Century Marks

Century Marks

Peace train

Korean churches are developing plans for a “peace train” that would travel from Berlin through Mos­cow and Beijing and on to Busan, South Korea, in time for the World Council of Churches global assembly in October 2013. The plan is to draw attention to the need for peace and reunification in the Korean peninsula. The train, which would carry representatives of churches and of civil society, would pass through North Korea. The National Council of Churches of Korea is also meeting with the governments of North and South Korea in hopes that a peace treaty can be signed in 2013 that marks the 60th anniversary of the cease-fire that ended the Korean War (ENI).

Covering religion

Jon Stewart, host of the humorous Daily Show, appears to be a nonpracticing Jew, but his show covers religion better than any other TV program except for Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, claims Mark Oppenheimer. Writers for the Daily Show find humor in the finer points of religion rather than in caricatures of it. Sometimes the beliefs or practices of religion are shown as bizarre, but often it’s the antagonists of religion who are made to look silly. In one sketch, a Muslim woman’s application to become a foster mother is rejected because she won’t allow pork products in her house. The episode helped to explain Muslim dietary practices while making the foster agency’s objections look ignorant and bigoted (Religion & Politics, May 1).

Divine spark

The word asylum means shelter or protection from danger. One of the first asylums was called the Retreat, and it was established by Quakers in 1796 in York, England. The Quakers, seeing a divine spark in everyone, tried to remove the stigma then attached to the mentally ill. The Retreat emphasized friendship with the insane and incorporated exercise therapy, pet therapy and occupational therapy. The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Quakers opened a similar facility in 1817, inspiring similar ventures in the next few years in Boston, New York, Hartford and Charleston (American Scholar, Spring).

Birthers

Ken Bennett, Arizona’s secretary of state, threatened to keep President Obama off the ballot this fall unless it was proved that Obama’s birth certificate is not a fraud. In response, an online petition was begun, garnering 18,000 signatures, requesting that Bennett certify that Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, is not a unicorn. Bennett called the probe ridiculous, but he also withdrew his threat to take Obama off the ballot. In March, a California group filed a suit that would require all presidential candidates to certify their citizenship. In addition to raising the usual—and long since disproved—claim that Obama was not born in the U.S., the suit raised questions about Romney’s birth certificate, since his father had spent some time
as a child in Mexico (Washington Post, May 29).

Gender gap

It’s no wonder that Saudi Arabia ranks 131 out of 135 nations in the World Economic Forum’s report on the global gender gap. It is a country where child marriage is still practiced and where women are treated like minors their whole lives regardless of age or education. Women far outnumber men on university campuses, yet they still can’t run in elections or vote. A woman who broke the ban on female drivers was sentenced to ten lashes and needed a royal pardon. Saudi Arabia “is unabashed in its worship of a misogynistic God and never suffers any consequences for it, thanks to its . . . having oil and being home to Islam’s two holiest places, Mecca and Medina,” says Egyptian-American columnist Mona Eltahawy (Foreign Policy, May/June).