Responding to Charlottesville

 Many local Interfaith Councils around the Bay have responded to the recent events in Charlottesville. See statements below from the Interfaith Council of Alameda County, Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County, Islamic Networks Group, Marin Interfaith Council, San Francisco Interfaith Council, Silicon Valley Interreligious Council, and the United Religions Initiative.

Interfaith Council of Alameda County

A press release issued by the Washington D.C based Interfaith Alliance begins, “The bigotry and violence on display in Charlottesville, Virginia must be denounced by all political leaders in no uncertain terms. It’s unthinkable that in 2017 we would see crowds of torch-wielding white supremacists and neo-Nazis proudly displaying their swastikas and Confederate flags on the University of Virginia campus.”

We, the Interfaith Council of Alameda County, concur with this statement and broaden it to include a call to all religious leaders to denounce both radicalized violence and all theologies of white supremacy.

Unlike some who blame “many sides” for the violence between the anti-racist protestors and white supremacist in Charlottesville, ICAC repudiates the white supremacists, neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan who organized the “Unite the Right rally for their violent tactics.

As we repudiate the abhorrent beliefs and actions of the white supremacists we call on our own communities to embody the commitments to justice, humility, service and diversity that are at the heart of our faith traditions.

Further, we mourn the deaths of Heather Heyer, who was protesting the presence of the hateful groups in her community, and Virginia state troopers, Jay Cullen and Berke Bates, who died in the line of service.

Together, let us call on the resources of our spiritual traditions and work for a county, state and nation in which there is indeed liberty and justice for all.

Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County

The Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County expresses its sorrow and outrage at the recent events of racial hatred and bigotry that have erupted in Charlottesville, VA.  Our prayers and concerns are with the injured and our deepest sympathy to the families of those who have died.  The attack on peaceful counter-demonstrators was no less than an act of terror against the basic civil rights of all citizens of our nation.  White Nationalism has no legitimate claim in our civil society.  We stand with the Interfaith Community of Charlottesville who were among those assaulted by the White Nationalists.  We applaud our Interfaith sisters and brothers who not only stood up against the hate groups that invaded Charlottesville but also stood up for the equality and dignity of all of our citizens.

We have warned for months that divisive and hostile language leads to and fosters hatred, intolerance and violence.  Our political rhetoric must be salted with the demands of justice.  We reject the idea that there are “sides” when it comes to racial, ethnic, and religious intolerance and hatred.  The time has come once again for us as an Interfaith Community to uncompromisingly witness to the rights of all people to live in peace and security.

We call upon our membership to engage in and support programs that address the racism that still infects our society and culture.  We must understand what motivates hatred as we seek to confront such movements as White Nationalists.

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

–  Nelson Mandela

Racism is America’s “original sin” and the time has come upon us once again to address this issue with the seriousness of legislation that ensures the voting rights and freedom of all of our citizens to live with a sense of self-respect and dignity.  Our religious and cultural leaders must take the lead in demanding our governmental leaders live up to their obligations to pass legislation that encourage every sector of our society to confront the issues of prejudice, racism, segregation, and intolerance.

We call upon our membership to pray for peace in our hearts and streets as together we find the courage to do what must be done before anyone else is hurt or killed.


The Governing Board of the
Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County

ING Responds to Charlottesville Violence With Call to Know Your Neighbor

Like all Americans, the staff and volunteers at ING were shocked and horrified to learn of violence and fatalities at the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend. We offer our deep condolences to the families of those hurt or dead — regardless of their ideology. Heather Heyer, the young woman who lost her life at the hands of an even younger man, appears to be a citizen committed to social justice. And the Virginia State Police officers Berke Bates and Jay Cullen, who perished when their helicopter crashed while observing the rally, proved their dedication as public servants.

We like to place blame after public tragedies. The neo-Nazis and racists who — emboldened by tacit acceptance of their beliefs by far too many people in public office — organized the rally in a town that didn’t want them. The Black Bloc and Antifa counterprotesters who attacked and pepper-sprayed Confederate-flag-waving protesters, raising the general tension at the event. The Charlottesville and Virginia State police who stood by when things turned dangerous.

Ourselves, for letting things get to a point where hundreds of our fellow citizens felt it necessary to boldly and proudly declare that “Jews will not replace us” or “Blood and soil” or “America is for white people”. We, too, are complicit. We need to speak out (as the counterprotesters tried to do) with a prophetic voice against racism and xenophobia — but without dehumanizing and demonizing (let alone physically attacking) the human beings who are swayed by these attitudes.

