Faiths Act Against Malaria
Malaria kills a child in Africa every thirty seconds. Pregnant women and children under five are at special risk. Over one million people every year are killed by malaria, and 90% of these deaths occur in Africa.
What gets me is that these deaths are entirely preventable. In America, we eradicated malaria more than 50 years ago, but today over 40 percent of the world's population is at risk. In Islam, to save a life is to save all lives. I hear this from my friends who are Buddhist, Jewish, Christian and Hindu, and my friends that don't believe in religion at all. Because we know that malaria is not just spread by mosquitoes, but by apathy. Right now, there are more than a few problems in the world that have no simple solution. Malaria is not one of them; it takes a simple bed net to help protect a child in Africa.
Saturday is World Malaria Day. It is a day to recognize the efforts around the world to eradicate deaths due to malaria, and a day to think about what more we can do. This is why today I am in Washington D.C. at the One World Against Malaria Summit, co-hosted by the Center for Interfaith Action on Global Poverty and the Office of the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy for Malaria.
What excites me the most about the program today is hearing from two young people who are stepping up as leaders in the interfaith movement to end deaths from malaria. These young people are two of thirty recently selected Faiths Act Fellows from Canada, the UK and the US in a program coordinated by my organization in collaboration with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. (For more on the Fellowship, visit http://faithsactfellows.org/). These young people are joining their peers in an unprecedented interfaith effort to combat malaria.
Let me give you just one example. Randa Kuziez, one of our new Fellows and an exceptional young woman, is currently the Vice-President of Muslim Students Association (MSA) National and on Malaria No More's Muslim Advisory Board. During Ramadan, many MSA's host fast-a-thons on campus - they collect the funds that people would have spent on food and donate them to a particular cause. Last year, Randa worked with the local Saint Louis University MSA to coordinate a fast-a-thon that mobilized over 400 students of many faiths to fast for a day, and raised over $1,000. This year, MSA National is helping to coordinate fundraising for bednets within the Muslim-American community by encouraging all 200 MSA's nationwide to donate these funds to purchasing bed nets.
The above is an instance of one faith community coming together around a common cause. Now imagine if many diverse faith communities around America joined forces to tackle malaria. What kind of change could an interfaith movement make? Throughout the next year, the Faiths Act Fellows will begin this work, raising a moral awareness about the devastating impact of malaria and the opportunities open to faith communities to work together to save millions of lives.
Young people are at the heart of this movement. They are taking the lead in ensuring that someday soon, dying from malaria will be a thing of the past--whether you live in Ohio or Malawi.
April 24, 2009; 10:06 AM ET
Religion & Leadership
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