This past weekend was the annual Islamic Society of North America conference, the largest Islamic convention in North America which gathers 40,000 Muslims all over the U.S. and Canada. During a government roundtable session with senior leadership from the community, one community member remarked, “It is great to see the diverse representation from various federal agencies here; it shows a maturing of the relationship between our community and the government.” I was joined at this session with colleagues from the Centers for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education, both of whom who had a chance to speak to the community about their respective programs.
Over the weekend, we held a special session on how to partner with USAID where I had the opportunity to speak about the role of the Center for Faith-based and Community Initiatives at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as well as some of the ways that smaller NGOs and faith-based organizations can work together with USAID to achieve positive development outcomes around the world. Check out a useful guide with detailed information on how to partner can be found.
I had the opportunity to participate on a panel encouraging Muslims to work in public service. I spoke about my own personal journey to public service, and emphasized the importance of working together to harness all of our talents for the common good. I highlighted the unique assets that this community has when engaging different regions of the world. These assets include local knowledge, established credibility, and connections to organizations and individuals in local communities where USAID works. This is particularly important because local ownership and local solutions is a key priority for our Agency. I was also joined on this panel by the Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Education, Brenda Girton-Mitchell.
Overall, I was reminded how important it is for us to listen and learn from the valuable perspective of this community because when we harness the talents of Americans from every community, we can do the most to help those in need move from poverty to prosperity.
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Zeenat Rahman is Deputy Director for the Center for Faith-based and Community Initiatives at the Agency for International Development.