Century Marks

Century Marks

Religious freedom

In the one-year period ending mid-2010, 75 percent of the world’s population lived in a nation with high or very high restrictions on religious beliefs or practices, according to the study conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. A previous Pew study on the subject found that 70 percent of the world lived under religious restrictions. Globally, restrictions increased not only in countries that already afforded few protections for religious freedom, such as Nigeria and Indonesia, but also in countries where citizens have generally enjoyed a high degree of religious liberty, such as Switzerland and the United States. Among incidents cited in the U.S.: the intense opposition to the building of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and a spike in the number of religion-related workplace discrimination complaints (RNS).

Good Samaritan

Passengers on a bus in Winnipeg, Manitoba, were stunned on a cool morning early this fall when their driver stopped the bus, got out and called to a man who was walking on the sidewalk without shoes. The driver proceeded to give the man his own shoes. A passenger later asked him why he had done that. “I couldn’t stand seeing someone walking barefoot in . . . temperature like this,” the bus driver said (CBC News, September 18).

Get over it

Some Muslim leaders are saying that the Islamic world needs to learn to shrug off insults made against their religion and Muhammad. One group points to an anecdote in the tradition in which a woman put thorns in Muhammad’s path and threw manure at him when in prayer. Muhammad not only tolerated this tormented woman, he went to visit her when she fell ill. A popular Egyptian blogger has stated that violent protests “were more damaging to Islam’s reputation than a thousand so-called ‘Islam-attacking films’” (Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, September 22).

Caught in crossfire

Christians who have fled Syria due to the uprisings against the Assad regime are the most frightened among the refugees, according to a BBC News correspondent. They are afraid to speak up for fear of reprisals. One reason they have been under attack is because of the perception on the part of the rebels that Christians support Assad. While some do support the Assad regime, which has protected Christians, some Christians are supporting the uprising too, including a few who are prominent members of the Syrian National Council, the main opposition group. “I see no future, not only in Syria but in all the Middle East,” one Christian woman said. “If people get a chance to leave this region, they will just do it,” she said (BBC).

Flip-flop

Utah is arguably the most conservative state in the United States. Its many Mormon residents often assume that the Republican Party is God’s Party. In their early days, however, Mormons were so overwhelmingly Democratic that Brigham Young assigned some families to support Republicans in order to foster a climate of bipartisanship. Utah voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt four times and for his Democratic successor, Harry Truman. Utah flipped to the Republican Party in the 1950s in response to the cold war and later in reaction to the civil rights movement and youth unrest. The Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision on abortion sealed Republican support in Utah (Mary Barker, Religion Dispatches).