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By: Gary Henderson

What has faith to do with it?

June 20, 2017
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While in Mali, I participated in a fairly informal gathering of Religious Leaders to discuss at Round Table the role of the faith community in public health. This was hosted by USAID and promoted by the Muslim and Christian community of Mali. Just as a matter of information, Mali is 95% Muslim and only 3% Christian. I was not sure what really to expect as the outcome of this gathering, but I agreed to participate in faith.

We sat about seven tables of six to eight persons with both Christians and Muslims represented at each table with at least one person present in each configuration to serve as translator between French and English language. After a time of formal briefing as to process and the appropriate introductions, we began our rather free flowing conversation.

For the sake of this blog, I will simply share the conclusions reached at my table that also included Jewish representatives. The conclusions are as follows:

  • Health concern is an essential function for a religious leader and faith community
  • Tolerance is key to forward movement with health issues
  • Sacred Scriptures require that people of faith take action regarding health
  • Change happens because of religious community
  • The change that happens in religious community is rooted in scripture
  • The faith community must be willing to risk vulnerability especially as it relates to HIV/AIDS
  • The faith community must be open to new direction
  • In order for the faith community to communicate its message regarding health issues effectively, the message must be rooted in an understanding of scripture for the general population

We had difficulty concluding our conversations at table because they were quite lively and animated. Overall, I sensed that the participants found value and meaning in the interchange. As I listened to the Muslim and Christians members of the Malian community I could tell that this work together, related to child health, had served to strengthen their ties and relationships. I listened carefully to the theme of tolerance they stressed as they forged ahead in their work. It seems to me that they have discovered something beautiful in this process of shared work. I could hear the scriptural admonition in my spirit “to come and reason together.”


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