Widening Polarization Impedes Rational Discourse

This widening polarization in our country dissolves friendships and family relationships and fractures communities across lines of difference. Perhaps worst of all, it impedes rational discourse about the problems that afflict our society. And as we witnessed in Charlottesville, when it involves hate groups calling for race supremacy, it can be deadly. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to scream and beat and murder each other in the name of ideology. We can disagree without dehumanizing.

The events in Charlottesville should be a call to action for reaching out across our deep divisions with civility, especially with those whose views we find abhorrent. You can’t scan a major newspaper these days without reading a headline like “Racist meets with people he once hated, finds out they both love the same hobby.” We can and do change our minds about our fellow citizens but it takes commitment to both the means and the end. The means is respectful dialogue, which is critical in strong, pluralistic democracies like ours. The end is addressing differences of opinion and debating policy, but that can only happen after establishing a baseline of common humanity. Thankfully, humanity has often occupied itself with thinking about how to do that exact thing, even — or especially in — the face of violence or hate.

What Can We Do? Know Your Neighbor

Our Muslim staff members look to the Qur’an 49:13, which tells humankind that God has “made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other”. ING’s Christian staff members look to the Gospels for an answer and find it in Matthew 5:38-42 and Luke 6:27-31, which call us to “turn the other cheek” and to “love your enemies, do good to them which hate you”. And our agnostic staff members find the answer in the Golden Rule, present in all religious traditions: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”The need for active dialogue won’t go away anytime soon, and the Know Your Neighbor program, a nationwide coalition of faith- and community-based organizations, social justice campaigners, and civil rights activists, has committed itself to this task. The eighty-two members of the coalition based across all fifty United States provide tools, educational programs, interfaith training, dialogue resources, and in-person opportunities to strengthen our social fabric by relating to each other in simple ways. Visit our site to join the effort.

The name of the coalition is itself as a call to action. We must, simply, know our neighbors. When we refuse to reach out across lines of difference and isolate ourselves in our respective silos of race, class, ethnicity, religion, or political affiliation, we give our own tacit acceptance to the viewpoints that let tragedies like the rally in Charlottesville unfold.

We must remember core American principles of cooperation despite division, of commitment to the greater good, and of concern for the “other”. That last point is critical, because at some point in our history​, we were all the “other” to someone else. We’re calling everyone to know your neighbor. We are stronger when we unite around these core American values.

Join us on Facebook and Twitter to continue the conversation.

Marin Interfaith Council:

The Marin Interfaith Council invites your prayers for the people of Charlottesville and for our nation after this weekend’s hate-inspired violence. As people of faith, we unequivocally oppose every form of racism and white supremacy, and we wholeheartedly and prayerfully work together for equity, peace, inclusion, reconciliation, and justice for all.

SF Faith Leaders Stand United Against Hate in Charlottesville and Our Backyard

August 15, 2017, San Francisco — First and foremost, we offer our prayers for the victims and the families of the dead in Charlottesville, Virginia and all who were traumatized by the hateful violence that ensued there.

Sometimes when horrific and deadly acts are perpetrated in the name of hate, such as our nation witnessed on August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, we are tempted to limit those incidents to the context in which they occurred. Charlottesville is a place intimately identified with our nation’s painful and divisive Civil War history, and it is easy to think that such an event could only happen in that region of the country. Sadly, what happened in Charlottesville is symptomatic of an unprecedented growth of organized hate in our nation that knows no geographic boundaries. We need look no further than the findings of a recent report published by the Southern Poverty Law Center ( hate-map) to face the reality that 917 hate groups exist in the United States of America, 79 of which are found in California, and a significant number calling the Bay Area their home.

As statements and vigils decrying acts of hate and violence in Charlottesville flooded social and other media, a group calling itself “Patriot Prayer,” actively petitioned to host back-to-back rallies in San Francisco’s Crissy Field and Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Park on August 26 and 27, respectively. The former is billed as “Patriot Prayer: Free Speech, Unity and Peace San Francisco,” the latter, a “No to Marxism Rally.”

As people of faith, we stand united to denounce those who use words such as “prayer,” “unity” and “peace” to mask any agenda of hate, intolerance, and bigotry.  In the days ahead, we will use the voices of faith communities – through prayer, the pulpit, and our communications networks – to educate and inform, and to fight racism, hatred, and bigotry wherever it may occur, particularly in our City of St. Francis. We will not step aside but will stand strong for our values of inclusivity, respect for all persons, and justice.

