Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA) hosted the 3rd Annual City of Alexandria Interfaith Ramadan Dinner at its Wheeler Avenue headquarters on Wednesday, May 29.
Mayor Justin Wilson and City Council members were in attendance. They were joined by several other city officials from the police, fire, and emergency management departments, along with the city administration.
The event served as a way for IRUSA to show its appreciation to the local community. IRUSA has operated its headquarters in Alexandria for over a decade.
"We are honored to host Islamic Relief USA," Wilson said in his remarks.
Wilson mentioned IRUSA's major goals, which he said are similar to the ones he and city officials tackle daily: elimination of poverty, elimination of hunger, expanding gender equity, meaningful action on climate change, and developing partnerships.
"In these goals, it's all the more fitting that Islamic Relief is here in the city of Alexandria," Wilson said. "These efforts are directly aligned with the important work we do … In each of these areas, IRUSA — around the nation, around the planet — is amplifying the values of this community, the community of Alexandria, and so we thank you for that."
He added that the city goes a long way to make sure Muslims, among others, feel accepted.
"Far beyond just simply the test of tolerance, we celebrate the contributions of our Muslim sisters and brothers in our community," Wilson said. "We celebrate with you tonight and then tomorrow, we wake up and get back to the important work together. I thank you so much for having such a meaningful observance."
Also attending were several members of local houses of worship, non-governmental organizations, advocacy groups, and the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce. The iftar meal was catered by local businesses.
"We are honored and grateful to have such a great partnership," said Sharif Aly, CEO of Islamic Relief USA. "Everyone has a role to play in society to make this a greater community. We hope to continue partnering with you."
State Sen. George Barker (D-39), whose district includes Alexandria, said Northern Virginia has become much more diverse since he moved to the region in 1975.
"We have the best of everything here," he said. Regarding diversity, Barker said the community has "embraced it rather than struggle with it."
Shelly Murphy, CEO and president of the Wesley Housing Development Corporation, which works in the city to provide affordable housing, said she is grateful for the partnership with IRUSA that started eight years ago. IRUSA helps provide food to residents who would normally not have access to it.
"For us to have that supplement is very powerful," she said.
Anwar Khan, president of IRUSA, also said it was an honor to host city officials, adding that the organization has an "Islamic responsibility" to look out for its neighbors. Khan also serves on a committee for the city police department.
"We are driven by compassion," he said. Khan said the organization has strived to empower individuals to shape their own destiny, rather than fostering dependency.
He added that when the organization faced instances of discrimination, it was Alexandrians who stepped up to protect the organization.
"It is about passing love," Khan said. "We saw love from the people of Alexandria. We saw more love than we've ever seen before."
In the end, he requested prayers for the victims of recent tragedies, such as the ones in Sri Lanka, various synagogues, and New Zealand, which impacted individuals of various faiths, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
"Thank you for showing some love tonight."