Watching the World
Malawi and Religious Freedom
◆ When Life President Hastings Kamuzu Banda of Malawi recently visited Nashville, Tennessee, he paid a visit to the Riverside Adventist Hospital. There a Seventh-day Adventist official declared: “Thank you for the freedom that exists in Malawi for all religions to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences.” Banda himself gave the lie to such praise when he later said to reporters: “I told them [the Adventists] I prefer to go to heaven by way of the Presbyterian Church. But though I am a Presbyterian myself, I prevent no denomination from operating in Malawi, with one exception—the Jehovah’s Witnesses.” A photograph of President Banda accompanying the newspaper article was captioned: “Stressing Freedom of Worship.”—The Tennessean, May 1, 1978, p. 15.
Meanwhile, Indiana University professors and members of the student government were protesting plans to award Banda an honorary degree. According to the Indianapolis Star, they accused him “of being a dictator who has ordered or condoned the repeated violations of human rights and basic freedoms, even murder of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” A February 1 U.S. State Department report was cited as stating: “The most serious violation of internationally recognized human rights in Malawi has been the arbitrary detention, without trial, of large numbers of Malawi citizens and some aliens.” The professors also noted that Banda’s preferred title in English is “His Excellency, the All-knowing Conqueror.”
Rather than demonstrating against Malawi’s repression of their fellow Christians, however, “a delegation of Bloomington [Indiana] Jehovah’s Witnesses met with T. Jake Muwamba, Malawi ambassador to the United States and the United Nations,” reports the local Sunday Herald-Times. “The delegation said it wanted to express its concern for its ‘brothers’ in the African nation.”
When questioned by reporters about his suppression of the Witnesses, Banda falsely claimed: “They will not pay taxes. . . . They don’t believe in government at all.” Yet Jehovah’s Witnesses are known world wide for their honesty and obedience to law. And they do conscientiously pay their taxes, thus obeying Jesus’ command to “pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar.”—Mark 12:17.
Why Ban Them?
◆ Recently London’s BBC Africa Service carried a radio report by commentator Elizabeth Blunt on the banning of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Angola. She stated that the banning was not because of any direct challenge to the State. “Instead,” she said, “although they are willing quietly to accept the rule of law, they only give their loyalty to God, and refuse to take any active part at all in politics. . . . In African countries where mass political parties urge party cards on all citizens and expect all citizens to share in nation-building activities and to demonstrate positively their loyalty to the state, the Witnesses have been banned and often persecuted, although as individuals they are usually quiet, sober and hard-working.”
North Pole Alone
◆ After dog-sledding alone for 57 days a distance of 477 miles (768 kilometers), Japanese explorer Naomi Uemura recently reached the North Pole. The 37-year-old adventurer had some modern aids during his trek, including airdrops of supplies, radio communication and satellite tracking of his position. But he overcame many obstacles alone, such as hacking through 30-foot- (9-meter-) high ice ridges, being trapped on a moving ice floe, -68 degrees Fahrenheit (-56 degrees Celsius) temperatures, high winds, a blizzard and a polar-bear attack. Reportedly, the hungry bear turned over Uemura’s sleeping bag (with him in it) after destroying his tent and consuming his food supply. The explorer’s wife remarked: “He is a continual surprise to me. At home he’s afraid of cockroaches. Out there, he will confront a bear.”
‘Bastion of Discrimination’
◆ When U.S. President Carter met with representatives of the National Council of Churches of Christ, the group claimed that U.S. efforts against South African apartheid and in connection with other “human rights” issues were too weak. Carter countered by saying: “I think there’s a lot the churches can do that we are not doing. In many ways, the last bastion of racial discrimination is in the churches. The government has done a great deal to eliminate segregation . . . The churches have done much less. I recognize we have a long way to go in the government, but on balance the government has done a better job than the churches. I say this as a member of both.”
◆ After exporting the famous Volkswagen “Beetle” for some 30 years, the Federal Republic of Germany now has to import thousands of them from Mexico. German plants recently stopped producing the little car. They now produce other Volkswagen models, while plants in Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria and South Africa make “Beetles” in areas where demand for them is greatest. Of the almost 20 million produced since 1946, an estimated 13 million are still in use.
Postman: Blow Your Horn
◆ “According to Post Office regulations,” reports the Athens Daily Post, “postmen should blow their trumpets when arriving in villages to inform those expecting mail that letters they were expecting may have arrived, and those wishing to post letters that the postman was at the village.” This proper postal use of trumpets was recently confirmed in an announcement by the Hellenic Post Office.
Antarctica’s First Native
◆ ‘The world’s first native Antarctican’ was born early this year, according to the Population Reference Bureau. The head of Argentina’s Esperanza station near the South Pole is the boy’s proud father.
