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Over the past few months, we have seen demonstrations throughout the Bay Area and across the country calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. We have also seen both the Gilroy and Morgan Hill city councils consider resolutions on the matter. 

During the Morgan Hill City meeting in particular, the council called on the city’s faith leaders to take the lead to “bring about education, civility and respect.” Given this plea, I would like to share with you a little insight into what the Interfaith Clergy Alliance (ICA) and the Interfaith Community of South County (ICSC) is all about. 

Bishop Mark Fullmer

The ICA and ICSC consist of clergy and lay members from Morgan Hill and Gilroy houses of faith, with representatives from Islam, Judaism, Buddhist and many Christian faiths. We meet just about every month, depending on upcoming events that we may be planning or issues that we feel need to be discussed.

We have covered topics from the Garlic Festival shooting to COVID, and discussed our own various beliefs and how they may be different or similar. 

We also organize two or three community events each year—one on or around the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, and a Thanksgiving service on the Sunday before. We have also started a semiannual “Faith of our Neighbors” event where one particular faith shares their beliefs and rituals around life events like birth, coming of age, marriage and death. 

All of these gatherings are open to the public to attend. 

The ICSC are also involved in many service activities which each of the houses of worship work together to accomplish. These include providing dinners for the safe car park in Morgan Hill; working with Gilroy’s Stand Against Hate campaign; helping the Compassion Center and Cecilia’s Closet to organize donations for their needs; organize a community emergency preparedness fair in Morgan Hill this coming September; and there is more to come.

Finally, let me share something I have watched over the past six months since the beginning of the conflict in Israel and Gaza. All of our meetings since October have focused on how we can foster peace here at home. Having participated in these discussions from a non-Jewish or Muslim perspective, I have felt that Rabbi Debbie Israel, Rabbi Faith Joy Dantowitz and Imam Ilyas Anwar exemplify how we all should treat each other. Despite their differences, they have developed a deep friendship with each other. 

In answer to the Morgan Hill City Council’s plea, since the ICSC’s and ICA’s inception, we have been working on helping our congregations and the community at large to better understand each other and in return, our hope is that our communities will be able to see that we have more in common than we are different. 

There’s no better example of this than the love and friendship shared between our South County Jewish and Islamic leaders.

Mark D. Fullmer is Bishop of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Gilroy Ward. He is an active member of the Interfaith Clergy Alliance of South County.  Bishop Fullmer can be reached at [email protected].

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