Faith Leaders Appeal to Obama to 'Finish the Job' in Ending Malaria

WASHINGTON – A broad group of influential faith leaders has made an appeal to President Barack Obama to increase commitments to ending malaria, stressing the essential role the United States plays.

And while the global financial crisis demands attention, the diverse group is urging the president to press on the significant gains they have already made in the malaria battle throughout much of Africa and to "finish the job."

"Fighting malaria is a national investment with clear results and demonstrable returns," the faith leaders state in a letter dated Friday. "We urge our government – both the executive branch and Congress – to maintain and increase its commitments to ending malaria and to urge the G-8 to continue to make malaria an international priority."

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"We also hope, Mr. President that your distinguished Faith Council will adopt the fight against malaria as a major emphasis, acting as a constant reminder within our government of the priority of this issue."

The letter was presented to Joshua Dubois, who leads the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, on Friday.

Dubois gladly received the letter and reiterated that interfaith dialogue and cooperation is one of the faith-based office's four priorities.

"This is unprecedented what you all have been able to do to bring folks together across religious lines, cultural lines, and geographic lines," Dubois said during the launch of the One World Against Malaria campaign.

The signatories of the letter include Richard Sterns of World Vision, Rabbi David Saperstein of Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton of the United Methodist Church, and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of Cordoba Initiative, among others and more are being added.

Earlier on Friday, Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, vowed that the United States will lead its world partners in the malaria battle.

"President Obama is committed to making the United States a global leader in ending deaths from malaria by 2015," Rice said.

"Malaria makes no distinctions between Muslim, Christian and other children in Africa. And an effective response requires the cooperation of all faiths," the letter reads.

As many faith leaders highlighted that day at the launch of the interfaith campaign, churches and mosques often exist where clinics don't and have a large following. They thus can serve as a major distribution point for bed nets, which help prevent malaria transmission.

"Interfaith dialogue is important. But it is often interfaith action that leads to healing and understanding," the letter states. "And we are determined to act on malaria."

On the Web: To view the letter, visit

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