Sweden Bans Aerosols
◆ As of January 1, 1979, aerosol sprays that use fluorocarbon propellants will be banned in Sweden. It is the first country to legislate such an action, based on possible harm to the atmosphere’s ozone layer from the fluorocarbons. “We have done it to give a lead, to draw attention to the problem and because we think someone has to start drawing the line,” declared one Swedish ecologist.
“Don’t Drink and Swim”
◆ The Water Safety Council of New South Wales, Australia, warns that the adage “Don’t drink and drive” should be expanded to include “Don’t drink and swim.” The Council wrote to the Medical Journal of Australia, pointing out that when drownings of those under 18 were eliminated, 39 percent of the remainder had “significant blood alcohol levels.”
Look Close to Home
◆ In two unrelated incidents last winter, young boys lost their lives within a few feet of home and were not found until weeks later. After 20 days, a 10-year-old boy was found in a 10-foot (3-meter) snowdrift only five feet (1.5 meters) from the front door of his home in Uxbridge, Massachusetts. In another case, at Alexandria, Kentucky, a five-year-old was lost for three months until his mother saw his cap floating in their thawing backyard swimming pool. Major searches by hundreds of volunteers and police had failed in both cases.
◆ Within a few months of each other, two giraffes kept in zoos recently fell down and subsequently died, one in London and one in Tel Aviv. James Doherty, curator of mammals at New York’s Bronx Zoo, believes that the collapses were freak accidents, not the result of some strange falling disease. He says that the heavy animals probably tore ligaments during their accidental falls, making it impossible for them to get up again. When giraffes are lying on the ground for longer than normal sleeping periods, digestive problems can produce bloating and death.
◆ “Last year, the revenue that accrued to both Catholic and Protestant churches here [Federal Republic of Germany] amounted to some $3 billion,” writes Wolfgang Wagner, editor of the newspaper Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung. Such riches come, not from voluntary contributions, but from government taxes that are transferred to the churches each year. Even the Nazi regime maintained this practice. “The spectacle of church prosperity is peculiar,” observes Wagner, “in a country where only 1 in 3 people attend religious services on Sunday, and where recruits for the clergy cannot be found. For churches, therefore, West Germany is a paradise of wealth if not sanctity.”
Clearing the Air
◆ A Japanese machine-tool sales company pays workers a “non-smoking” allowance, corresponding with the number of cigarettes that they have stopped smoking. The allowance is based on regaining wasted time at the rate of five minutes per cigarette. Hence, an eight-cigarette-per-day smoker is thought to waste about 1,000 minutes per month, for which he can be repaid 10,000 to 23,000 yen ($40-$95) if he stops. “Not only the health condition of [company] workers,” says the Mainichi Daily News, “but also [the company] business has improved a great deal.”
◆ Workers who ruin their health smoking on the job do not deserve workman’s compensation, according to a ruling by the California (U.S.A.) Worker’s Compensation Board. The Board rejected a request from a man with chronic bronchitis because he had been smoking for 28 years.
Great Sea in Distress
◆ Delegates from 17 nations recently met in Monte Carlo to draw up an antipollution treaty with regard to the Mediterranean Sea. Underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau told the delegates that fish in the sea are becoming smaller and that the pollution formerly confined mainly to coastal areas is now an off-shore problem. Said the journal To the Point International: “Scientists have detected that the level of mercury in fish is so high that some Adriatic fishermen carry enough of it in their bodies to poison a cat, and a permanent diet of 2.5 kg [5.5 pounds] of Mediterranean fish a week is enough to ensure death in about 20 years.” One of the main problems is that over 100 cities along the Mediterranean pour untreated sewage into the sea. Many factories have done the same with poisonous chemicals. As a result, it is said that “one Mediterranean swimmer in seven can reckon on picking up some kind of infection.”
◆ Japan has more vending machines per person than any other country. There is an average of one machine for every 36 persons, whereas the United States has only one for every 53. “The machines are the only residents of some highway rest stops,” notes the International Herald Tribune. “And one automatic vendor in northern Sapporo reportedly even thanks patrons politely.” However, there are some problems among Japan’s 3.2 million machines. Parents are angered over the 11,000 metal vendors that sell magazines considered pornographic by the Japanese. Any child with the right coins can obtain them.
◆ Wife beating and child abuse are known to be common domestic problems. But few are aware that many husbands are also battered. According to the authors of the book Wife Beating: the Silent Crisis, several new studies and their own research indicate that one in five American husbands is attacked by his wife. The total is thought to be about 12 million, whereas about 28 million wives are battered. Few men will admit the problem except when medical attention is needed, but many call for advice anonymously.