Islamic Relief USA (IR USA) joined international leaders and convened with local stakeholders of government, NGOs, and faith communities for the “Leadership Consultation for Faith, Health and Development” event on Nov. 23 at the Washington National Cathedral and Nov. 24 at the White House. IR USA CEO spoke at both of these events, where a new report titled “Many Faiths, Common Action: Increasing the Impact of the Faith Sector on Health and Development: A Strategic Framework for Action” was launched.

This event came on the heels of IR USA’s participation in “Breakthrough Summit,” led by the Women, Faith and Development Alliance and spearheaded by then Secretary of State Madeline Albright in 2008 at the Washington National Cathedral. One important development from that summit was the subsequent creation of the Center for Interfaith Action on Global Poverty.

IR USA aided in planning the two-day “Leadership Consultation,” which was organized by the Center for Interfaith Action on Global Poverty (CIFA). The first day’s events focused on the engagement of the faith community to promote existing interfaith work in the developing world while also addressing the critical gap for additional resources, technical assistance and sustainability of projects.

Those attending the event also agreed that health issues should not only be the domain of the medical profession but should constitute overall well-being, including food, water, sanitation, environmental stewardship and protection from violence — as individuals only become ill when the societies in which they reside fall ill. Many attending the event said that religion should be used for inspiration and not for division. In the evening, an interfaith service was held, and IR USA’s Naaem Muhammad presented the Muslim call to prayer. The group then met Indonesian Ambassador Dr. Dino Patti Djalal for dinner and heard his remarks on the need for moderation and tolerance.

The discussion was continued at the White House the next morning with representatives from many of the Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership offices as well the Department of State, National Security Council and various government agencies, where an emphasis was made on the need for better monitoring and evaluation of the outcomes of overseas programs overseas rather than inputs. For example, instead of evaluating how many bed nets are distributed, programs should be assessed for how many lives are saved.

Finally, newly appointed Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development Dr. Rajiv Shah addressed the attendees and called upon everyone to become development partners working toward the same common goal. Jan Henningson, senior advisor at the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and member of the Swedish Foreign Ministry, quoted the Qu’ran, saying “Compete [only] with each other in good deeds.”

To view or download the report, Many Faiths, Common Action: Increasing the Impact of the Faith Sector on Health and Development – A Strategic Framework for Action, click here.

– Christina Tobias-Nahi, Director of Public Affairs, Islamic Relief USA