Our latest statement on violence. 
“Our democracy has no room for inciting violence or endangering the public, no matter the ideology of those who commit such acts. The violent actions of people calling themselves antifa in Berkeley this weekend deserve unequivocal condemnation, and the perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted. In California, as across all of our great nation, we have deep reverence for the Constitutional right to peaceful dissent and free speech. Non-violence is fundamental to that right. Let us use this sad event to reaffirm that we must never fight hate with hate, and to remember the values of peace, openness and justice that represent the best of America.”
– Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi
     How we speak about an issue is as important as the issue itself. The recent protest in San Francisco and Berkeley is really a tale of two cities.
     Governmental leaders and the civic community took control of the situation in San Francisco preventing violence and the potential loss of life. Rather than encourage confrontation, San Francisco leaders and activists encouraged counter marchers and gatherings based on values that truly make peace possible in times of conflict and dispute. What was ultimately effective was the commitment to non-violent witness. But, in all fairness, how protesters might behave in any given circumstance is never certain. The confrontations and violence in Berkeley might present a more accurate picture of what we are facing today in our nation, if not our world.
     We must be clear that similarity of cause is not agreement in ideology, philosophy, purpose, or tactic. Attacks on the KKK and white supremacist groups do not imply any alliance with those who seek the full human rights of all people. The Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County condemns the use of violence in the pursuit of justice. Peaceful protest is always desired. In this context of racial injustice, non-violent witness is always encouraged. Violent efforts to intimidate should be anathema. In light of these alarming developments, we offer some reflections for your consideration and dialogue.
  1. Non-violent witness does not necessarily produce the outcomes people would like to see. We participate in non-violent protests and resistance because it is the ethical and moral way to respond to issues of injustice. At its best, such witness raises and challenges the consciousness of those with the power to bring about meaningful change.
  2. Violence is embedded in our society. We have a long history, along with the rest of the world, of resolving issues and disputes through violence. We need only consider the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and the American Civil Rights Movements to mention only a few examples. Racism and discrimination against people of color underscores the violence that infects our society to this day. While we reject violent reactions to these injustices, we are not surprised by the violent reactions that occur when people feel no hope. Religious institutions and movements must provide moral leadership if alternatives to violence are to be found. We must confront our own tendency to legitimize violence, intolerance and racism.
  3. The recent political atmosphere and rhetoric has emboldened public displays of racism, xenophobia and the glorification of force. The issues fueling violence in the streets are moral and ethical issues that should not be used for expedient political purposes. Werejectany suggestion there is a moral equivalency between right-wing and left-wing political persuasions and white supremacy and anarchistic groups. Once again, the Interfaith Communities can do much to raise political rhetoric to the moral and ethical level. To this end we are inspired by the non-violent work of such people as Rev. Dr. William Barber of North Carolina and encourage all to engage his thought and non-violent action there in the Moral Mondays Movement which advocates for equal justice for all especially minority communities.
  4. The trivialization of the art of compromise has led to a fostering of ideological absolutism and behavior. Civil society must engage in positive and constructive social discourse to address the issues and conflicts of the day. Once again, religious institutions can provide the space and example for people of good will of differing viewpoints and experiences to come together for the sake of the common good.
  5. Non-violence requires we “disarm” our thoughts, words and deeds. As such, hate speech, while it may fall under the category of “free” speech, is nonetheless an act of violence. Violence is not simply measured by the length of the stick but the attitudes in our hearts. We must realize violent words and attitudes can often lead to violent actions and responses.
     These are complex times to say the least. The complexity of the issues requires thoughtful and sincere honesty on the part of all. We encourage our member congregations to foster study groups to educate themselves about the issues of the day as they prepare to respond with constructive actions. It will be important to hear the voices of all those who truly seek the well-being of all.
     The Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County in no uncertain terms condemns the use of violence in any form for whatever cause. We rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of non- violent means as we continue to address the issues of racism, inequality, hunger, war, homelessness, and the rights of all peoples to live and migrate in peace and security. We thank all of those who have raised their voices on behalf of others through peaceful, non- violent means.
     We remind you of our Defusing Hatred Program. We have already conducted this program for over seventeen different gatherings, teaching non-violent communication skills, understanding those of differing worldviews and how to interrupt harassment in the public square. We offer this program through our member congregations and we are more than willing to offer this program to other religious and secular groups throughout the East Bay. We are also dedicated to bringing together the disparate voices and perspectives of all people, including particularly those speaking out on the right and on the left, so that all can work to better understand what is behind the anger and frustration of each to the other, and learn how to engage in constructive dialogue together. Please contact us for more information or to schedule a program for your group at 925-933-6030.
The Governing Board of the Interfaith Council