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J. Gray: Address to Interreligious Leadership Conference 2017

Address to Interreligious Leadership Conference 2017
Seoul, Korea, November 10 to 14, 2017


Good Morning,

On behalf of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s administration, I am Jennifer Gray, director of interfaith outreach for the state of Maryland, Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives. Our offices in Maryland are approximately a 45 minute drive from downtown Washington, D.C.

It is my pleasure to attend this conference in Seoul, Korea.

Today, I am happy to speak to you about my role as interfaith director in Maryland.

The Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives serves as the coordinating office for the governor that connects Marylanders to economic, volunteer and human service opportunities through government, business, and nonprofit partners.

My office is part of a larger network called the Governor’s Coordinating Offices. Together with the other Governor’s offices of Performance Improvement; Crime Control & Prevention; Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs; Deaf and Hard of Hearing; and Children, we make up the Governor’s Coordinating Offices.

The Governor’s Coordinating Offices work collaboratively to address issues of interest to Maryland citizens to help make Maryland a better place to live, work, and play.

The theme for this conference is “Addressing the Critical Challenges of Our Time.”

For each of us, there is an issue that impacts our home country or community that is important to us. Some of the issues I focus on in Maryland are domestic violence, opioid and heroin addiction, vulnerabilities in faith communities and many more. These issues affect people of all walks of life, faiths, cultures and economic status.

Some important questions we must ask when addressing these issues are:

How can we, as faith leaders, help to bring about awareness and resolution of these issues in the community we serve? And,

what role and responsibilities do religious leaders and faith-based organizations have to the community?

During the past few years, the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives has collaborated with faith leaders and organizations to host dialogues, conferences and seminars to educate and share resources with faith leaders so that they are equipped to help members of their communities affected by these issues.

Even though we have addressed many of the critical issues affecting our communities, there is still more work to be done. We know from experience that faith leaders have a moral imperative to help those in need or suffering, and often faith leaders are the first to know, and are on the front lines of defending those suffering.

So, how can we bring about the change we need? Religious values are deeply intertwined with the fabric of our daily lives, and every faith organization plays a major role in our communities. It is the responsibility of faith leaders to help improve the human condition. As faith leaders, we are called upon to find creative ways to reach out to those who are suffering.

In order for us to eliminate the issues affecting people around us, we have to get out of our silos. Although we may not have all the resources we need to assist our communities to make a difference, we must collaborate and reach out to other faith organizations to address these important issues.

There should be open and constructive discussions among different religions and faiths about addressing issues that may lead to violence or crime, because what affects one home will affect one block, then one neighborhood, community, town, city and state, and then the nation.

To help better our world, we must join forces as faith leaders and start from the base, beginning with our children. We must work together to help victims of physical, emotional, economic, social and mental abuse and address hunger, human trafficking, drugs and the many other issues that impact the daily lives of children in need.

We should strengthen the capacity of our faith leaders to engage youth who are at risk of radicalization, and we must tailor our messages and interventions to the religious values of communities.

In this way, we can build trust with our youth and reclaim peace, family values and stability for our communities in the future.

Thank you for joining with me in this difficult task. I look forward to hearing from you regarding your own creative ideas on reaching across our communities.


To go to the Interreligious Leadership Conference Schedule 2017, click here.