Interfaith leaders confirm pledge to help Rwandans


On the first anniversary of the plane crash in Rwanda that set off genocide in central Africa, leaders of Protestant, Jewish and Roman Catholic agencies renewed their commitments yesterday to collaborating on foreign assistance.

Addressing the board of Interfaith Hunger Appeal, an umbrella group meeting at the West Fayette Street headquarters of Catholic Relief Services, Cardinal William H. Keeler said the public responds to calls for help when "we stand together."

The African war, which intensified after the plane crash that killed the presidents of Rwanda and neighboring Burundi, has left ethnic hatreds, poverty and the suffering of 2 million refugees largely unabated.

But a glimmer of hope was kept alive at the meeting yesterday. Thomas N. Dart of Catholic Relief Services, a member of Interfaith Hunger Appeal's board, said the "unique partnership" of Jews and Christians means many Rwandan farmers will receive the help they need "to plant for the next season."

With offices in New York and an annual budget of about $800,000, Interfaith Hunger Appeal facilitates joint efforts by Catholic Relief Services; Church World Service, the agency based in Elkhart, Ind., that is supported by the Orthodox and Protestant members of the National Council of Churches; and Lutheran World Relief and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, both with headquarters in New York.

At the meeting, Kenneth Hackett, director of the Catholic agency, succeeded Donald M. Robinson of the Jewish group as president of Interfaith Hunger Appeal.

An afternoon Mass at the offices of Catholic Relief Services recalled the start of the bloody conflict that killed 12 Rwandan employees and associates of the agency. Its Baltimore staff prayed for peace.

& Information: 625-2220.

Bonhoeffer remembered

Protestant, Roman Catholic and Jewish clergy will lead interfaith services in downtown Baltimore Sunday marking the 50th anniversary of the death of Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer at the hands of the Nazis.

The observance will begin at 3 p.m. at the Holocaust MemorialGay and Water streets, where participants will include Lutheran Bishop George Paul Mocko of the Delaware-Maryland Synod; the Rev. H. J. Siegfried Otto, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church; and Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop John H. Ricard of the Baltimore archdiocese.

Also, the Rev. John Ewing Roberts, pastor of Woodbrook Baptist Church and president of the Alliance of Baptists; the Rev. David B. Kaplan, pastor of St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Dundalk; and Rabbi Gustav Buchdahl of Baltimore County's Temple Emanuel.

After a silent Palm Sunday procession to Zion Church, Gay and Lexington streets, additional clergy and congregational representatives will take part in a service commemorating Dietrich Bonhoeffer's life and writings. Described as "a modern Christian martyr," the Lutheran pastor, 39, was hanged by the Nazis April 9, 1945, for his role in the plot to assassinate Hitler and end the persecution of the Jews.

Participants at the church will include Rabbi David Z. Ben-Ami of the American Forum for Jewish-Christian Cooperation in Harrisburg, Pa.; the Rev. N. Ellsworth Bunce and the Rev. L. Carroll Yingling of the United Methodist Church; Bishop Naomi C. DuRant of New Refuge Deliverance Cathedral; the Rev. Thomas L. Culbertson of Emmanuel Episcopal Church; and Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland.

Three choirs will provide the music for the service, co-sponsored Baltimore's McKendree School of Religion and the Central Maryland Ecumenical Council.

& Information: 727-3939.

Pastor honored

The Rev. Walter S. Thomas was feted at a dinner last night at downtown Baltimore's Omni International Hotel, celebrating his 20th year as pastor of New Psalmist Baptist Church, Franklin and Cathedral streets. The guest speaker was African Methodist Episcopal Bishop John R. Bryant.

Worship services marking Dr. Thomas' anniversary will be held at the church Sunday at 8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

& Information: 837-4616.

Lenten program

A retreat will begin at 7 p.m. today and continue from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. tomorrow at Babcock Presbyterian Church, 8240 Loch Raven Blvd., Towson.

& Information: 825-3314.

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