SiVIC Newsletter- July 2017

Silicon Valley Interreligious CouncilThe newsletter for July 2017 includes the upcoming SiVIC Forum on “I Am the Other: Countering Stereotypes, Religious Illiteracy, and Hate Speech,” an Interreligious Conference: Faith and Service at the Jain Center, a Dessert Gala for Yezidi Relief and our Multifaith calendar of religious observances and listing of interfaith opportunities.

See the June issue here.

Subscribe to the newsletter.

SiVIC Newsletter- June 2017

SiVIC Newsletter

The newsletter for June 2017 includes articles on the Unity Rally held on June 10, the upcoming SiVIC Forum on “I Am the Other: Countering Stereotypes, Religious Illiteracy, and Hate Speech,” and our Multifaith calendar of religious observances and listing of interfaith opportunities.

See the June issue here.

Subscribe to the newsletter.

Bay Area Joint Statement Against Hate

Residents of the San Francisco Bay Area benefit from both individuals and institutions whose faith motivates them to provide food to the hungry, shelter to the needy, inexpensive or free health care, and other humanitarian services.

Our history includes episodes of injustice and harmful conduct based on ethnicity, race, and nationality, but also a strong history of opposing bigotry and embracing all people of good conscience. We also value our history of embracing individuals’ right to practice the faith tradition of their choice.

While some isolated individuals in our community may sometimes hold events designed to foster hatred and fear, those involved in legally expressing their political opinions must enjoy the protection of our nation’s laws. However, we similarly exercise our speech rights to reject and marginalize hate speech and attempts to divide our communities.

Islamic societies, organizations, places of worship, and communities enrich and benefit the spiritual, moral and cultural life of our community. We find abhorrent all forms of discrimination, including those forms of discrimination targeting religion or belief. We oppose any expression of bigotry towards Muslims with the equal moral, legal and practical force that we oppose other forms of discrimination.

We find abhorrent all forms of discrimination, including those forms of discrimination targeting religion or belief. We oppose any expression of bigotry towards Muslims with the same full moral, legal and practical force that we oppose other forms of discrimination.

Silicon Valley Interreligious Council
Together with dozens of local religious and community groups

See Facebook for updates

An Interview with Girish Shah

The United Religions Initiative recently interviewed Girish Shah, founding member and Treasurer of SiVIC for a recent profile: “3 followers of Eastern Traditions engaged in interfaith work.”

Girish, a leader of the Jain Center of Northern California in Milpitas, explains how his tradition leads him into interfaith cooperation”

“The creed of Jainism is non-violence, not only in action, but in speech and thought,” Shah said. “Talk translates to speech, and speech translates to action. To stop the violent action, we need to start with our thoughts. ”

Girish Shah

Girish Shah

SiVIC is a Cooperating Circle of the United Religions Initiative, a global network of interfaith groups. Read the rest of the article, including Girish, Dr. Prem Kahlon (Sikh), and Dr. Ji Hyang Padma (Buddhist) on the URI website.

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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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.

Pramukh Swami Maharaj

San Jose, CA (August 22, 2016) —
Pramukh Swami MaharajThe Silicon Valley Interreligious Council mourns the August 13th passing of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, one of the world’s most prominent and respected Hindu leaders and the spiritual head of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS). Pramukh Swami Maharaj, who lived until 95 years of age, dedicated his life to humanitarian service and spiritual upliftment of millions around the world by carrying forward the teachings of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, an 18th century luminary figure who sought to rid society of vice and superstition. Globally, Pramukh Swami Maharaj inaugurated an astonishing 1100 temples, nearly 100 of which are in the United States including the BAPS Temples in Milpitas and San Francisco.
SiVIC Board Member Mihir Meghani said, “Pramukh Swami lived during a time of tremendous change, conflict and opportunity. He observed wars, famine, and discrimination, but he never wavered in his message of peace, his faith in God, and in the power of values and community. He lives the utmost spiritual life but was able to guide millions of people in the modern age. His spiritual wisdom, leadership, and vision in guiding BAPS not just as an organization, but as a movement of the most dedicated and compassionate devotees is his greatest gift to humanity. We all seek to imbibe the values he promoted throughout his life.”

Interfaith Candlelight Prayer Vigil for Peace

candlelightWednesday, July 20, 2016, 7:30 pm
Santa Teresa Catholic Church
794 Calero Avenue, San Jose, California

In light of the recent violence in Baton Rouge, Turkey, France, Baghdad, Dallas and various other places, we invite you to an interfaith prayer service for peace.

Join us so that we can pray together for the victims of violence and the strength to combat it by being peacemakers.

We will pray for the courage to take action on behalf of those suffering injustice and to comfort those suffering from violence.

We will pray together to remind ourselves of God’s presence within all of us so that we can focus on what gives us hope, and what moves us to act on our concern for peace and justice in our world.

We will gather to remember our common dignity, our unique heritage as children of God, and our interconnectedness as brothers and sisters in the one human family.

Download: Prayer Vigil Flyer – 7-20-16

Responding to Orlando

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, friends, family and community in Orlando after the shootings at the Pulse nightclub. LGBTQ folks continue to be the object of lethal hatred, prejudice and the twisted interpretation of religious tradition.

The Silicon Valley Interreligious Council (SiVIC) is a coalition of dozens of diverse faith groups, with a great diversity of cultures and practices. But we are united in our despair and outrage at the attack on an LGBTQ club.  While religious institutions have not been united in perspectives on sexuality, all of us are speaking loudly and from every corner against this horrific violence, and against any intolerance expressed on social media.

