This statement has been issued from the Council of Churches of Santa Clara County in response to recent upsurges in anti-Muslim rhetoric, demonstrations, and harassment.
A Public Letter Regarding Christian-Islamic Relations in the U.S.
As Christians and Americans, we are called to speak out against the recent increase in hateful language aimed at Islam, one of the world’s largest faith communities.
We condemn calls to burn Islam’s holy book, the Koran. God calls us to speak the truth in love, and there is nothing loving or compassionate about burning another religion’s holy scriptures.
We also wish to address the controversy that has arisen around the construction of Cordova House near the site of the World Trade Center in New York City.
It has been suggested that Muslims should not build any sort of spiritual center in that neighborhood, since to do so might be troubling to people who associate Islam with the destruction of the World Trade Center. But this argument is based on false premises, and we should not allow unfounded prejudice to lead us astray. Blaming all Muslims for what happened on September 11 is like blaming all residents of Upstate New York because Timothy McVeigh participated in the bombing of the Oklahoma Federal Building. We should not bear false witness against our neighbors in this way. Instead, we should join our Muslim brothers and sisters who reject violence and terrorism, and we should refuse to allow the acts of a misguided few to drive us all into fear and mistrust.
In discussing this matter, some have referred to the neighborhood around the World Trade Center as “holy ground,” suggesting that it is inappropriate for a mosque or an Islamic community center to be built there. It certainly seems strange to suggest that a center where people might gather to pray would make an area less holy. More importantly, if that neighborhood is indeed “holy ground,” it is not made holy because of the tragic events that occurred there. It is made holy when we choose to respond to such events by embodying the ideals of grace, love and compassion.
As Americans, we reject the idea that any city should be divided up into segregated neighborhoods. None of our cities should have districts that are off-limits to Muslims, Christians, Jews or members of any other religious group. We also categorically reject the idea that any zoning decision or any permitting decision should be made on the basis of the religious affiliation of the person or group who is applying for the building permit. Our laws should be administered impartially, without bias against Muslims or people of any other faith.
The World Trade Center neighborhood of New York is one that has seen great tragedy. It is not wrong for people to want to establish houses of worship there. Areas where a great tragedy has occurred are exactly the places where we need to have spiritual centers where people can gather to pray, worship, and reflect. We support the right of the Muslim community to have their own spiritual center in that neighborhood, joining the many churches and synagogues which are already there.
As Christians, we stand with all those families who grieve over the loss of loved ones in the World Trade Center tragedy. We honor their lives when we work to transform hatred and division into mutual respect and understanding. Jesus taught us to pray that God’s will would be done here on earth just as it is in heaven. As Christians, we pray for that vision to be made real, and it is not a vision of segregated neighborhoods or acts of violence against those with whom we disagree.
As we near the anniversary of September 11, it is time for us to be strong in our faith and filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not just call us to love God. He also called us to love our neighbors as ourselves. We call upon all Christians to live out Jesus’ commandment by working together with our Muslim brothers and sisters to create a world characterized by compassion, understanding, and mutual respect.
- Rev. Travis Hyatt, San Jose
- Rev. Bob Butziger, Los Gatos
- Rev. Jerry Fox, Pastor, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, San Jose
- Rev. Charles W. Rawlings, Los Gatos
- Rev. Michael Patrick Ellard, Board Member, the Council of Churches of Santa Clara County
- Rev. Rick Mixon, Palo Alto
- Rev. Ben Daniel, San Jose
- Rev. Katie Goetz, Pastor, Trinity United Methodist Church, Sunnyvale
- Rev. Evelyn Vigil, San Jose
- Rev. Michael Love, Palo Alto
- Rev. Alan Jones, Campbell
- Rev. Ken Henry, San Jose
- Rev. Tom Coop, San Jose
- Rev. Sharon Hare, San Jose
- Rev. Keith Inouye
- Rev. John Song, Calvary United Methodist Church, San Jose
- The Rev. Edgard F. Danielsen-Morales, Ph.D., Metropolitan Community Church of New York
- Rev. Dr. Curt Miner, United Church of Christ
- Rev. David Robinson
- Rev. Daryl L. Lavway, Senior Pastor, Grace Baptist Church
- Phil Porter, First Congregational Church of Berkeley, United Church of Christ
- Eugene McMullan, Catholics for Marriage Equality in California
- Rev. Debbie Weatherspoon, Los Altos United Methodist Church
- The Rev. Dr. Wayne Schwandt, Pastor, MCC of the Chesapeake, Annapolis, Maryland
- Rev. Susan Strouse, First United Lutheran Church, San Francisco
- Christ the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, San Jose
- Rev. Aimee Moiso, Santa Clara University Staff
- St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
- Rev. Pam Fine, Aptos Community United Methodist Church
- Rev. Laurie McHugh, Palo Alto
- Rev. D. Andrew Kille, Interfaith Space, San Jose
- Rev. Kathryn Dunning, Pastor, Kings Beach United Methodist Church, Kings Beach, CA
- Rev. Pam Fine, Aptos Community UMC
- Rev. Jennifer Tafel, Pastor, Lansing Swedenborgian Church
- Rev. Dr. Curt Miner, United Church of Christ, San Luis Obispo, CA
- Dr. Valerie Karras, Assistant Professor of Church History, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, TX
Religious communities and leaders can sign on to the statement at http://www.councilofchurches-scc.org/article.php/20100901091451614