InterAction Assembles at Zakat Foundation of America HQ for ‘Together Project’ Conference
Members of InterAction, an alliance of more than 180 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), gathered at Zakat Foundation of America headquarters for a two-day conference to discuss the Together Project. The project is designed to create a hub of advocacy and solidarity for U.S.-based NGOs that provide necessary development and humanitarian relief around the world but confront discrimination or targeted regulations in the U.S. due to their operating principles or religious faith.
The meeting, which featured CEOs from major American Muslim NGOs, included discussion of the impact civic spaces have on community communication and how having such spaces helps overcome divide to improve society for the masses. Civic spaces allow people from different backgrounds to get involved, giving a voice to the community so it may represent itself — and so the underrepresented are heard — and resolve conflicts through communication and change.
In many ways, InterAction reflects America’s diversity, said InterAction CEO Sam Worthington on the first day of the conference.
“All types of people, backgrounds, faiths come together with the belief they can make a difference in the lives of others,” Worthington said. “InterAction is the platform that we use to learn to support each other and do our work better.”
Executives — from Syrian American Medical Society; Islamic Relief USA; United Muslim Relief; Helping Hand for Relief and Development; Mercy Without Limits; and the Islamic Medical Association of North America — discussed the issues their organizations face globally and at home in the United States, including limited financial access and physical access that restrict humanitarian work.
“We have people in this country ready to give and help around the world,” said Zakat Foundation Executive Director Halil Demir. “We have organizations like InterAction to provide that service, but we all face very serious financial challenges.”
These challenges cannot be overcome without civic spaces, policy change, and an understanding that finances dictate the extent of humanitarian aid provided in emergency and disaster relief cases, as well as in development programs and the general principle of giving charity.
“Our challenge going forward is to constantly remind governments why we exist, why this is is a human right to provide, why all individuals observe humanitarian interventions and engagement and no matter what the politics involves, there’s always the side of human decency,” Worthington said. “We cannot simply descend and return to a situation where we look at just national interests and lose our own humanity. Our challenge is to make that clear to all governments.”