MAZON President & CEO Moderates “Harnessing the Power of Interfaith Advocacy” Panel

Andrea Orozco
March 23, 2022

Last week, MAZON’s President and CEO Abby J. Leibman moderated a panel, Harnessing the Power of Interfaith Advocacy to End Hunger, at the 2022 National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference. Joined by Rev. Eugene Cho, President and CEO of Bread for the World, and Anwar Khan, President of Islamic Relief USA, they engaged in an important conversation about the specific role faith-based organizations have in anti-hunger work. 

During the panel, the three leaders analyzed what it means to be a faith-based organization working on an issue that impacts people of all backgrounds, the value of working together on an issue, and their strength as individual organizations. 

Ms. Leibman opened the conversation by discussing with the other panelists what it means to be an organization driven by faith values and how the populations that we serve go beyond just those of the same faith. Mr. Khan and Rev. Cho also spoke to their organizations’ missions to address hunger for all people and how our shared values call on us to do so.

The conversation also covered their advocacy work on Capitol Hill and meeting with Members of Congress. When working together and taking meetings as a faith-based collective, we can create a visible impact and frame the issue of hunger in a different light. Mr. Khan shared that as a representative of an Islamic organization, certain doors are closed to him without Ms. Leibman or Rev. Cho. Ms. Leibman took this opportunity to talk about how there is a collective responsibility to make sure that organizations of a different faith are not excluded from these important conversations. 

Ms. Leibman also asked tough questions about differences across the organizations and how staying steadfast in our individual beliefs and using certain faith-based language can cause divide. Rev. Cho acknowledged that just as we can harness strength by working together, there are other times when an organization’s ability to work individually on a common issue yields a different type of strength and resonates with other groups. Mr. Khan, to Ms. Leibman’s original point, also talked about the success he and IRUSA have had in leaving religion out of their conversations with Muslim Members of Congress and focusing on the real issues Americans are facing. In the context of interfaith advocacy, he also spoke to the fact that not every act and not every letter has to be interfaith — it’s important to consider our goals and evaluate the right approach for each situation. 

Ms. Leibman and the panelists closed the conversation by reflecting on the urgency to solve the problem of hunger and food insecurity and the shared moral argument for ending hunger that is present across all three of the faiths represented on the panel. In this vein, MAZON is inspired by our shared advocacy to achieve a more just world, and in the power we can harness by centering our faith-based values in the fight to end hunger.

The full conversation moderated by Ms. Leibman was originally broadcasted as part of the 2022 National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference co-sponsored by Food Research & Action Center and Feeding America.