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Sister Jean B. Bingham, the new general president of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke at the United Nations in New York City Thursday on the Church’s humanitarian efforts during a faith-based “Focus on Faith” panel discussion. The annual briefing was sponsored by the U.N. Department of Public Information.
“I am honored to be here today to discuss the role of faith-based organizations in relieving suffering and building capacity among the peoples of the world — particularly those who are most vulnerable,” said Sister Bingham, who leads the Church’s more than 7.1 million Mormon women. The Relief Society, founded 175 years ago, is also considered one of the oldest and largest women’s organizations in the world.
“I am grateful to be in the midst of so many friends who recognize the tremendous good that is achieved when people of faith come together,” said Sister Bingham. “It is my hope that we will all work together through small and simple means to accomplish extraordinary things.”
She recently returned from a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) field visit to Uganda with her first counselor, Sister Sharon Eubank, director of LDS Charities, who was also with her in New York. In March, the two women Church leaders 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.
Sister Bingham touched briefly 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 has provided $1.89 billion in assistance in 189 countries.
LDS Charities, the humanitarian arm of the Church, has assisted the nine U.S. federally authorized refugee resettlement agencies, including six faith-based organizations.
Sister Bingham said, “While our beliefs and convictions 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.”
Moderating the panel discussion 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; Rev. Canon E. Mark Stevenson, director, Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM); and Abdul Saboor, a refugee who was assisted by EMM.
“Sister Bingham is probably the highest ranking Church official who has ever come to address the U.N.,” added Sister Eubank. “To hear her speak with these panelists and reinforce each other’s work, it was just moving to me. I sat there in the audience, and I just had chills to think, ”That’s the Relief Society!'”
On Wednesday, the Relief Society leaders attended a diplomatic women’s luncheon and traveled across the Hudson River to speak at a gathering of Latter-day Saints and invited guests in Newark, New Jersey.
“Faith-based groups can create infrastructure quicker than governments,” said Sister Eubank.
The Church has worked with or supported UNICEF for more than 20 years. It has partnered with UNICEF to provide children with immunizations and education, and other needs around the world.
To listen to the panel discussion, visit webtv.un.org.