While the health care debate rages in the nation, Al-Shifa clinic has been quietly providing free health care to Minnesotans of all hues, religions, and backgrounds for the past 15 years. Al-Shifa, which means “to heal” in Arabic, is a program of the Islamic Center of Minnesota in Fridley. Founded in 1996, the Al-Shifa clinic has been providing a lifeline to many a Minnesotans who cannot afford health care or are not covered by health insurance.
Zarina Baber, the clinic’s founder and volunteer director, is a motivating force behind the success of this project. According to Ms. Baber, “service to humanity is a basic tenet of our values as Muslims. We feel privileged and blessed to be put in a position to contribute back to our society. It is a commitment we have made to the people in need. We hope to continue to make improvements in our services so we can sustain the clinic in the long run.”
The clinic is open on Sundays for just three hours. But, even in this small window, the clinic has served hundreds of patients of various backgrounds. The clinic is staffed by a total of 17 providers from various specialties, and 14 additional volunteers help in this effort. It has a six-member advisory board that strategizes on long-term vision and plans. The volunteer clinic director chairs the advisory board and oversees the operations of the clinic. A volunteer patient coordinator carries a cell phone 24x7 for patient access and appointment scheduling.
With Al-Shifa as a trail-blazer, more such efforts have been undertaken by the Minnesota Muslim community. The Rahma clinic, run by the Muslim Community Center in Bloomington, is yet another example of spreading goodness.
Much good can happen when over 200 physicians organize themselves to benefit the community. The recently established Muslim Physicians of Minnesota has as their mission “to promote and provide health care services, education, and advocacy for all people of Minnesota.” Stay tuned for more on this exciting organization.
Free health clinics like Al-Shifa provide a stark reminder that the higher calling for the human spirit can work wonders and help us rise above petty politics by dignifying human beings and recognizing their right to health care.
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Christianity and Islam are the two dominant religious groups in our world. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of Muslims worldwide will be "nearly as numerous as Christians" by 2050. The study also points to the interesting statistic that for the first time in history, the number of Christians and Muslims will be 2.9 billion and 2.8 billion respectively. In view of this, interfaith relations assume an added significance. Christians and Muslims have a duty to work toward peace and betterment of humanity through a shared framework. It is imperative that the mainstream leadership take an active role in promoting positive relations that are based on the universal principles of these two world religions.
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