As Islamic Relief USA honored partners Oct. 14, IRUSA donors’ work received high-level praise.
USAID Administrator Gayle Smith said, “I will leave here tonight pledging to you that I will do best to make sure more Americans know what you’re doing around the country.”
IRUSA hosted its first Partnership Gala in Washington, D.C., to thank organizations that work together to serve those in need, including USAID, the U.S. Agency for International Development.
IRUSA presented an award to J. Mark Brinkmoeller, director of USAID’s Center for Faith-based and Community Initiatives. IRUSA has worked with Brinkmoeller to connect with other faith-based groups for humanitarian work. One result of this work was interfaith work on peacebuilding in the Central African Republic. IRUSA CEO Anwar Khan thanked all of the partners for their support to alleviate suffering together.
Zaki Barzinji, senior associate director of public engagement for the White House, spoke at the event on behalf of President Obama. Barzinji said IRUSA’s work — from disaster response here in the United States to international humanitarian aid — demonstrate what Islam is all about and what Muslims contribute to this society.
Arsalan Suleman, U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, spoke as well. “IRUSA now regularly is among the first to respond to disasters in the USA,” he said, also citing IRUSA’s international work and peace-building efforts. “…These relationships, the deep bonds of trust, and shared values make them vital partners in bringing peace.”
The evening was a celebration of the partnerships that have brought government agencies, faith-based organizations, and international humanitarian relief and development organizations together; however, the reality of what is going on in the world is not a celebration but rather a real challenge that all in the room were committed to overcome. That challenge was highlighted by IRUSA’s Creative Director, Ridwan Adhami who took the crowd on a photographic journey through “Scars and Smiles” — a collection of stories and images he gathered while observing the programs IRUSA provides to those in need.
CEO Anwar Khan shared memories and stories of how IRUSA has engaged with partners over the past years, emphasizing that relationships should not be transactional but rather transformational.
Finally, USAID’s Gayle Smith thanked IRUSA and stood in support of the Muslim community and the impact of its work across the globe.
“Islam is based on the same basic principles you can find at the roots of every other major religion,” she said. “Be kind. Do good. Love your neighbor. Care for others. … We really, really need each other.”
She called on the group to show the world that together, we are united in our resolve to relieve suffering. “There are problems to solve, there’s peace to make, and there are rifts to heal,” she said.