New York City
Speaking as part of a faith-based panel discussion at the United Nations on April 13, Sister Jean B. Bingham — the Church’s newly sustained Relief Society general president — expressed her hope that faith-based organizations “will all work together through small and simple means to accomplish extraordinary things.”
During the annual “Focus on Faith” briefing, sponsored by the U.N. Department of Public Information, Sister Bingham addressed the Church’s humanitarian efforts and expressed sincere appreciation to all who are engaged in the “challenging, but deeply rewarding, work” of relieving suffering throughout the world.
“Our role in this effort is critical,” said Sister Bingham. “We need to build bridges among faith-based organizations, understand each other’s work and cooperate more. We need to organize the time, talents and resources of faithful people who desire to help. We are united in a common commitment to care for those in need. While individually we can do great good, collectively we can accomplish so much more.”
Sister Bingham recently returned from a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) field visit to Uganda with Sister Sharon Eubank, a member of the Relief Society general presidency and director of LDS Charities, who also attended to the U.N. meeting in New York City.
During her remarks, Sister Bingham said, “I am honored to be here today to discuss the role of faith-based organizations in relieving suffering and building self-reliance among the peoples of the world — particularly those who are most vulnerable.”
She noted that she was participating in the meeting because of her role as general president of the Relief Society — the oldest and one of the largest women’s organizations in the world, with more than 7 million members across the globe.
“Since its origins 175 years ago, the purpose of the Relief Society has been to minister to the relief of the poor, the destitute, the widow and the orphan, and the exercise of all benevolent purposes. …
“In the very first meeting of the Relief Society, Emma Smith, the first Relief Society president, said, ‘We are going to do something extraordinary.’ And indeed, when you can mobilize 7 million women, each doing what they can according to their own time and resources, there is no limit to what they can achieve.”
Sister Bingham said she believes that every faith-based organization echoes that same sentiment.
“We all desire to ‘accomplish something extraordinary’ — and working together, we will. But let’s not forget that large, extraordinary achievements are generally made up of many small, seemingly insignificant contributions. Indeed, a notable passage in the Book of Mormon states that it is ‘by small and simple things are great things brought to pass’” (Alma 37:6).
Sister Bingham spoke on the exodus of the Mormon Pioneers to the West in the 1840s to flee persecution and the establishment of the Church’s global humanitarian work that was formalized in 1985 to respond to a famine in Eastern Africa. Since 1985, LDS Charities — the humanitarian arm of the Church — has provided $1.89 billion in assistance in 189 countries, according to Mormon Newsroom.
Sister Bingham emphasized, however, that were “LDS Charities left to do this work on our own, our impact would be limited. While beliefs may vary, we are united with other faiths in our commitment to a higher cause that transcends our personal interests and motivates us to give of our substance, our time and our energies on behalf of our fellow men and women.”
The LDS Church’s “small and simple efforts” are enhanced and multiplied by collaboration with hundreds of partners, both global and local, including all those also participating on the U.N. panel, she said.
Moderating the panel discussion, which focused on refugee and integration policy, was Caryl Stern, president and CEO of UNICEF USA. Sister Bingham was joined on the panel by Anwar Khan, CEO of Islamic Relief USA; Barbara Day, Domestic Resettlement Division Chief, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, U.S. State Department; The Rev. Canon E. Mark Stevenson, director, Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM); and Abdul Saboor, a refugee who was assisted by EMM.
“When we reach out to other faith-based organizations, there is a certain affinity — a shared language, a common motivation — that allows our resources to complement each other,” Sister Bingham said. “Our common purpose lends power to our work. Governments and UN agencies recognize it, and they rely heavily on faith-based organizations to extend the reach of their services.”
LDS Charities has assisted the nine U.S. federally authorized refugee resettlement agencies, including six faith-based organizations, Sister Bingham said.
“While we have provided furnishings, supplies and funding to assist with housing and other needs, they have had the personnel, the expertise and the organization to help refugees transition into their new homes and communities,” she said. “But perhaps what is as noteworthy as the material support is the personal outreach of the volunteers in helping refugees feel integrated and welcome. Locally, just across the Hudson River, a Latter-day Saint congregation in Jersey City decided to collaborate with UNICEF and Church World Service to open their homes and hearts to refugees in their community.”
On April 12, Sister Bingham and Sister Eubank attended a diplomatic women’s luncheon and spoke at a gathering of Latter-day Saints and invited guests in Newark, New Jersey.
In March, Sister Bingham and Sister Eubank traveled to the Bidi Bidi refugee resettlement center, one of the largest centers in the world. Refugees are arriving from South Sudan and surrounding African countries where there is civil unrest and drought. “Wherever I looked, I saw people reaching out to teach and comfort,” said Sister Bingham. “These are people who believe they can and must make a difference in the world around them; they are people who work together in order to magnify their individual efforts to bless the lives of others; in short, they are people of faith.”
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