Century Marks

Century Marks

Secularism v. state religion

Bangladesh’s 1971 constitution declared all religions to be equal in the eyes of the state. The military ruler Hussain Muhammad Ershad amended the constitution in 1988 to make Islam the state religion. The current government amended it again, reinstating the principle of secularism but reaffirming Islam as the state religion. The High Court has agreed to hear a case calling for a resolution of this contradiction. A wave of militant violence has plagued Bangla­desh in recent months, including bombings of Hindu temples and Muslim mosques (Reuters).

Youth boom

The world has a problem: too many youth. A fourth of the world’s population is between the ages of ten and 24. Old people are concentrated in the wealthiest countries; youth are most likely to live in developing countries. India has the largest population of youth, a number equivalent to the combined populations of the United States, Canada, and Britain. Worldwide, two out of five young workers are either unemployed or employed in such low-paying jobs as to make it impossible to escape poverty. An increase in youth unemployment is one of the best predictors of social unrest, according to researcher Raymond Torres of the International Labor Organization. Seeing that it was running out of youthful workers, China ended its one-child policy for couples last year (New York Times, March 5).


In 1945, when he was eight years old and living with his family in a refugee camp in Germany, Gunter Nitsch received a CARE package from the United States. Last month Nitsch wrote a letter to an eight-year-old Syrian boy named Zaher living as a refugee in Jordan. “Seventy years ago, when I was eight years old like you, I was also a refugee,” Nitsch wrote. “I’m writing to share my story with you to let you know that, no matter how bad things may seem, there are good people in this world who can make everything better.” Nitsch wrote a book about his childhood, Weeds Like Us, which he dedicated to the Pennsylvania Menno­nite family who had sent his family multiple CARE packages (Chicago Tribune, March 9).

Offering app

Instead of putting money or checks in the offering plate, at some churches people pull out their smart phones and make an offering through apps like Tithe.ly, Pushpay, and EasyTithe. Church members can also set up automatic recurring payments. With Tithe.ly it takes fewer than five taps to complete a transaction. Using built-in geolocation capabilities, donors can give at any of the 1,000 or so congregations that subscribe to the service. The amount of giving increases and more people give at congregations that subscribe to these services (Bloomberg Businessweek, March 8).

Deep divides

More than three-quarters (76 percent) of Israeli Jews believe that their country can be both Jewish and democratic—a view rejected by majorities of Israeli Muslims and Christians, according to a comprehensive survey released by the Washington-based Pew Research Center last month. The report also highlights the precarious relationship between Jews and Arabs in Israel, with nearly half (48 percent) of Jewish Israelis either “strongly” or “mostly” agreeing that Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel. Among the report’s other findings: while nearly all Israeli Jews say they’re Jewish, half (49 percent) consider themselves secular, even as they engage in some Jewish religious practices. And one in five Jewish Israelis profess no belief in God (RNS).