To counter this senseless hatred and violence, we seek to create a groundswell of solidarity and compassion, and hope you will add your voice here from additional faiths (you can use the comments section below).

Local Vigils | Statements Worldwide | Local Statements

Local Vigils Planned

There is no right time.
There is no right place.
But there is a call to gather.
There is a call to respond.

  • Grace Lutheran Church (3149 Waverley Street, Palo Alto, CA 94306) will have its sanctuary open Tuesday, June 14th, starting at 7PM for a time of prayer and lamentation. We pray for the LGBTQ+ community and lament the horrific shooting in Orlando. We pray for the Islamic community as they may face backlash. We pray for our AME Zion brothers and sisters in Christ as the first anniversary approaches of the Mother Emmanuel Charleston shooting. We pray for the Stanford community. We pray for the end of hate. We Stand with Orlando
  • In response to the tragic loss of lives that occurred in Orlando, FL this past weekend, the Center for Spiritual Living, 1195 Clark Street, San José will be hosting two opportunities to come together in love, prayer, peace and compassion:
    • Tuesday, June 14 – 6:00-6:45 pm – Silent Vigil
      Please join Senior Minister Dr. David Bruner for a time of silent reflection.
    • Wednesday, June 15th – 6:30-7:30 pm – Peace Prayer Vigil
      Please join Associate Minister Susan Overland for a Peace Prayer Vigil. Music provided by Michelle Jordan.
  • Tri-City Interfaith Council & Tri-City Alameda County Chapter, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:
    Remember the Victims of Hate, Terrorism, & Gun Violence
    WHEN: Tuesday, June 14th at 7:00 pm.
    WHERE: Walnut Avenue and Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont
    We will stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community and vow to honor those lives taken. We also will remember the tragic event in UCLA and the two Fremont police officers who were shot in the line of duty. We will gather by the Veteran’s Memorial Park for brief interfaith prayers and remarks. We will then move to the four corners of the intersection to show our solidarity and to be a presence to the community that we will not stand for these hateful actions and this continued violence in our nation.If you wish to bring signs of support, please keep in mind that this is a peaceful event to mourn the victims of hate, terrorism, and gun violence. (Examples:  #WeAreOrlando   #Enough!    Love > Hate!     Violence is Never the Answer     90 Victims a Day, etc. )

Statements from Religious Leaders and Organizations Worldwide

“The terrible massacre that has taken place in Orlando, with its dreadfully high number of innocent victims, has caused in Pope Francis, and in all of us, the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil before this new manifestation of homicidal folly and senseless hatred,” the Holy See Press Office said in a statement.

“No lesson is more fundamental than that which teaches that the spark of the Divine is present in every individual – gay and straight, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim.  In the face of tragedy, let us come together in a spirit of love and compassion for all and work together to create a nation that rejects violence and instead celebrates the holiness of every human being.” Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

“So let us (say) some silent prayer, OK,” the Dalai Lama said, “Although, one Buddhist monk grows quite skeptical about the effects of prayer.” Real change required serious action, he said, adding that it was important not to lose “determination or courage.”

“Today, we stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community. Your grief is our grief. Your outrage is our outrage. We are all one family,” executive director Farhana Khera said in a statement from Muslim Advocates.

“We at HAF (Hindu American Foundation) pray for the families of those lost in this senseless act of terror, along with those who are only just beginning to recover from physical and emotional wounds,” said Nikhil Joshi, Esq., HAF National Leadership Council member based in Sarasota, FL.

“We want to help any which way we can,” said Harjit Singh, a priest at Gurdwara Nanaksar Florida, which caters to the community in Orlando and the adjoining city of Kissimmee. The Sikhs have offered to raise money for food and donate blood for the injured, Singh said. And plans are afoot for a candle-light procession to demonstrate “our support to the community.”

“Such attacks wound our shared humanity and confront us with a stark choice: to mimic the hatred we see or to make a bold commitment to overcome it…the interconnected nature of our world means simply this: we must all become peace-makers now.  For, if we respond to every act of violence with a thirst for yet more violence in revenge, we will undoubtedly succeed in little more than inflicting unspeakable suffering on one another.  There must be a dedication to seeking and building a future in which the chains of suffering and violence are broken.” (Religions for Peace, USA; See additional statements at their website.)

Local Statements:

Council on American Islamic Relations, SF Bay Area
“We join our fellow Americans in expressing our deepest condolences to the victims and their families. We are horrified by this tragedy and encourage all people to donate blood, support the various victims’ funds, and attend vigils in their neighborhoods. We are stronger when we stand together against hate violence” said Executive Director Zahra Billoo.

Pacifica Institute
Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of Orlando terror and hate attack. We condemn all forms of religious and other forms of extremism that teach hatred and incite violence. However, we need to do more than merely condemning these horrific acts and proactively take steps to counter the “cancer” of extremism.

First, our society as a whole needs to deny the extremist narrative that their actions represent Muslims. It goes without saying that Muslim Americans should promote the peaceful message of Islam.

Our deeds matter more than our words.  We should build institutions and programs to cater to the needs of our youth and provide them opportunities to develop social skills to be productive members of our multicultural society. It is imperative to invest in our youth so that they are driven more by hopes and dreams, not hatred and fear of the others.

MCA Bay Area
We at the Muslim Community Association of San Francisco Bay Area express our horror over the mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, FL overnight. We offer our deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and pray for quick recovery for those who were injured.

We stand firmly against all forms of violence committed against any group, regardless of religious affiliation, creed, color, or sexual orientation. We condemn such heinous acts by individuals or groups who have no regard for the sanctity of human life.

The right to live free from violence, harassment or intimidation is the most basic human right and must be defended unconditionally.