An opportunity to break bread with government officials in charge of administering food policies remains one of Islamic Relief USA’s longest running annual rituals. On May 9, we were especially pleased to sponsor an iftar with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
It was the eighth consecutive year that IRUSA sponsored the annual USDA event and the 11th straight year the USDA haled the annual interfaith event. More than 100 people were in attendance, a cross section of faith leaders, representatives of elected officials, farmers, and friends and family of USDA and IRUSA staff.
Mike Beatty, acting director of the USDA Office of Partnership and Public Engagement, said he was really impressed with attendees’ level of dedication during Ramadan, particularly with their commitment to serving others. He said he was reminded of what his boss, USDA Secretary David Purdue, often says: “Do right and feed everyone.”
“We’re the people’s department. We serve you. Help us be better servants,” he said.
Fahmidda Chippa, an equal employment opportunity specialist with the USDA, described Ramadan as a time of spiritual reform.
“It’s a gift from God, which shouldn’t be taken for granted,” she said. “It is a time of self-control, spiritual reform, and connection with God. Without it, faith is meaningless.”
She added that the USDA iftar serves as the perfect opportunity to break bread with those “who bring food to the tables in our homes.”
Sharif Aly, chief executive officer at IRUSA, stressed the importance of acting out our beliefs, adding that simply believing in something is insufficient.
“It has to be actualized,” he said.
One of the main ways IRUSA does this is by feeding the needy. Partnering last year with Rise Against Hunger, IRUSA held food box pack-out events in 14 cities throughout the country, packing some 500,000 meals.
Also, in the past year, Islamic Relief USA awarded more than $800,000 in Silver Anniversary grants to organizations and other entities around the country focusing on cohesion, unity, and addressing major problems. Mr. Aly mentioned one grant focusing on battling opioid addiction.
He said the message behind the partnership, among many of the things IRUSA does, is a simple one: “We can’t do it alone.”
As the sun set a little before 8:15 PM, guests treated themselves to dates, the traditional food consumed by Muslims to break their fast. They then enjoyed some halal Chinese food while engaging in fellowship at their tables. Some also took the opportunity to do their evening prayers, made possible by the USDA setting up prayer rugs in the USDA room for press conferences.
By evening’s end, everyone was grateful for the warm hospitality and fellowship.
This post was submitted by Syed M. Hassan, public affairs specialist at IRUSA.