Dr. Ali Haider understands the circulatory system more than most of us. He’s an eye doctor, after all, and that knowledge comes with the territory.

But when the physician brought up the topic of blood at a dinner party last fall, his idea had as much to do with theology as it did with biology.

Drawing from examples in Europe, Haider proposed a blood drive that various faith groups throughout the community could sponsor. Not only would donating help those medically in need of the vital fluid, but the ability of churches, mosques and other institutions to work peacefully together would demonstrate an always-needed sense of unity as well.

“Humanity is what ties us together, not being Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, anything like that,” Haider said. “We have different skin tones, different accents, different backgrounds. We can be black, white, brown, doesn’t matter, but we all have red blood. We all bleed red.”

Unfortunately, not many of us bleed for the Red Cross. According to the nonprofit organization, every 2 seconds a person in America needs blood, yet less than 38 percent of our population is eligible to give. Of that percentage, less than 10 percent donate each year. Increasing the number of donors will assist in relieving the stress on current supplies.

It just so happened that Christy Brown, a well-known philanthropist and co-founder of the Festival of Faiths, was hosting the dinner in which the good doctor put forth his idea. If there’s one person in all of Kentuckiana who can get things done, it’s Christy Brown. And so Haider, alongside members of the Center for Interfaith Relations, the organization that puts on the Festival of Faiths, began to make his dream a reality.

All that work pays off this week as five different organizations, including both Christian and Islamic houses of worship, partner in an interfaith blood drive that will coincide with the 23rd annual Festival of Faiths.

Halida Hatic, the Center for Interfaith Relation’s director of Community Relations and Development, felt the event complements the Festival of Faith’s motto “Many faiths. One heart. Common action.” By joining together, a critical yet basic need in the community can be met. Hatic even hopes that this event might persuade donors to give more frequently.

“Regardless of our political persuasion or religious persuasion, (blood) really is the thing we all share as humans,” Hatic said. “It’s also an action we can do, giving blood, that alleviates pain and suffering from one another.”

In addition to the different faith-based organizations hosting individual blood drives at their respective campuses, the churches and mosque also coordinated other institutions from within their religious traditions to come out and donate to the worthwhile cause.

“We have to celebrate our diversity. It is a gift. And with this event, it truly is a gift. Bringing together diverse populations to give blood diversifies the blood pool in a beautiful way, too,” Hatic said. “All of that is necessary and it reminds us that we truly are all one. We all bleed red.”

Christ Gospel Churches International, the only Southern Indiana religious organization taking part in the drive, is accustomed to diversity. With more than 2,000 churches across the world, most notably in the United States, India and Mexico, the Rev. Berniece Hicks and her congregation make inclusivity a priority, said Andrew Takami, the corporate secretary of Christ Gospel Churches International’s board of directors.

Likewise, faith must be more than church attendance alone.

“It makes a lot of sense not to just practice your faith in church or in your synagogue or house of worship, or mosque, but also through your actions,” Takami said. “Not just through your time, talent and treasure, but also through your deeds.”

If you’d like to give blood, Christ Gospel Church will host the drive at its 2614 E. 10th St., Jeffersonville campus from 2 to 7 p.m. this Friday, April 27. For more information on the other blood drive venues or to reserve a spot, visit the Festival of Faith’s website: www.festivaloffaiths.org/blood-drive.

— Amanda Hillard Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at adbeam47@aol.com.

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