Century Marks

Century Marks

Death penalty moratorium

Mario Marazziti is a member of Italy’s lower house of parliament, but most of his time is spent working globally to end the death penalty. Marazziti, a Catholic and a founder of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, encouraged Pope Francis to call for a moratorium on the death penalty, which he did in February. “On the global scene, no one has worked harder with me to abolish the death penalty than this man,” said Sister Helen Prejean, author of the book Dead Man Walking. Marazziti influenced two American governors to end the death penalty, Bill Richardson in New Mexico and Pat Quinn in Illinois. He worked with an Italian company to take a drug used for lethal injections off the market. A hundred and five countries no longer have the death penalty, and another 60 have not used it in a decade (New Yorker, March 18).

Christ’s protest

During the Nazi regime, when many German Protestants were pro-Hitler, one offbeat newspaper dared to print an imagined worship ser­vice of the future. It imagined a minister who stood before his congregation and said that anyone who is not 100 percent Aryan should leave the church at once. Not a soul moved. He said it another time, and there was no action. When he said it a third time, Christ climbed down from the cross in the church and walked out the door (Los Angeles Times, March 21).

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).

Payback

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).