Date published: November 30, 2010
NOT OUT OF AFRICA: The African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa, is trying to stem the continent's brain drain. William Kamkwamba is a good example of the type of students recruited to ALA: at age 14 he built a windmill to provide energy for his family in Malawi and subsequently wrote the international bestseller The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. ALA has drawn students from over 30 African nations. Many go on to study in the U.S. and Europe, but ALA students have scholarships that must be repaid if the students don't return to Africa to work for at least ten years (Christian Science Monitor, November 1).
LIBERATING THE WOMEN: People who favor reducing U.S. forces in Afghanistan and making a deal with the Taliban are sometimes asked, "What about the women?" Columnist Nicholas Kristof went to Afghanistan to explore that issue. He's reached the conclusion that the abusive treatment of women there is not just the fault of the Taliban. It's part of the culture. Some women he talked with said that the war is worse for them and their families than Taliban rule. The road to a better ufe for Afghan women is through education and economic empowerment. The organization BPeace is helping women like Soora Stoda, who is building a potato chip factory; Shahla Akbari, who is making shoes; and Shahla's mother, Fatima Akbari, who has 3,000 employees, mostly females, making jam, furniture, clothing and jewelry (New York Times, October 23).
WHICH GOD? There are two different images of God in the Gospel of Matthew, according to Barbara E. Reid. Particularly in the Sermon on the Mount, God is portrayed as boundlessly forgiving and gracious. But eight parables portray God as vindictive and punitive. So which God is it? While offering a number of explanations for this seeming contradiction, Reid argues that the God image more difficult for us to accept is the one who boundlessly loves and forgives us, "It is so much easier to know how to relate to a God who exacts payment for sin and whose love must be earned" (Interpretation, October).
NONMEMBERS: In 2001 about Il percent of worshipers in the U.S. were active participants in congregations without being members or without actively pursuing membership. By 2010 that number had risen only slightly, to 12 percent. However, the number of young adults who are nonmember participants is nearly double that of worshipers who are 45 and over (The Parish Paper, November).
SERMON STARTER: A group of seminarians, a seminary professor and a pastor have issued a call to preachers to address the atrocities that have occurred in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars- especially hi light of reports by WikiLeaks about deaths of civilians in Iraq, some through torture. The preaching effort is labeled the Proper 29 Project, which refers to the liturgical designation for the Reign of Christ Sunday, the culmination of the liturgical year (on November 21 this year). The organizers suggest that we are all complicit in the civilian deaths that have occurred in violation of the jus in bello criteria of the just war tradition (proper29.wordpress.com).
FOR THESE UNCIVIL TIMES: Faithful Democracy, an interfaith group, has issued some guidelines for civil political discourse. Chief among them is showing respect for others and judging the success of political conversation not by who wins a debate but by how much new insight is generated, The group recommends storytelling as the way to share political views. Above all, "keep your head" and avoid a shouting match. When someone refuses to listen to you or interrupts with arguments, say: "You just shared your opinion and I listened without interrupting, could you please listen to mine?" (faithfuldemocracy.org).
NATIONAL GLUE: What if there had been a popular uprising in reaction to the Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore, which decided the 2000 election in favor of George W. Bush? What if the Florida recount had gone forward and Al Gore had won instead? Possibly there would have been no invasion of Iraq and no relaxation of financial regulations that led to an economic near-meltdown. Justice Stephen Breyer and three other members of the Supreme Court disagreed with the majority that ruled hi Bush's favor. Yet Breyer said the most important and amazing part of this riding was that both Democrats and Republicans accepted it peacefully. The rule of law holds this very disparate country together (review of Breyer 's Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge's View in the New York Review of Books, November 11).
CURTAIN CALL: Desmond Tutu, former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, has sent a letter to the Cape Town Opera, protesting a scheduled performance by the company in Tel Aviv, Israel. "Just as we said during apartheid that it was inappropriate for international artists to perform in South Africa in a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity," Tutu wrote, "so it would be wrong for the Cape Town Opera to perform in Israel" He said millions of people are denied the right to education and cultura! opportunities in Israel and the Palestinian territories it occupies. A South African Jewish group criticized Tutu's call for a cultural boycott of Israel and rejected the notion that Israel discriminates. A representative of the opera company said that while it respects Tutu's views, the company is promoting human values through the medium of opera (ENI).
FAIR HOUSING: A Grand Rapids nursing student may be in trouble for posting a note on her church's bulletin board that said "I am looking for a Christian roommate." Someone filed an anonymous complaint to the local Fair Housing Center, which turned the case over to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. The Fair Housing Act does prohibit advertisements for housing thai state a preference of religion, race or handicap. If the student is found to have committed a civil rights violation, she could be subject to fines and required to take training to keep it from happening again (Mlive.com, October 22).
CHURCH MICE, CHURCH CAT: The newest employee at Washington National Cathedral is Carmina, a friendly feline with black and tortoise-shell fur. "She likes to bring gifts from her adventures," said Jean Jawdat, deputy director of the Cathedral Choral Society. "She presents us with mice." Carmina, who's named after Carl Orffs opera Carmina Burana, replaces Catherine of Tarragon, who retired to a home in North Carolina at age 16 with a bad case of asthma (RNS).