In its first virtual annual meeting and luncheon, the Detroit Interfaith Leadership Council welcomed Najah Bazzy, a critical care nurse, CNN Hero and CEO and founder of Zaman International to deliver the keynote address and kick off the organizational focus and theme for the year: Hate Has No Home Where Love Abides.
“Between the pandemic of Coronavirus and the pandemic of racial inequality, this year has hit us with a lot of reckoning,” said IFLC President Raman Singh. She said IFLC’s strategic plan reflects this reality of raising awareness of the social and racial inequities in our society during a pandemic and a divisive election year. “IFLC will continue to move forward, thinking of ways to keep people connected even though we need to remain physically isolated. It is now more important than ever to maintain connections with our faith and interfaith communities. These are people with whom we can find common values. Often, our faith communities serve as our extended family.”
Before Bazzy’s keynote, IFLC board members briefed about 65 attendees on the Zoom about the organization’s accomplishments in the past year. Particularly, IFLC worked to expand efforts in developing programs that meet at the intersection of faith and healthcare. It partnered with several healthcare organizations to offer online and pre-pandemic in-person seminars on faith-based nursing practices and how different faiths address end-of-life care options and organ donation. There is also an ongoing effort to reach out to clergy to participate in a year-long Diabetes Prevention Program.
IFLC Chair Stancy Adams said such programs would not be possible without partnerships and funding from corporations and organizations such as DTE, Henry Ford Health System, and The Nissan Foundation. In the coming year, Adams said IFLC looks forward to partnering with more organizations and foundations for both financial support as well as supporting other organizations with similar missions.
IFLC Vice Chairman Robert Bruttell introduced Bazzy as a “friend and a spiritual mentor.”
“The words healer and humanitarian just do not put enough emphasis on all that she does,” said Bruttell. “She has shown many just how to undertake intercultural and interfaith work. This is something she has performed all her life, starting when she was at her mother’s side. As a nurse, she has shown that working in the healing profession, one can transcend barriers and differences. This has been her life’s work.”
Najah gave her keynote in a quiet spot from a local hospital where she was tending to her brother who was recovering from surgery from the previous day. Giving her praise to all the front-line workers in the face of this pandemic, she said her stay with her brother in the hospital was just another reminder of how her fellow healthcare professionals push all inequities to the side and just do the work of their life-saving efforts.
“We have a long way to go in healthcare, in balancing out inequities and getting access to healthcare to all. But you can see the goodness in the efforts of our front line healthcare workers.”
Bazzy, who in 2004 founded the humanitarian organization Zaman International, based in Inkster, said all faith backgrounds have a starting point of love in acknowledging God, but the entrances may be different depending on one’s faith.
“If the starting point is the acknowledgment of this Lord, we all enter from different places. Perhaps for you, that entry point is a prayer, or your religious studies, or a significant event in your life. Whatever that point of entry is to become an agent of love, we must look back at that starting point and examine how we have evolved since then.”
Bazzy said the Detroit race riots of 1967, which she bore witness as a child of seven, greatly shaped her identity, her life goals, and her lifelong commitment to racial and social equity.
“I saw my cousins being clubbed for breaking curfew,” Bazzy said. “Seeing that violence as a child made me committed to the idea of racial inequity. But in that violence, I became bound to the great Originator, who makes no mistakes, who created all the nations and tribes of this earth to know one another.”
Bazzy’s keynote left IFLC board members and the interfaith community with two key questions, which we invite you to ponder and respond by leaving us a comment or dropping us a response to firstname.lastname@example.org:
How is inequality and discrimination on the basis of color an interfaith and religious issue?
How does interfaith work support resilience in light of recent events?
We look forward to your responses as we continue to cope and find resilience in these historic times.