Refugee Aid Is Cut Federal cutbacks in the number of refugees allowed into the United States have forced a Lutheran immigration agency to cut 14 positions and trim spending.

The Baltimore-based Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service said the cuts were prompted by fewer refugees, less government financial support and lower-than-expected private giving.

The agency is jointly administered by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Thirteen people were laid off in Baltimore; one open position will remain unfilled.

"There is a temptation to say our financial situation is directly tied to the events of September 11, but it isn't," Annie Wilson, the agency's vice president for programs, said in a news release. "It's just a complex combination of things that came together, exacerbated by what happened on September 11 and by the slowdown in refugees."

Religious groups have criticized the Bush administration's decision to limit the number of refugees to 70,000 in fiscal 2003. In fiscal 2002, 27,000 refugees were admitted, down from 131,000 in fiscal 2001.

In 2001, the agency helped resettle 11,627 refugees in the country. This year, the agency has helped 4,499.

Bush Thanks Muslims

President Bush hosted a White House dinner Thursday to mark the start of Ramadan and thank Muslim nations assisting in the war against terrorism.

The iftar dinner, breaking the fast for the day, is a tradition during the Muslim period of fasting that began Wednesday.

"In hosting tonight's iftar, I send a message to all the nations represented by their ambassadors here tonight: America treasures your friendship. America honors your faith," Bush told 50 representatives from Muslim nations and 24 American Muslim leaders gathered in the State Dining Room.

During the month-long Ramadan, the holiest time of the year for Muslims, believers abstain from food, drink, smoking and other pleasures during daylight.

New Headquarters

National Religious Broadcasters dedicated its first permanent headquarters in a Nov. 1 ceremony in Manassas.

Glenn Plummer, NRB chairman and chief executive, welcomed about 125 people to the two-story, 18,000-square-foot building. The building was purchased last year for $1.8 million and later renovated. It includes offices for the administration of the organization and space for the Religious Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

The future Museum of Religious Broadcasting and Research Center will be housed there.

"In 1944, the founders of NRB faced opposition and resistance to putting the Gospel on the radio and, some years later, on television," Plummer said. "We are still faced with the great challenge of providing access to the gospel. We are here to dedicate our first permanent headquarters building to the lordship of Jesus Christ."

The organization of broadcasters has nearly 1,550 members.

-- Religion News Service