Schmoke calls upon county's clergy to aid in 'spiritual rebirth' of communities Baltimore mayor speaks in Columbia

September 23, 1993|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Staff Writer

Leaders of churches and synagogues must go beyond their walls and reach out to their communities to help tackle growing ** social problems, Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said at a meeting in Columbia last night.

For inner cities to survive, "they must undergo both spiritual and physical rebirth," he said, adding that counties and cities also must work together.

The Howard County Clergy for Social Justice, which consists of 50 religious leaders, invited Mr. Schmoke to speak.

"I think he's a major figure in the state, and we're interested in subjects he's interested in," said Rabbi Martin Siegel, outgoing president of the 6-year-old group.

On Monday, the mayor announced that he would not run for governor next year, stunning many who thought he would seek to succeed Gov. William D. Schaefer.

Instead, Mr. Schmoke said he plans to seek a third term as mayor in 1995.

Before 100 people at the Oakland Mills Interfaith Center, the mayor briefly discussed that decision.

"I want to continue to meet and talk to groups like this around the state, while my heart and commitment is with the city of Baltimore," he said.

The mayor said his mission is to complete unfinished business that will improve the city -- something he said religious groups can help him do.

For example, he pointed out that religious groups and churches already have formed partnerships to help create city health programs and affordable housing. Religious organizations also were instrumental in the urban revitalization in Sandtown-Winchester, and supported the city's Summit on Race Relations in 1990, Mr. Schmoke said. Some Baltimore churches have taken a stand on the city's escalating violence by encouraging residents to turn in weapons and providing

protection for neighborhoods.

That kind of partnership needs to be copied around the state, he said.

"It's key," Rabbi Siegel said. "We bring a real degree of hands-on concern that no professional can even equal."

Mr. Schmoke agreed, noting that Americans place $40 billion in collection plates in churches, synagogues and mosques each year.

One woman in the audience praised the mayor for suggesting in 1988 that the nation decriminalize drugs to make the illegal business less profitable. "Something really needs to done," she said.

The mayor agreed, noting that the majority of homicides in Baltimore are rooted in greed.

"It's wars over money, not people ingesting substance and going crazy," he said. "It's turf battles.

"If what we were doing was winning the war, I'd shut up about the whole thing."

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