Islamic Relief USA hosted its 5th Annual City of Alexandria Interfaith Ramadan Iftar at its headquarters on Wheeler Avenue on April 19.
The last in-person iftar was in 2019, as the Covid-19 pandemic prevented it from taking place the last two years. In addition to the city’s elected officials, other guests included members of the Police Department, Sheriff’s Office, the Fire Department, and local churches and faith groups
“We’re back here. We are with our friends,” remarked Sharif Aly, chief executive officer of Islamic Relief USA.
He talked about the importance we all have in making sure our brothers and sisters of all faith traditions don’t go hungry, citing a famous “hadith” or tradition from Prophet Muhammad.
“We’re committed to continuing supporting the city of Alexandria,” he said, citing the city’s multiculturalism and diversity and expansive social programs, including ones that deal with food security.
Aly added that Covid-19 served as a catalyst for Islamic Relief USA, as it partnered with some 240 organizations around the country to address food insecurity, poverty, and access to health care.
Now, the organization is helping recently arrived refugees adjust to life in the U.S.
Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson wished the estimated 70 guests Ramadan Kareem.
“We are pleased to be your home city,” Wilson said. “You are exporting our generosity.”
Wilson mentioned how the city and IRUSA share common values and goals, including the alleviation of poverty. He added that the city has gone beyond just simple tolerance, openly welcoming people from foreign nations.
He estimated that about a quarter of Alexandria’s population is from another country.
“I believe today, the city is one that embraces people of all walks of life,” Wilson said. “We want to answer people’s hate with love.”
Anwar Khan, president of IRUSA, said the organization continues to help people of all faiths, and even those without one.
He recalled his time visiting Ethiopia and Afghanistan, and how families had to severely ration their food in order for their young children to not go hungry.
“When we say diet, it means we have eaten too much. When they say diet, it usually means they don’t have enough to eat,” he said.
The organization continues to make strides in working with other faith-based organizations, like HIAS and Church World Service, to work on cases involving refugee populations
Rep. Don Beyer, a city resident, praised the organization and the community assembled in the room.
“We really do take care of each other,” he said.
He described poverty as “a political choice,” and praised members of Congress who passed vital legislation, such as the Child Tax Credit, which helped curb child poverty.
He added Congress has made progress, in that there are more Muslim lawmakers, currently at four.
“When I started, there were two.”
He praised IRUSA for coming up with innovative solutions to provide healing.
“You found a way to put love as the way for charity and compassion.”