Century Marks

Century Marks

Call to prayer

Catholic theologian David Burrell says that an advantage of living in a Muslim country is that the daily calls to prayer remind him of the need for the daily discipline of prayer. An African priest once said to Burrell: “Don’t knock them; they have been getting me up to pray for years!” (Burrell, Questing for Understanding, Cascade).


Someone asked an Amish farmer what community meant to him. He said that whenever he and his son are finished with spring plowing, they let their horses rest at the highest point on their farm, where they can see 13 other teams of horses working the neighboring fields. “I know that if I get sick or debilitated or die, those 13 teams will be at work on my farm” (told by Wendell Berry in Hedgehog Review, Summer).

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).