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8 Religious Charities to Donate to in 2017

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Wanting to make a difference but not sure where to start? Me too. That's why I decided to comb through hundreds and hundreds of charities to find those that are making the most difference in our world today -- and then I hopped on their bandwagons! With the help of charitynavigator.org I have done my best to compile a list of the best organizations that are backed by religious groups or that promote interfaith peace. My criteria for "best" includes: efficient use of funds (with 80-95% going towards programs), transparency and (of course) proof that their work is effective and positive. There are many, many wonderful charities and programs out there and this is just a starting point. If there's an organization you're especially fond of but that I didn't mention, please comment below! • • • 1. United Religions Initiative (URI) United Religions Initiative is all about circles. They not only work in a number of issue circles (from human rights to arts advocacy to interfaith dialogue) but they also rely entirely on what they call “Cooperation Circles.” These Cooperation Circles are “independently organized, self-governing, and self-funding” and exist all around the world (there are currently 824 of them) “build[ing] cooperation among people of all faiths and traditions to address the most pressing issues facing their collective communities.” “The purpose of the United Religions Initiative is to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence and to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings” (quotes taken from URI's site). Find out how to contribute or start your own Cooperation Circle at http://www.uri.org/ And be sure to check out their 4/4 review on Charity Navigator! https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid;=6331 2. Tanenbaum: Combating Religious Prejudice Since 1992, the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding has worked to fulfill the vision of the late Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, otherwise known as “the human rights Rabbi.” The Center promotes mutual understand and respect through educational programs in various sectors of life. As their mission states, they “are a secular, non-sectarian nonprofit that promotes mutual respect with practical programs that bridge religious difference and combat prejudice in schools, workplaces, health care settings and areas of armed conflict.” Learn more about the Center, their work, and the inspiring “human rights Rabbi” and find out how you can help at: https://tanenbaum.org/ And here’s their review on Charity Navigator: https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid;=11420 3. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service "Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is the second largest refugee resettlement agency in the United States. It is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating with refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. Through more than 75 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America." (From LIRS's OnFaith profile). To learn more about them, visit http://lirs.org/ And to read about their reaction to Trump’s immigration policies, check out their OnFaith article here https://www.onfaith.co/member/lservice 4. Bright Hope International Bright Hope International harnesses the power of the worldwide Christian Church network to bring aid to those living on less than $1 per day. The U.S.-based nonprofit partners with local churches in countries like Haiti, Uganda, and Bolivia to give families the help they need for today, tomorrow, and eternity. With 91% of Bright Hope’s 2016 revenue going to directly support their programs, it’s no wonder they got a 4/4 rating on Charity Navigator. Learn more about Bright Hope and how you can help at http://www.brighthope.org/ 5. Joni and Friends Joni and Friends seek to empower those with disabilities by sharing the message of Christ with them and connecting them with roles in church communities nationwide. They are an evangelical group who is driven by the Gospel of Luke 14: “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind and you will be blessed...make them come in so my house will be full.” In addition to directly helping those with disabilities, they also aim to create greater and more compassionate understanding of disabilities and those who are differently abled than most. Learn more about them by checking out their website: http://www.joniandfriends.org/about-us/ And take a look at their 4/4 Charity Navigator rating here https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid;=3918 6. American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee was built on the foundational Jewish value of “Tzedakah”: charity and the obligation that each Jewish person has to regularly give to those in need. The group operates in 70 countries worldwide, working to “alleviate hunger and hardship, rescue Jews in danger, create lasting connections to Jewish life, and provide immediate relief and long-term development support for victims of natural and manmade disasters” (JDC Vision Statement). Find out how you can help here: http://www.jdc.org/ https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid;=3268 7. Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA) Islamic Relief USA is a far-reaching muslim organization that “provides relief and development in a dignified manner regardless of gender, race, or religion, and works to empower individuals in their communities and give them a voice in the world” (IRUSA Mission Statement). IRUSA works abroad in countries like Syria and Indonesia, but also at home in the United States confronting issues ranging from refugee aid to women’s rights to education and beyond. They have great feedback from volunteers and those who have received aid, too -- check out Charity Navigator’s 4/4 review of them here: https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid;=3908 Learn more about their work and donate here: http://irusa.org/ 8. Tzu Chi: Tzu Chi began in 1966 when a group of 30 Taiwanese women responded to the teaching of a Buddhist nun by committing to save just a couple cents each day to give to charity. 51 years later Tzu Chi (“Compassionate Relief”) is the largest Buddhist charity organization, with offices in 47 countries, working to give aid to those who need it most. In America, Tzu Chi works on countless projects, such as offering free medical screenings to illegal immigrants, responding to natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, and feeding and offering shelter to the homeless. Learn more about Tzu Chi and all the work they do at home and abroad: http://www.tzuchi.us/lovesaves/