Bay Area Religious Leaders Denounce Massacre of Coptic Christians

Following the deadly attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt on Palm Sunday, the beginning of the Christian Holy Week, many religious leaders, groups and organizations have spoken out to express their outrage and affirm their fundamental religious commitment to peacemaking. In addition to the statement below, both ING and the Evergreen Islamic Center have spoken out.

At the threshold of this sacred and holy season, when our Christian and Jewish sisters and brothers observe and celebrate the hope of new life and liberation from oppression, we are reminded that terrorism takes no holiday.

Gruesome images of torturous atrocities committed by Islamist militants (so-called ISIS) against Coptic Christians in Egypt, praying on Palm Sunday in their sacred sanctuaries, justifiably haunt the consciences of those who live in lands where the freedom to practice religion is enshrined in and protected by the laws by which they are governed.

As San Francisco Bay Area religious leaders, we speak out with a unified voice to decry these acts of horror and denounce all expressions and acts of religious persecution. We pray for those who have perished and all who have suffered as the result of these crimes against humanity.

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Los Gatos JCC receives bomb threat

It’s happened yet again. The Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center in Los Gatos was evacuated due to a bomb threat. [See story here.]

Last week, the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto was evacuated after receiving a similar threat. Across the county, more than 73 such centers have received similar threats. Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia have been desecrated. Mosques, including the Evergreen Islamic Center, have received threats and individual Muslims have been harassed. A man yelling “get out of my country” shot two Indian men in Kansas, killing one and wounding the other.

Incidents of harassment against immigrants and suspected immigrants are on the rise. I believe it is only a handful of people who are acting out, but their actions affect many of our friends and neighbors, not just Jews or Muslims, Sikhs or Hindus.

Some misguided people in our midst seem to believe that since the election the rules of civility have changed, and that it is now somehow acceptable to lash out against our brothers and sisters. They are sadly mistaken. This is not our way; this behavior is not acceptable in our nation.

An attack on anyone because of their religion or race is an attack on us all, and together we will rise to defend all the diverse religions and cultures that together make up our Silicon Valley community.

It’s time for the Justice Department to get serious about investigating these incidents, and arresting and prosecuting those responsible.

And as for the rest of us- visit your local JCC. They sponsor events and classes open to the whole community. Bring a friend. Join. Donate. Reach out.

#IStandWithTheJCC

Rev. D. Andrew Kille
Chair, SiVIC

Assistance for Flood Victims

News for those who are interested in assisting the victims of the recent flooding in our area:

This week, HomeFirst took over the operation of the overnight shelter from the Red Cross for San Jose residents displaced in the recent floods. We served a total of 196 individuals the first night, including many homeless people that were impacted.

We are working round the clock right now to help people stay safe, fed, and connected to resources and we need your help. Our urgent needs include:

  • Volunteers to provide and serve lunch/dinner, M-W & Weekends
  • Donations of bath towels and toiletry items
  • Donations of laundry detergent pods
  • Gifts of cash, stock, or other support

Volunteer groups can contact dbingham@homefirstscc.org to join the HomeFirst service calendar. Donations of wish list items can be made directly at Seven Trees Community Center, 3590 Cas Drive, San Jose 24/7.

DONATIONS CAN BE MADE HERE

Thank you to all the partners who have already stepped up to help, including the City of San Jose, Hunger at Home, Tzu Chi Foundation, White Road Baptist Church, Bellarmine AMEN group, and HomeFirst Annex Volunteers.

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

SiVIC again joins with the Know Your Neighbor campaign and interfaith groups around the Bay Area and across the US to reaffirm our commitment to diversity and compassion in times when they seem to be threatened.

San Jose – The Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters campaign, a program of the Islamic Networks Group (ING), finds that the executive order issued this week by President Donald Trump banning entry to the U.S. by citizens of six Muslim-majority countries and suspending and restricting the admission of refugees is essentially the same as the previous executive order on this subject. It therefore requires us once again 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 religious identity (Muslim). Singling out Muslims reinforces and encourages existing prejudice and discrimination, including U.S. citizens and documented immigrants.
  • Unity and solidarity: Policies which 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.

Read the full statement here.

SiVIC co-sponsors unique interfaith Ash Wednesday service

On March 1, the Christian world celebrated Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent, a time of preparation, prayer, and fasting looking ahead to Easter next month. Many Christian denominations take part in a ritual of placing ashes on the forehead as a sign of repentance and a reminder that “from dust you came; to dust you shall return.”

This year, in conjunction with the Diocese of San Jose, PACT, and several religious groups, SiVIC co-sponsored an interfaith gathering to lift up our common religious aspiration to be a “Compassionate Community,“ acknowledging that there are many obstacles that prevent us from realizing Compassion: our very selves and the social realities in our community.

The service was in two parts:  First, a gathering in the courtyard of the San Jose City Hall to hear testimonies, sacred texts calling for transformation and a reminder of being committed to a Compassionate Community. Speakers included members of the Baha’i, Muslim, Unitarian, Kriya Yoga and Christian traditions. The group then processed to the meeting hall of First Christian Church, where those who wished to receive ashes from Rev. Nichole Lamarche of the Silicon Valley Progressive Christian Community and Rev. Jennifer Goto of St. Paul United Methodist Church.

This gathering marked the beginning of “90 Days of Compassion,” a period that will encompass multiple religious feasts and traditions that fall between March 1 and June 3 and speak to both personal and social transformation.

Interfaith Ash Wednesday Service

Photo: Steve Herrera

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.

Signed:

  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.

Signed:

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.