- The Washington Times - Friday, January 15, 2010

From Muslims to Mormons, religious groups across the country are opening their hearts and wallets to get food, water, blankets and medical help to millions of Haitians victimized by Tuesday’s deadly 7.0 magnitude earthquake.

The Alexandria, Va.-based Islamic Relief USA announced it was teaming up with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to fly $1 million worth of aid to the stricken country.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced it would take up a special collection in churches this weekend to go to Catholic Relief Services (CRS), which has committed an initial $5 million to Haiti. Students at Catholic University celebrated a Mass for the victims Thursday and began a novena - a nine-day period of prayer - during which they will be raising money for CRS.

Catholics make up about 80 percent of Haiti’s population, and Haitian Catholic Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot was killed in the earthquake. His cathedral is in ruins, as is the Episcopal cathedral, Holy Trinity, in Port-au-Prince.

A team from the Baltimore-based World Relief, an evangelical Christian organization, is already in Haiti’s capital. The situation is “desperate and grave,” team member Stephan Bauman messaged Thursday afternoon via Twitter.

Church World Service, a sister organization to the 45-million-member National Council of Churches (NCC), pledged an initial $200,000 for immediate relief assistance. NCC General Secretary Michael Kinnamon described the quake damage as “so massive it can’t be measured.”

Other aid is coming from Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), World Concern, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, American Jewish World Service, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Lutheran World Relief in Baltimore, the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, World Vision, Baptist World Alliance, Faith and Action and the 34,000-member National Black Church Initiative, which has declared this Sunday a day of mourning and prayer.

Shaina Aber, associate advocacy director for JRS, said its Dominican Republic office got supplies in Port-au-Prince on Thursday, including a clean-water unit, medicines, tents, hygiene kits and food supplies. She described the roads into the country as a “disaster” and said that people are already burying their loved ones in mass graves.

“One of the most necessary things is machines to dig people out of the rubble,” she said. “They also need portable toilets. People are relieving themselves in the street, which will cause further environmental devastation.”

Aid groups around the world have landed planes at the main airport in Port-au-Prince, she said, but because of the lack of fuel at the airport, they cannot take off. Presumably, extra plane fuel will come from U.S. naval ships in the region.

Secularists also have gotten into the act.

The Amherst, N.Y.-based Center for Inquiry promised it would send 100 percent of all money received to the Secular Humanist Aid and Relief Effort. It will forward the funds to Doctors Without Borders, which lost all three of its medical facilities in Haiti.

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