Houston
Uri L’Tzedek: The Jewish Orthodox Social Justice Movement
Valley Beit Midrash: The Jewish Pluralistic Center
Washington Ethical Society
Welcoming Gainesville
Wisdom Circle Ministry

The Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters (KYN-ME) campaign is a program of the Islamic Networks Group (ING) whose mission is to increase religious literacy and build relations among Americans of all backgrounds. In pursuit of this mission, the KYN-ME campaign, which was first initiated in partnership with the White House in 2015, aims to build interreligious and intercultural understanding, empathy, and respect by promoting face-to-face encounter between people of diverse faiths and worldviews. Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters works to foster understanding and dialogue by encouraging Americans to get to “Know Your Neighbor.”

Religious Freedom Day 2017

January 16th is celebrated as Religious Freedom Day, That day marks the anniversary of the 1786 passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. After the anti-Muslim tenor of the recent presidential campaign, a coalition of national religious, secularist, civil rights and other organizations dedicated to preserving religious freedom in our nation published an open letter to Congress, urging them to oppose anti-Muslim rhetoric and policy proposals.

The letter, signed by over 90 organizations nationwide, reads in part:

As organizations representing a diverse set of religious and cultural perspectives, we deeply value and strive to safeguard the rights of individuals and families who are Muslim. As policy makers, soldiers, business owners, doctors, teachers, among many other professions, and as cherished neighbors, friends, and loved ones, Muslims are a fundamental part of this country and have been since before it was founded.

…Establishing anti-Muslim policies, such as forcing Muslims to register on a national scale, goes directly against the American principles of freedom of religious belief and of expression. True religious freedom means that the same right that protects the liberty of Christians, Jews, or Hindus, for example, to pray, attend services and promote their views in public, protects the right of Muslims to do the same.

As we mark another anniversary of religious freedom in our country, we ask you to help protect this founding principle and preserve our democracy. We strongly urge you to denounce anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies —and affirmatively work to protect true religious freedom for all individuals and families nationwide.

Read the full text of the letter and the list of signers.

On Bomb Threats at Bay Area Jewish Schools

The Silicon Valley Interreligious Council joins with other interfaith councils around the Bay Area in condemning the bomb threats that were directed at two Bay Area Jewish schools– one in Marin County and the other in San Mateo- that were part of a nation-wide series of threats that included school across the country.
     Fortunately, the robo-call threats proved to be a hoax, but we want to make it clear that we stand together with our Jewish brothers and sisters and that any attack on any religious community in our midst is unacceptable.
     On January 19th, SiVIC sponsored a Forum on Religious Liberty, highlighting the importance of religious freedom not only for religious practice, but for the health of a democracy and the strength of our economy. We noted that it is vital that we all be ready to defend religious freedom not only for ourselves and our own traditions, but for each other. This is the promise and the possibility of the American vision.

The San Francisco Interfaith Council released this message:
 January 18, 2017, San Francisco — The San Francisco  Interfaith Council was deeply disturbed and saddened to learn today that our Bay Area Jewish community is the latest Jewish community around the nation to receive bomb threats.  This appears to be part of a rash of bomb threats made against 28 Jewish community centers and other Jewish organizations in 17 states in recent days.  On Wednesday morning, the Jewish Community Center of Marin and the Wornick Jewish Day School, both institutions that receive and educate hundreds of young children every day, were evacuated after receiving bomb threats.  “We stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters, and will not allow them to feel intimidated or isolated.  We are here to lend moral support, and to let the Jewish community know it is far from alone; it is an important and valued component of our multi-faith and multi-cultural society,” said Michael Pappas, Executive Director, of the San Francisco Interfaith Council.
The San Francisco Interfaith Council represents 800 congregations in the City and County of San Francisco, their respective judicatories, sectarian educational and healthcare institutions, and faith-based social service agencies.  Chair of the Board, G.L. Hodge, stated “Two days ago, we gathered thousands of people of faith and conscience from around the Bay Area in a march and interfaith service to commemorate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday.  The outpouring of mutual interfaith support stands in sharp contrast to these cowardly acts of intimidation against the Jewish community and the division they seek to sow.  In the spirit of all Dr. King stood for and taught us, we come together to support one another, and will support the Jewish community.”

Another Successful Coat Ministry!

Coat Ministry 2016 volunteersWe would like to thank the community for great generosity towards the 14th Annual Coat and Soup Giveaway. Through this collaborative effort with Emmanuel Baptist Church, Grace Baptist Church, SiVIC and several partners of many faiths, we received over 767 coats, served over 343 families/people, raised $3,100, had 216 volunteers assist us both days, had 23 people receive blood pressure checks, 10 received flu shots, 6 showered, and 12 signed up for food.

Coat Ministry 2016Praise God! We had another diverse group of donors and volunteers that came together to serve the community. All of the efforts and donations brought forth a diverse community presence represented by various inter-faith partnerships, college and community fraternal and sorority organizations, community businesses, and other civic and social organizations. We had the Foothill Community Health Center provide the blood pressure checks and had other community service agencies share their community resources for the participants.

Special thanks to SiVIC Board member Rev. Celinda Miranda, who served as primary organizer for the effort.

Coat Ministry 2016

Coat Ministry 2016 Coat Ministry 2016- Pacifica volunteers

Denouncing Hate That Targets Religion

SF Bay Area Faith Leaders Denounce Incidents of Hate Targeting Religion
December 1, 2016

News of a hateful letter received by the Evergreen Islamic Center in San Jose and at least five other mosques is the most recent of an increasing number of incidents targeting people of different religions across the country.

