Nearly 500 persons braved last night's chill winds to gather at the Lincoln Memorial for an interfaith service of praise and thanksgiving for the signing of the Middle East treaty.
The service, planned to include Christians, Muslims and Jews, inadvertently relected the age-old tensions of the Middle East as well as the common ground the three faiths have gained.
Midway through the service, former senator Harold Hughes who served as moderator for the celebration, announced that Muhammad Abdul-Rauf, director of the Islamic Center and one of the scheduled speakers, had sent word that he was unab le to attend because of "extreme fatigue."
Earlier, however, a leader of one of the Muslim groups that joined in demonstrations against the treaty signing, told The Washington Post that he and others had persuaded Rauf not to participate.
"We are representatives of Muslim organizations in the United States and Canada," said Mahmoud Rashdan, secretary general of the Muslim Student Association. "We reject and condemn the treaty," he said, adding that Rauf's participation in the interfaith service might have been "misinterpreted."
Rauf did not return phone calls yesterday. His staff said he was unavailable for comment.
At last night's service, Episcopal Bishop John T. Walker, speaking for the Interfaith Conference of Washington -- a recently-formed Christian-Jewish-Muslim cooperative group -- said leaders of the three historic religions "believe ourselves to be compelled by our faith to work together for peace."
Rabbi Stanley Rabinowitz of Adas Israel Congregation and immediate past president of the national organization of Conservative rabbis, called on three branches of the religious community to continue to work to build "a new climate that will be conducive to implementing the agreement.... By creating an atmosphere of trust, we can build bridges between Israel, Egypt and the United States and between Christiand and Jews and Moslems."
The Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, president of the University of Notre Dame, challenged the audience to continue to work for peace.
"Peace we have tonight," he said, "but peace we will maintain only by works of justice, that, as the Koran, Isaiah and [the New Testament] say, we must feed the hungry, give a dwelling to the homeless, take in the stranger, help the widows and orphans -- in a word, do justice to all those who suffer."
In the closing prayer President Carter's sister, Ruth Carter Stapleton, wrapped in a champagne-colored mink coat, offered thanks to God for "the triumph of men" who hammered out the treaty as well as "praise to You who inspired them."
Last night's service not only had the blessing of the White House, but aid from White House staff members in the initial planning stages.
According to Canon Lloyd Casson of the Washington Cathedral, Nancy Green of the White House advance staff called the cathedral last Thursday morning to ask that a service bescheduled there. That service was to have involved Presidents Carter and Sadat and Prime Minister Begin, Casson said.
Later in the day, the cathedral was told to cancel those plans, because it was felt that a religious service in the cathedral would be inappropriate for non-Christians in such a sensitive political situation.The three principals did not attend last night's service.
The White House issued invitations to last night's speakers for the service, which was coordinated by the Fellowship Foundation, an evangelical Christian group which annually conducts the presidential prayer breakfasts.
For some of last night's worshippers, the service capped a historic day. "We're Jewish," explained Robert Friedson. who attended with his wife and six-year-old son Joshua. "How many times does something like this happen? We want our son to see this."
Washington Post Staff writer Loretta Tofani contributed to this article .