In his first public appearance following a health setback, Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA) President Anwar Khan spoke at the organization’s 2nd Annual Partnership Gala, stressing the importance of friends and partners to overcome obstacles and make progress.
It was an intimate revelation that tied in nicely with the disaster response theme of this year’s gala, which took place on December 7 at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill. It is the organization’s yearly tradition of giving thanks to fellow nongovernmental and faith groups that assisted IRUSA with various projects or endeavors.
In his remarks, Khan recalled that despite being admitted to one of the finest heart disease hospitals in the United Kingdom, he was told he had only a 10 percent chance of survival from the cardiac arrest he suffered. Nonetheless, the odds were on his side and he gratefully acknowledged that he felt very blessed.
“I’m back here because I ain’t done yet,” he said to applause. “Thank you for all the prayers.”
The gala attracted about 170 people from various groups. One particular faith-based organization, the United Methodist North Carolina Conference, had several of its members in attendance, as they worked closely with IRUSA’s Disaster Response Team over the past year to help rebuild houses in the North Carolina towns like Tarboro and Princeville, both of which saw several residences upended by Hurricane Matthew. Hope Ward, bishop of the North Carolina contingent, also spoke at the event, along with representatives from the federal Justice Department and FEMA.
Another special guest, via video, was longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), whose faith group, the Latter-day Saints, has had a long-standing relationship with IRUSA. He praised the organization and its partners for their impactful work.
“It is our responsibility to help those in need, working to solve complex problems,” Hatch said. “America is stronger (because of the work of interfaith groups).”
Khan stressed that working together is beneficial for all involved.
“We could not do what we do without you,” he said.
Khan added that the need to work together is more crucial now, given the increasing demands for aid and services around the world to help fight poverty, hunger, homelessness, among other societal ills. The organizations’ roles and importance have only grown, he said. IRUSA, which Khan has been closely involved in since its founding in 1993, will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year, a testament to its durability.
“God has not forgotten us,” Khan said.
He also expressed gratitude for all the groups and people who defended Muslims and the various organizations that advocated for them in the past year. He added it was particularly challenging in the aftermath of the so-called “travel ban” that greatly restricted entry for individuals to the United States who come from several predominantly Muslim nations.
“Thank you so much for speaking up. Let us never take religious freedom for granted. ”
April D. Wood, a board member of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters, which works closely with IRUSA, accepted this year’s trailblazer award on behalf of the American Red Cross, where she works as a senior director.
“We are so humbled to be here, to receive this recognition. We could not do this without you.”