As religious leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area, we cherish the rich diversity of religions, spiritual expressions and indigenous traditions that comprise the mosaic that is America. Our diversity is a resource rather than a barrier to the democratic nation that we seek to be. Incidents of hate, such as this, seek to dehumanize “the other” and contradict the most basic principles common to our age-old faith teachings and those religious liberties enshrined in the American Constitution.

The rise of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in our country, catalyzed in part by the divisive rhetoric of the current political climate, is of great concern to all who seek cohesive and peaceful communities. When any one religion comes under attack, all religions come under attack. Therefore, we unite in condemning such acts. We stand together to denounce this and all acts that seek to marginalize and target entire faith communities.

G.L. Hodge, Chair, San Francisco Interfaith Council
Rita R. Semel, Past Chair, San Francisco Interfaith Council
Michael G. Pappas, Executive Director, San Francisco Interfaith Council

Imam Abu Qadir Al-Amin, Resident Imam, SF Muslim Community Center
The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, The Episcopal Diocese of California
Rev. Fr. Mesrop Ash, Parish Priest, St. John Armenian Church
Fatih Ferdi Ates, Director, Pacifica Institute
The Rev. Sally Bingham, Canon for the Environment, The Episcopal Diocese of California
Rev. Dr. Amos C. Brown, Pastor, Third Baptist Church & President, SF Branch-NAACP
Rev. Angela Brown, JD, Associate Pastor, GLIDE
Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr., Interim Senior Pastor, GLIDE
Rev. John Buehrens, Senior Minister, First Unitarian Universalist Society of SF Ken Chambers, Executive Director, Interfaith Council of Alameda County
Most Reverend Salvatore Cordileone, Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco
Linda L. Crawford, Executive Director, Interfaith Center at the Presidio
Sister Chandrika Desai, Director, Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center, SF
Pastor Elizabeth Ekdale, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church
Maha Elgenaidi, Chief Executive Officer, Islamic Networks Group (ING)
Fred Fielding, Board President, Interfaith Center at the Presidio
Rev. Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J., President, University of San Francisco
His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos, Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco
Rabbi Marvin Goodman, Executive Director, No. California Board of Rabbis
Julie Greenfield, Facilitator, Eden Area Interfaith Council
Iftekhar Hai, President, United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance
Sari Heidenreich, Regional Coordinator, URI North America
David Hoffman, Chair, Interfaith Council of Sonoma County
Rev. Mark W. Holmerud, Bishop, Sierra Pacific Synod, ELCA
Rev. Theon Johnson, III, Associate Pastor, GLIDE
Auxiliary Bishop William J. Justice, Archdiocese of San Francisco
The Rev. Victor Kazanjian, Jr., Executive Director, United Religions Initiative
Rev. D. Andrew Kille, Chair, Silicon Valley Interreligious Council
Rev. Ronald Kobata, Resident Minister, Buddhist Church of San Francisco
Rev. Deborah Lee, United Church of Christ, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity
Dr. James McCray, Jr., Tabernacle Community Development Corp.
Rev. Will McGarvey, Executive Director, Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County
Abby Porth, Executive Director, Jewish Community Relations Council
Rev. Scott Quinn, Acting Director, Marin Interfaith Council
Rabbi Larry Raphael, Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation Sherith Israel
Rev. Schuyler Rhodes, Superintendent, Bridges District, CA-NV Conference-UMC
Moina Shaiq, President, Tri City Interfaith Council
Rita Shimmin, Executive Director, GLIDE
Rabbi Jonathan Singer, Senior Rabbi, Congregation Emanu-El
Rev. John Weems, Pastor & Head of Staff, Calvary Presbyterian Church
The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm Clemens Young, Dean, Grace Cathedral
Rabbi Jessica Zimmerman Graf, Senior Rabbi, Congregation Sherith Israel

For additional information, please contact Michael G. Pappas at (415) 425-9631.

Area Thanksgiving Celebrations

Giving thanks is one of the key values shared by most religious traditions, and thus it is no surprise that the Thanksgiving holiday has long been an occasion for people of differing faiths and practices to come together in our communities.

Here is a list of opportunities for you to join interfaith services around our area (click on links for more details):

Friday, November 18, 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Pacifica Institute Annual Thanksgiving Dinner 2016
Pacifica Institute, Silicon Valley Chapter
1257 Tasman Dr, Unit B, Sunnyvale, CA

Sunday, November 20, 6:30 pm
2nd Annual San Jose Interfaith Thanksgiving Service
Temple Emanu-El
1010 University Ave., San Jose 95126

Sunday, November 20, 7:00 pm
Palo Alto MultiFaith Thanksgiving Celebration
First Church of Christ, Scientist
3045 Cowper, Palo Alto 94306

Monday, November 21, 7:30 pm
Embracing Compassion
St. Joseph Catholic Church
43148 Mission Blvd., Fremont, CA 94539

Tuesday November 22, 7:30 pm
Los Gatos Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service
Los Gatos United Methodist Church, 111 Church Street, Los Gatos, CA 95030

Thursday November 24, 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
51st Annual Saratoga Interfaith Thanksgiving Service
Congregation Beth David, 19700 Prospect Rd, Saratoga, CA 95070

After the election- a recommitment

The purpose of Silicon Valley Interreligious Council (SiVIC) is to build interreligious harmony and understanding so as to promote a just and compassionate society in Silicon Valley.

In light of that purpose, we have been concerned over the past months with campaign rhetoric and candidate statements that seemed intended to inflame differences between Americans of differing backgrounds, religions, ethnicity, social and economic status. These have particularly singled out Muslims and immigrant people as targets for suspicion and hostility, but have also disrespected women and given rise to increased acts of antisemitism and violence.

Following the election, guided by our code of conduct, we recommit ourselves to the never-ending task of strengthening connections between diverse people, nurturing respect and understanding across boundaries that might seek to separate us from each other, and defending freedom of religious belief and practice for all.