Silicon Valley Interreligious Council is the most recent evidence of a long-standing history of cooperative relationships among religious communities in Silicon Valley.
There is no lack of opportunities for individuals and organizations to be engaged in interreligious cooperation. However, it is often difficult for people to know what is happening and how to get involved.
In 1972, a Jewish-Christian Dialogue group was started under the auspices of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Over its thirty-eight years of activity, the group changed with the changing religious face of the Valley, moving from a Jewish/Christian encounter to include Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, and Baha’i, as well as lesser-known traditions.
The Religious Leaders Dialogue group was primarily a place for conversation among religious leaders, and there was a desire to bring together lay members of the community to affirm and celebrate our religious diversity. Under the name of South Bay Interfaith, a working group of religious leaders created together a series of events held at the Circle of Palms in downtown San Jose. The first event, held in 2005, was called “Fasting and Feasting Together: A Family Reunion of Abraham’s Children,” and included the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities. Realizing that religious diversity went far beyond those three, in 2006 the group convened “Breaking Bread Together: An Interfaith Reunion,” which included Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, Wiccans and others.
The third Circle of Palms gathering, held in 2007, was “Keep the Diversity: Seek the Harmony,” centering on music from several religious groups.
In 2008, South Bay Interfaith and Silicon Valley FACES co-sponsored “New Beginnings: Building a Community of Hope” to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. day and the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
Another working group was commissioned as the Partner City Team and set about creating a case history study of interfaith relations in Silicon Valley as part of an effort to be recognized as a Partner City of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. The Parliament, first held in 1898, and then revived 100 years later, is the largest international interfaith gathering. Because it meets only every five years, the Parliament organizers created a way to get local communities involved by becoming members of the Partner Cities Network. The goal is to encourage those cities “to foster and enhance a rich and vibrant local grassroots interreligious movement, in order to promote harmonious and cooperative relationships between these communities, and to support their efforts in working with other sectors of their community in creating a more just, peaceful, and sustainable city.”
San Jose and Silicon Valley were recognized as Inaugural members of the Partner City Network at the Parliament meeting in Melbourne, Australia, in December of 2009. A delegation of representatives from the Partner City Team, including Supervisor (then Councilmember) David Cortese traveled to Australia to receive the recognition and lead a workshop on what they had learned from the process.
Early in 2010, the Religious Leaders Dialogue learned that the organization that had provided its staffing and support was not going to be able to continue doing so. Realizing that an meeting place for interreligious conversation and shared activity was essential to Silicon Valley, the Dialogue group appointed a Planning Committee to explore what kind of organization would best serve the needs of the Valley. With members from the Dialogue group, South Bay Interfaith, the Partner City Team, and from other religious organizations in the Valley, the Committee has given form and direction to the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council.
Background materials from the Planning Committee can be found in the Archives.