Agency criticizes U.S. failure to reply to Bosnia aid...

RELIGION NOTES

June 03, 1993|By Reported by Frank P.L. Somerville

Agency criticizes U.S. failure to reply to Bosnia aid offer

An international relief agency with headquarters in Baltimore, created last year by a group of Eastern Orthodox churches, has criticized the United States government for not responding to its offers to help move aid through Serbian lines to Muslim communities in Bosnia.

"The growing humanitarian crisis in those areas of Yugoslavia and Bosnia-Herzegovina accessible from Serbia is now exacerbated by tighter sanctions," said Alexander Rondos, director of International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). Its offices are in the Rotunda at 711 W. 40th St.

Despite the difficulties, IOCC will expand its efforts to assist "people of all ethnic and religious groups displaced or besieged by this civil war," said Mr. Rondos, who recently returned from a fact-finding trip to Belgrade. IOCC has provided food and medical supplies worth more than $2 million since December to victims of the conflict, he said.

"Relief supplies and commitments are falling dangerously short of needs, and with the impact of sanctions, we can anticipate a severe humanitarian crisis in those areas of the former Yugoslavia that are under Serbian control," Mr. Rondos said.

"We also offer IOCC as an agency that may be able to gain access through the Serbian lines, now obstructing relief to primarily Muslim communities besieged in Bosnia -- an offer that we have held out as an Orthodox Christian agency that is appalled by the plight of so many that are trapped in Bosnia."

But IOCC proposals to the U.S. government to support such initiatives have received no response, said Mr. Rondos, adding, "It is saddening and unusual that the traditional role of a private humanitarian organization has been neglected in this instance."

He said IOCC, distributing its aid through the Serbian Orthodox Church, has committed itself to supplying food regularly to a Muslim soup kitchen in Belgrade.

The Very Rev. Constantine M. Monios, dean of Baltimore's Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, praised IOOC's goals, saying the organization has wide backing among Orthodox Christians in both the United States and Canada. IOCC was formed by the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the Americas, representing different Orthodox denominations.

Humanitarian agencies of other faiths have also collected food and medicine for victims of the Balkan war. These agencies include Church World Service, Lutheran World Relief, World Council of Churches, B'nai B'rith Disaster Relief Fund and Catholic Relief Services.

& Information: 243-9820.

Jewish aid:

Jewish aid: Rabbi Mark G. Loeb, newly elected chairman of Mazon, a Jewish organization assisting the hungry and homeless in this country and abroad, has announced grants totaling $800,000 for the first half of 1993, about $40,000 more than in the previous six months.

"Despite increasing economic pressures on all Americans, including Jews, individual gifts and total contributions to Mazon have been steadily rising, testifying to the spiritual values and generosity of the American Jewish community," said Rabbi Loeb, who leads Pikesville's Beth El Congregation.

Mazon -- which takes its name from the Hebrew word for food -- has raised and distributed about $6 million since it was founded in 1986.

Most contributions come in the form of a self-imposed "tax" of 3 percent on the cost of such Jewish celebrations as weddings and bar mitzvahs.

Among the 91 beneficiaries of the current round of grants was CASA of Maryland in Takoma Park, which received $8,000 for food distribution to refugees from Central America.

, Information: (212) 475-5427.

Presbyterian honor:

Presbyterian honor: West Baltimore's Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church will receive $1,000 and the Elinor Curry Award for Outreach and Social Concern at a dinner Saturday in Orlando, Fla.

The Baltimore congregation is being cited for its Intergenerational Linkage Program, in which church members of all ages have been working together since 1988 to improve literacy through after-school tutorial sessions for children and classes for adults unable to read.

In January, the church added after-school day care for kindergarten through fourth grade to its other community enrichment programs.

The Curry Award is named for a 1925 graduate of the Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, Va., which administers the grants.

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