RESEDA — Responding to the plight of earthquake victims in Afghanistan, mosques in the San Fernando Valley area passed the collection plates after weekly community prayers Friday in a relief effort coordinated by the U.S. headquarters in Burbank of Islamic Relief Worldwide, an international agency.
"We in the Valley know the destruction that an earthquake can cause," said Mudafar Al-Tawash, development manager at Islamic Relief.
Nearly 5,000 people perished and thousands more are missing in the 6.1-magnitude earthquake, which struck Feb. 4. That temblor and subsequent aftershocks in northeastern Afghanistan buried dozens of villages beneath rock and earth.
Yet more than a week later, relatively little aid has arrived, officials said Friday, largely because roads that were already damaged from 20 years of war have been rendered virtually impassible by snow and mud.
"We're estimating that 30,000 people need help," Sarah Russell, a United Nations spokeswoman, told the Associated Press.
Donations taken after midday Friday prayers at mosques in Reseda, Northridge and Granada Hills that normally would have gone to local projects were designated for emergency relief.
"We heard that our cousin and his family in that area were OK," said Nasir Mehrzai, an Afghan student living in West Hills who attended the prayers at the Islamic Center of Reseda.
"We heard that about 15,000 homes were destroyed," Mehrzai said. "The homes there are not made with wood but with clay--like the adobes you see in New Mexico."
Mehrzai and friends were disappointed that so little news about the disaster has appeared on local television or in print.
However, the Los Angeles chapter of the American Red Cross appealed Thursday for funds from the public. The Afghan Red Crescent Society--the equivalent of the Red Cross in Muslim countries--has set up emergency operations in Taloqan, Afghanistan, where many victims fled, said Red Cross spokesman Rick Radillo.
Islamic Relief Worldwide, which earlier allocated $20,000 for immediate relief, is coordinating its efforts with organizations such as the U.N. Office for Humanitarian Assistance Coordination.
Spokesman Ian Burns of the Burbank office said his organization extends disaster relief to more than 20 countries, including the United States. Islamic Relief sent $5,000 to aid victims of the Oklahoma City bombing and last year raised nearly $24,000 in this country for quake victims in Iran.
For the Red Cross, call (800) HELP NOW, or send a check to the American Red Cross, 2700 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles 90057. For Islamic Relief, call (818) 238-9520, or send a check to Islamic Relief Worldwide, P.O. Box 6098, Burbank 91510-9979.
Stephen Spielberg's "Amistad" and Robert Duvall's "The Apostle" weren't among the best picture Oscar nominees this week, but they made the top 10 list of movies for mature audiences announced by Movieguide Awards, a Christian group that will give out film prizes next month at Universal City.
Despite the conservative evangelical perspective of the sponsoring Movieguide magazine, the organization named five Walt Disney Co. movies among its "10 best 1997 films for families," including "Flubber," "Mr. Magoo" and Disney-affiliated Miramax's "Mrs. Brown."
Ted Baehr, who heads the Camarillo-based ministry, has not joined boycotts of Disney-related products announced last year by the Southern Baptist Convention and a number of conservative church bodies and evangelical ministries.
But Baehr also reiterated this week that he will not distance himself from boycott promoters, who have objected to what some Southern Baptists have called Disney's "anti-Christian" and "gay friendly" policies for employees and entertainment content.
"Just because I'm not on this bandwagon doesn't mean I don't support their right to be concerned," Baehr said.
The 6th annual Movieguide Awards will be held March 19 at the Sheraton Universal Hotel in Universal City. The dinner event, which draws more than 200 people in the entertainment industry, began in confusion last year when many additional people showed up without reservations, Baehr said.
Winners of the "most inspirational" movie and TV program of 1997, to be announced at the show, will each receive the $25,000 Epiphany Prizes, donated by philanthropist John M. Templeton, best known for his annual $1 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.
The winners last year were "The Preacher's Wife," starring Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston, and "Touched by an Angel," the highly rated TV show produced by Martha Williamson.
Other movies being honored by Movieguide include "Paradise Road," "Ulee's Gold" and "My Best Friend's Wedding" in the mature-audience category and "Anastasia," "Batman and Robin" and "Leave It to Beaver" in the family category.
An unprecedented experiment in pan-Judaism is unfolding in Encino.