Century Marks

Century Marks

Gay in Russia

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage sparked a renewed debate in Russia over gay rights. One Russian legislator suggested that Russia should block Facebook users’ ability to decorate their profile pictures with the rainbow flag of the gay rights movement.  Many Russians had added a rainbow image to their photos. Opponents immediately came up with a counter move, superimposing a Russian tricolor flag on the photos. One legislator suggested Russia should adopt the now defunct American policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Russian culture remains highly homophobic. Hardly any public figures have come out as gay. President Vladimir Putin signed a law in 2013 banning the promotion or display of homosexuality in front of minors (AFP).

Instrument of peace

As an act of resisting the violence in Iraq, Karim Wasfi has been playing his cello at the site of bomb explosions across Baghdad. Wasfi, conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, says that “the other side chose to turn . . . every aspect of life in Iraq into a battle and into a war zone. I chose to turn every corner of Iraq into a spot for civility, beauty, and compassion.” A deadly explosion in his own upscale neighborhood nearly killed him. Videos of Wasfi playing in the rubble left by bombings can be seen on YouTube (NPR, June 8).

Wrong turn

As part of a National History Day competition, three Massachusetts high school students wrote a letter to James “Whitey” Bulger, the 85-year-old South Boston crime boss convicted of being involved in 11 murders. To their surprise, Bulger didn’t answer the questions the students asked him about his life but instead expressed regrets about his life of crime. “My life was wasted and spent foolishly,” he confessed, saying it brought shame on his family (Boston Globe, June 27).

Christ figure

Almost every day the Sudanese government drops bombs on civilians living in the Nuba Mountains in southern Sudan in an attempt to wipe out an armed rebellion, reports Nicholas Kristof (New York Times, June 27). Most of the world looks the other way. Not Dr. Tom Catena, a Catholic missionary doctor from New York, who is the only permanently based doctor serving a population of more than half a million people. His own life is in danger from the bombs.  He uses primitive means to treat people—removing shrapnel from the flesh of women and amputating the limbs of children. Both Christians and Muslims in the area revere him. One Muslim chief calls him “Jesus Christ.”

Child preachers

No one knows how many child preachers there are in Brazil, but estimates run to the thousands. Most of them are Pentecostal. Alani is an 11-year-old who, according to her father, performed her first healing miracle when she was only 51 days old. Convinced that Alani had healing powers, her father placed her infant hand on a woman’s distended stomach—and it immediately deflated. Even within Pentecostal circles, some observers believe that child preachers like Alani are exploited by their parents and other adults (New York Times, June 11).