Century Marks

Century Marks

Open doors

Icelanders have not been happy at what they consider a tepid response by their government to the refugee crisis in Europe, many coming from war-torn Syria. After the government said it would restrict the number of refugees it would accept to 50, more than 12,000 people responded to a petition on Facebook demanding that the government be more welcoming. Many of the petitioners offered to host refugees in their own homes. The Global Peace Index recently ranked Iceland as the most peaceful country in the world and Syria the least peaceful (Guardian, September 1).

Dark cloud in Waco

Baylor University, a Baptist institution in Texas, has a dark cloud hanging over its football program. Evidence suggests that the university may have known that one of its players was suspended from Boise State because of violent behavior. That same player, Samuel Ukwuachu, was recently found guilty of sexual assault—the second such conviction against a Baylor football player in two years. Baylor’s coach denies knowing about Ukwuachu’s history, but the head coach at Boise State claims he fully appraised Baylor of the reasons the player was being let go at Boise. This case happened a decade after a Baylor basketball player was shot and killed by a teammate. Kenneth Starr, Baylor’s president and former special prosecutor in the case leading to Presi­dent Clinton’s impeachment, did not make himself available for an interview (Inside Higher Ed, August 26).

Ancient text

Fragments of the Qur’an found at Birmingham University may be the world’s oldest. Written on sheep- or goatskin, carbon dating done at Oxford University places the fragments somewhere between AD 568 and 645. It is quite possible that the person who wrote them lived during the life of Muhammad and may have even known the Prophet. Muslim tradition maintains that Muhammad received the revelations that form the Qur’an between 610 and 632, the year he died (BBC, July 22).

Book collector

For 20 years, José Gutierrez, a garbage truck driver in Bogotá, Colombia, has been rescuing books from upper class neighborhoods. He turned his own modest house in a poor neighborhood into a community library, which by now has some 20,000 volumes stacked from floor to ceiling. Known in Colombia as “Lord of the Books,” he attributes his own love of reading to his mother, who read stories to him every night when he was a child. Gutierrez’s favorite books include One Hundred Years of Solitude by his Nobel Prize–winning fellow countryman Gabriel García Márquez (AP).

Be not offended

Some Duke University students are refusing to read the graphic novel Fun Home, sent to all incoming members of the class of 2019. They say its explicit sexual themes and images conflict with their religious values. Some academic observers see this as part of a larger cultural shift from maintaining political correctness to enforcing empathetic correctness. The first trend is motivated by a desire not to offend, the second by a wish not to be offended. Religion is not the only motivation behind this trend. Writing under a pseudonym last June, a professor confessed, “I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me” (Christian Science Monitor, August 25).