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).

No to gas

The Malaysian-owned oil giant Petronas wants to construct a pipeline to ship liquefied natural gas (LNG) out of British Columbia, Canada. The company’s proposed port lies at the mouth of the Skeena River, which abounds in fish and is in the territory of the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation. To win the support of the Lax Kw’alaams, Petronas offered them $1.15 billion in cash. When the issue was put to a vote, every last member of the group rejected the money. The British Columbia government gave Petronas the green light anyway, so the Lax Kw’alaams set up camp on an island in the estuary, monitoring boat traffic and turning away all workers. The federal government, which must give final approval for the project, has delayed action (Guardian, March 20).

Shooting practice

The National Rifle Association reports that in 2015 22,370 people over age 65 took basic firearms training from NRA-certified instructors, four times the number who took it five years ago. The rate of growth is greater in this age category than any other, the NRA claims, but it hasn’t given data to back up that claim. “Today’s buyers are scared,” a gun shop owner in Oklahoma City said. These gun buyers may also be misguided, according to David Hemenway, a professor of health policy at Harvard University. Shooting an intruder or assailant is hard to do, and having a gun in the home increases the chances of suicide and accidental shootings (Wall Street Journal, March 29).

Teaching for peace

Hanan al-Hroub, the winner of the $1 million award for the 2016 Global Teacher Prize, is a Palestinian teacher who was raised in a refugee camp outside Bethlehem in the West Bank. Her students “come from stressed-out environments,” she says, and they often act out the violence they see in their homes and streets. Al-Hroub uses games, puppets, and team-building in the classroom to reduce the stress endured by her students. Pope Francis nominated her for the award, which is granted by the Varkey Foundation and sponsored by the ruler of Dubai, the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates. Al-Hroub plans to use the money for college scholarships for students going into education and for teachers committed to employing her teaching methods (Washington Post, March 22).