In September 2014, the GHR Foundation, the El-Hibri Foundation, and the Jewish Funders Network collectively invited several dozen funders from across the foundation world – including funders from Asia, Europe, and the Middle East – to examine the development of a new funders group focusing on interfaith matters. It was a first-of-its-kind meeting. Two dozen funders attended the inaugural gathering. Two dozen more expressed interest in the emerging group.
The group began to outline some of the things that might define how they would see their purpose of being together as they evolved. To begin with, they articulated an interest in taking time and care to learn about each other, to develop relationships thoughtfully, and to regularly examine alongside one another emerging insights for the field of interfaith relations that might stimulate their philanthropic thinking.
The funders wanted to know the same sorts of things most interfaith leaders want to know, like “who exactly are the ‘nones’ and ‘nons’ and why?” and “how can we reduce discrimination and conflict on the basis of faith?” They challenged themselves to start by looking at emerging research and asked, e.g. “what does it mean for imaging of Muslims and Islam that seventy percent of Americans have never met a Muslim and only a measly six percent have ever had a meaningful, regular relationship with one?”
Enjoying a wide array of faith-based and secular foundation representatives and individual donors, this new affinity group is a beacon of hope to the many who have long labored for more positive relations between people of differing faith perspectives. The funders understand that better philanthropic coordination and investment is one key building block towards interfaith cooperation becoming a public movement on a broad scale.