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In Brief

Saturday, October 30, 2004; Page B09

Praying for the Youth

More than 2,000 people gathered at Washington National Cathedral on Thursday night for an interfaith service demanding that national leaders be held accountable for policies that do not do enough to help disadvantaged children. Organized by the nonprofit Children's Defense Fund, the service was intended to mobilize people to vote on Tuesday.

Through song, prayer and preaching, a broad array of religious leaders -- including Protestant, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jewish, Muslim and Bahai representatives -- stressed the theme of justice that is common to all faith traditions.

Fund President Marian Wright Edelman urged the audience "to come together and build a mighty movement to hold all of our leaders accountable. . . . Let us return home determined to do whatever we have to do, trusting God to transform our rich nation."

The concert choir of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts brought the crowd to its feet with its rendition of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Episcopal Bishop of Washington John Bryson Chane; the Rev. Walter J. Burghardt, a Jesuit theologian; Islamic educator Afeefa Syeed; and Rabbi Jack Moline were among the local leaders who spoke at the event.

The fund has registered more than 25,000 voters in the past two months, an official said, and Edelman has called this the "most important" election of her lifetime. The nonprofit group invited the Bush and Kerry campaigns to send representatives, but neither did so.

-- Caryle Murphy

Kidnappings Attacked

Six Muslim leaders from the Washington area yesterday condemned the taking of hostages in Iraq and demanded the release of all prisoners.

"Those who kidnap and murder civilians are violating Islamic norms and deserve to be repudiated by Muslims in America, in Iraq and throughout the Islamic world," the imams said in a statement read at a news conference at the offices of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based Muslim advocacy group.

The statement was read a second time in Arabic by Mohamad al Hanooti, a former imam of Dar Al Hijrah in Falls Church. Council officials said they intend to disseminate it widely in the Arabic press of the Middle East, where they hope it will have an impact despite the region's high level of anti-American sentiment.

"I think our message was very loud and clear to the kidnappers: That they are harming Islam by these actions [which] are counterproductive . . . and inhumane," said Nihad Awad, the council's executive director. The hostage takers, he added, "cannot quote one verse in the Koran" to justify what they are doing.

In addition to Hanooti, the imams included Abdul Fazal Nahidian, Mohamad El Sheikh, Faizul Khan, Mohamad Bashar Arafat and Daoud Nassimi.

More than 150 foreigners have been kidnapped this year in Iraq and about one-third of them have been killed, several by beheading.

-- Caryle Murphy

Self-Rule Granted

The 480,000-member Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America has been granted self-government by a synod in Antioch, Syria, the New Jersey-based archdiocese announced.

A new constitution provides that bishops will be nominated and elected by North Americans and then consecrated at the home cathedral in Damascus, Syria. The constitution will come up for formal ratification at the North American convention in July.

Unlike Roman Catholicism, which is headed by a pope with authority over all international divisions of the church, Orthodox Christianity places no single patriarch over the faith's 16 ethnically based branches. At the same time, most Orthodox dioceses in the Americas answer to a patriarch in the Middle East, Africa or Europe.

A movement in the 1.5-million-member Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has tried to win self-government from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Istanbul, which oversees the American church and whose leader is considered first among equals in Orthodoxy. But the movement has been unsuccessful.

-- Associated Press

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