Kaushik Roy, 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, San Francisco Muslim Community Center
Rev. Deborah Alvarez-Rodriguez, Pastor, Jones United Methodist Church
The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, Bishop, The Episcopal Diocese of California
Fr. Mesrop Ash, Parish Priest, St. John Armenian Apostolic Church
Fatih Ferdi Ates, Director, Pacifica Institute
The Rev. Sally Bingham, President, California Interfaith Power & Light
Rev. Dr. Amos C. Brown, Pastor, Third Baptist Church & President, SF Branch-NAACP
Rev. Angela Brown, JD, Associate Pastor, GLIDE Memorial United Methodist Church
Rev. Dr. Ellen Clark-King, Executive Pastor and Canon for Social Justice, Grace Cathedral
Rev. Staci Current, District Superintendent Bay District, CA-NV Annual Conference UMC
Sister Chandru Desai, Director, Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center, SF
Pastor Elizabeth Ekdale, Lead Pastor, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church
Fred Fielding, Board President, Interfaith Center at the Presidio
Rev. Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J., President, University of San Francisco
Rabbi Marvin Goodman, Executive Director Emeritus, Board of Rabbis of No. California
Rev. Jisan Tova Green, San Francisco Zen Center
Iftekhar Hai, President, United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance
Deacon G.L. Hodge, Providence Baptist Church
The Rev. Mark W. Holmerud, Bishop, Sierra Pacific Synod, ELCA
Most Reverend William Justice, Auxiliary Bishop, Archdiocese of San Francisco
The Rev. Victor H. 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
Fr. Stephen Kyriacou, Dean, Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral
Rev. Deborah Lee, (UCC) Program Director, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity
Rev. Junchol Lee, Senior Pastor, San Francisco Swedenborgian Church
Rev. Dr. James McCray, Jr., Executive Director, Tabernacle Community Development Corp.
Rev. Will McGarvey, Executive Director, Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County
Rev. Jeanelle Nicolas Ablola, Pastor, Pine United Methodist Church
Abby Porth, Executive Director, Jewish Community Relations Council
Rev. Scott Quinn, Executive Director, Marin Interfaith Council
Rabbi Larry Raphael, Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation Sherith Israel
Rev. Vanessa Rush Southern, Senior Minister, First Unitarian Universalist Society of SF
Moina Shaiq, President, Tri City Interfaith Council
Rita Shimmin, Executive Director, GLIDE Foundation
Rabbi Beth Singer, Senior Rabbi, Congregation Emanu-El
Rabbi Jonathan Singer, Senior Rabbi, Congregation Emanu-El
Stephanie Spencer, President, Eden Area Interfaith Council
Rev. Sadie Stone, Pastor, Bethany United Methodist Church
Swami Tattwamayananda, Minister, Vedanta Society of San Francisco
Rev. John Weems, Pastor & Head of Staff, Calvary Presbyterian Church
Rev. Dr. Jay Williams, Lead Pastor, GLIDE Memorial United Methodist Church
The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm Clemens Young, Dean, Grace Cathedral
Rabbi Jessica Zimmerman Graf, Senior Rabbi, Congregation Sherith Israel

Congregation leaders are encouraged to share this message with their congregants.

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

PDF: SF Faith Leaders Stand United Against Hate

Silicon Valley Interreligious Council

From its formation, the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council has devoted itself to building interreligious understanding and harmony in order to seek a more just and compassionate society in Silicon Valley.

We, as people seeking compassion and reconciliation, are grieved and stunned by the activities over this past weekend by those who value neither. We lament the loss of life and disruption of the community. We of diverse faiths stand together unified against Hate. We grieve the murder of Heather Heyer who was standing up for our values. We will not stand idly by, as all our faiths compel us to raise our voices clearly against racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia of any kind.

We commit ourselves anew to the task of bringing all people together for the good of the whole community. Hate is not welcome here.

United Religions Initiative

We are heartbroken about the events that are unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA. We stand against the ideology and harmful actions of white supremacy. We stand against any and all acts of violence.
In the United Religions Initiative community, we believe there is a better way. We stand firmly in our organizational charter, which is affirmed by nearly 100 members organizations across the U.S., and hundreds more around the world. Today, we reaffirm the values contained in this document, which include a commitment to “practice healing and reconciliation to resolve conflict without resorting to violence,” to not discriminate and “to use our combined resources only for nonviolent, compassionate action, to awaken to our deepest truths, and to manifest love and justice among all life in our Earth community.”
In this difficult time, we encourage communities around the United States and world to provide places for nonviolent gatherings to continue to build cultures of peace, justice, and healing for all people.