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SCU Helping to Lift Up Voices of Silicon Valley's Religions

Friday, Mar. 18, 2011

Silicon Valley has no shortage of groups that seek to define the region as a technology, civic or philanthropic hub: the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Joint Venture Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and so on.

But now, Santa Clara University and dozens of others interested in interfaith issues have formed a new organization to represent the dozens of religions and groups that comprise the spiritual side of Silicon Valley.

The group -- Silicon Valley Interreligious Council, or SiVIC—doesn’t necessarily aim to get all groups speaking with one voice on any political or regional issues. Rather, it seeks to serve as a reminder that Silicon Valley is not just about powerhouse tech companies, venture capital or gee-whiz innovation.

“There are five or six organizations that regularly issue reports about who we are,” said religious studies professor Philip “Boo” Riley, who established SCU's own Local Religion Project and will sit on the new group’s 17-member board of directors. “We are trying to get the religious voice at the table alongside the civic, government, and business voices.”

Rev. Aimee Moiso, director of ecumenical and interfaith ministries at SCU, is also working on putting together potential projects or initiatives that will further engage SCU with the energy and interfaith activities of groups like SiVIC.

Recent years have seen a rise in interfaith activity at SCU, including the formation of a student interfaith council and increased collaboration and engagement among undergraduate religious clubs. "In coming months and years," Moiso said, "we hope to see a comprehensive, multi-department approach to interreligious engagement that would partner our campus commitments with the energy and movement of the greater community."

Riley said SiVIC does not want to supplant existing multifaith groups such as the Interfaith Council on Economics and Justice or People Acting in Community Together, but rather wants to bring an even broader constituency under one umbrella – Jewish and Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist, evangelical Christian and mainline Protestants.

There are likely to be “wedge issues” like gay marriage on which the groups will never agree – but agreement is not necessarily the goal, Riley added. 

“Like the Parliament of World Religions, the goal is harmony, not unity,” said Riley.
“We are going to be a place where faith communities can have civil dialogue; no throwing things at each other from opposite sides of the street.”

Read more about the new group in this San Jose Mercury News story.

March 18, 2011

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