From Serving to Solving in the Faith Community

Christina Tobias-Nahi is Director of Public Affairs at Islamic Relief USA.

The spiritual week of Eid Al-Adha was an action-oriented week for Muslims and other members of the Washington, D.C.-area faith community who work to combat hunger and poverty. Islamic Relief USA was honored to take part in numerous high-level engagements before the well-anticipated arrival of Pope Francis, to work with our counterparts to eradicate hunger and poverty. The goal: to move from merely serving the vulnerable to finding systemic solutions.

On the afternoon and evening of Sept. 21, Bread for the World Institute convened an Interfaith Religious Leaders Summit on Ending Hunger by 2030. More than 100 Christian faith leaders took part, along with Jewish and Muslim colleagues. The roundtable discussions focused on ways to engage our own communities and amplify the message of the pervasiveness of hunger, and what we can do together to address it. Bread for the World has asked all presidential candidates to make a short video answering the question, “What would you do as president to offer help and opportunity to hunger and poor people in the U.S. and around the world.” The videos (with no endorsement of any particular candidate) can be viewed here.

The next morning, participants from the summit held a press conference calling on the President and Congress to work together to make combatting hunger a national priority. A dozen of the faith leaders, including Islamic Relief USA CEO Anwar Khan, were invited to give remarks to the media. Khan spoke about the plight of the Syrian refugees.

Later that same day, IRUSA took part in a USAID conference called “Faith Works,” on faith communities partnering to work for peace, prosperity and development around the world. The message was that if we plan to change the world than it will take all of us, all faiths, working together.


The conference included a special focus on the UN’s newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to improve conditions of people all over the world.

At that conference, a major point we agreed upon was that dignity is the single most important value to work towards. And while we must help people in need, we must also address the root causes of poverty. “Faith is not just about you,” said Congressman Delaney of Maryland. “We are the stewards.”

Similarly, Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church reminded all, “The purpose of influence — is to speak up for others.” This echoes exactly the mission of Islamic Relief USA:

“To provide relief and development in a dignified manner regardless of gender, race, or religion, and work to empower individuals in their communities and give them a voice in the world.”
musical interlude in between speakers with a slide show highlighting those organizations in the room doing important work in the development space, including Islamic Relief USA.


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