Several religious and service groups in Southern Maryland have joined the international outpouring of money and prayers for the thousands of earthquake victims in Turkey.
Mosques and churches from Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties have passed around collection plates and gathered donations to national relief groups to assist the families of the 12,000 or more who died and 33,000 injured in the quake that ravaged northwestern Turkey on Aug. 17.
Many of this area's 1,000 or more Muslims said they were devastated by news of the deadly temblor that has strained resources in the predominantly Islamic Turkey. Giving alms to the needy is one of the five tenets of Islam, making outreach to the Turks imperative for local Muslims.
But the quake follows shortly after the refugee crisis in Kosovo, where thousands of Muslims also were left homeless, and regulars at the area's two mosques are still working on aid for those displaced in the Balkan conflict, some of whom now live in Prince George's County. The back-to-back crises are challenging Southern Maryland's Muslim community.
"It's like now there's so much devastation throughout the Muslim world," said Rabia Zahir Yousaf, a member of the Southern Maryland Islamic Center in Prince Frederick. "People are miserable in their own countries. It does put a little strain on us as far as the manpower is concerned, but people say, 'Well, we still have food on the table and a roof over our heads.' These people [in Turkey] have nothing."
Relief officials said the Washington area has been one of the main sources of aid so far. About 40 percent of calls to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is acting as a relief agency, come from Washington and surrounding communities, including several people with 301 area codes, said Emel Inal, a CAIR volunteer in New York City.
The Islamic Center in Prince Frederick and a mosque in Charles County each have urged members to write checks to aid agencies such as Mercy International. Muslims also have offered special prayers, called du'a, after the traditional noon prayer on Friday.
Assemblies such as the Potomac Baptist Association, the umbrella group for 29 churches in Southern Maryland, has been handling quake relief through its missions branch.
"We have people calling us, asking how to help," said Richard Logsdon, director of missions for the association. "We're sending over major funds from our international mission board. We try to do this every time there's a disaster like this--whether floods or earthquakes."
That was the response from local Catholics as well. The Rev. Matthew Siekierski, dean of the Catholic priests in Charles County, said he received a fax this week asking all the churches in the Washington diocese to take up a special collection for earthquake victims at services this weekend.
People who want to make contributions to Turkish relief efforts can call the Council on American-Islamic Relations at 202-659-CAIR or the Turkish Relief Association at 1-877-TURKEY9.