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Philanthropy can play an important role for Iranian Diaspora

By Noosheen Hashemi, PARSA Community Foundation

Noosheen Hashemi

The global Iranian diaspora is four million strong with the largest population having settled in the United States over the last thirty years.  Heightened tensions and the war of words between the U.S. and Iran have cast a shadow of suspicion and blame on the Iranian-American population that is otherwise marked by exceptional academic and economic accomplishments. While the diaspora has also made remarkable contributions to philanthropic causes, it has fallen short of exploiting its full potential to act as a community. That is one reason why after well over a quarter-century, very few Americans are aware of the scope and breadth of our contributions to the economic and social fabric of American life.


This may be part of a lingering legacy of cynicism of politics on the part of Iranians, epitomized in the famous saying that "politics has neither a father nor a mother." This tendency may be traced back to the Iranians' bitterness about successive failures to institutionalize democracy over the past century or so. Hence the notion of pluralism and collective action still largely remains a stranger to many Iranians. To make matters worse, widely diverging political outlooks have many a time debarred Iranians from agreeing on a common cause. Philanthropy provides the path to remedy, because, as Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of the Council on Foundations, says "the philanthropic sector may be the only sector in society that can serve as an impartial convener and arbitrator. Philanthropy is the only meeting ground today where people with different opinions can come together and have a civilized conversation about how we can move forward together."


Fortunately, Iranians in the United States are beginning to grasp the importance of philanthropic success to seamlessly integrate and assimilate into their adopted home. Following in the footsteps of other diaspora groups who've come before it, the Persian community is taking on mainstream philanthropy as a sure way of generating goodwill on the local and national stage, while building civil society in its local communities. In the words of Sally Osberg, "philanthropy is important to the health of a vibrant democracy. Philanthropy should be part of the development and exchange of ideas."


The facilitation of such an exchange of ideas is one of PARSA CF's main goals. For this reason we were very honored to be able to bring the ideas of two outstanding philanthropists into public focus by presenting our first annual Philanthropist of the Year and Volunteerism in Action awards to Ali Saberioon and Simone Otus-Coxe at PARSA CF's inaugural gala in October 2007.


As this year draws to a close, we are filled with the energy from the exchange of ideas that our work over the past two years at PARSA CF has generated and we look forward to more collaboration in the coming year.

... Payvand News - 11/30/07 ... --

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