As dusk fell yesterday in North Baltimore, a group gathered with candles on the steps of the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation to pray for both sides in the Persian Gulf conflict.
Led by the Very Rev. Van H. Gardner, dean of the cathedral at University Parkway and St. Paul Street, they prayed to God "for the men and women of our armed forces, and for their families, that they may know in their hearts the peace that passes all understanding."
But the group of about 40 men and women, shielding the lighted candles they held against cold gusts of wind, also prayed "for the people of Iraq, even for Saddam Hussein, that they may be delivered from hatred, cruelty and revenge."
Several blocks away, in front of the Homewood Friends Meeting House on Charles Street, a small group of protesters led by Quakers continued the evening rush-hour vigils against the use of military force that they began in August.
The Quaker organizers decided yesterday to extend these evening vigils, which have been held each week on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, to Thursdays and Fridays as well.
Other groups were prompted by the Middle East war yesterday to hold peace vigils at the Johns Hopkins medical school and the University of Maryland law school.
Meanwhile, the board of Baltimore Clergy and Laity Concerned, which includes six Protestant ministers, two Roman Catholic priests and a Catholic nun, issued a statement on the war that condemned both Iraq for invading Kuwait and President Bush for "the initiation of armed hostilities."
The president's action, the ecumenical clergy-laity organization said, "reveals the propensity of our own country, among many, to rely too heavily and too quickly upon the use of offensive military force."
Calling for "economic sanctions and other forms of non-violent suasion" instead, the interracial group contended that "the Persian Gulf war, and the vast expenditure of financial resources already committed to sustain the military buildup in the region, have a severe and destructive impact upon efforts to end racism and build a multiracial community."
It criticized what it called "the disproportionate number of African-American and poor persons in this country's armed forces," saying they were "now fighting against other persons of color" -- in what the group called a continuation of "America's racist heritage."
The group noted that it was founded nationally in 1965 as Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam and that in 1967, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. became its co-chairman partly because of "his concern about the heavy impact of the war upon black persons."
Among the current members of the local board are the Rev. Frank E. Drumwright Jr. of the Morgan Christian Center; the Rev. Florence Ledyard, an Episcopalian; the Rev. David W. Rimbach and the Rev. Charles Johnson III, both United Methodists; the Rev. Ann Lightner of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; and the Rev. Joseph DePetris and the Rev. Tom Frank, both Roman Catholics.