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The Irrelevance of Ethnic Identity

In the article ``Rwanda's Displaced Children Finding Homes,'' Nov. 21, one paragraph refers to ``two Tutsi social workers, employed by Save the Children (UK),'' who reunited two children with their mother. The two social workers in question are upset and angered that their ethnic identity was referred to when it was not necessary or relevant. They did not discuss their ethnicity with the reporter and are unsure from where the author took the information.

Ethnicity in Rwanda is, as you know, a vexed question. Many people have reported events there as though they were simply a matter of ``age-old ethnic hatred.''

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In fact, it was the extremist Hutu group within the former government that manipulated ethnic tensions and fears to cause the unprecedented genocide of 1994.

Many ordinary Rwandans see themselves as Rwandans first and foremost and do not wish to be perceived on the basis of a primary ethnic identification.

In this case, referring to the workers as Tutsi implies their ethnicity has some significance within the story of the two children, which is not true. Save the Children Fund employs social workers and works with children - from both communities.

In Britain, there is a journalistic guideline not to refer to the racial or ethnic origin of a person unless it has direct relevance to the story or issue at stake. I hope this is also the case in the United States. Don Redding, London Press officer Save the Children Fund Options beyond assisted suicides

The article ``Assisted-Suicide Law in Oregon Stirs National Discontent,'' Dec. 12, neglected to explore the aftershocks that accompanied the passage of the Oregon ``Death With Dignity Act.''

Many Americans have been left with the impression that assisted suicide is the only answer to people's fears about what may happen to them when they are dying. Assisted suicide is only one option available.

In the United States, every competent adult has the right to make his or her wishes known about end-of-life medical treatment. The best way to preserve this right is to complete an advance directive, such as a living will or medical power of attorney. These important forms are an expression of your wishes. You can opt to refuse all end-of-life medical care. Many state forms include the request for full treatment as one of the treatment options. In short, any living will can be modified to fit an individual's particular treatment preferences, and serve as a reflection of his or her values and spiritual beliefs. Deborah Kaufman, New York Director of public relations Choice in Dying US: Change Jerusalem policy

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Thank you for printing the opinion-page article ``Jerusalem Palestinians Suffer While US Stands By Silently,'' Jan. 12. The author's message indicates two significant facts the American public needs to know. First, time is not on the side of the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. Second, unless the United States government policy on Jerusalem changes its course, the city may be titled ``City of Peace,'' but it will be devoid of love and good will. John Hymes Jr., Huntingtown, Md. Generosity strikes at Christmas

The Home Forum feature ``A Christmas to Remember,'' Dec. 22, gives the reader nostalgic and entertaining reflections on celebrating this festive season. The four very different stories remind us that there is a distinct mood at Christmas, that reaches across the entire world. Regardless of the varied ways the season is celebrated, an unusual mood of generosity and kindness endures -

at least for a few days. William Beyer, Belvidere, Ill.

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