Watching the World
“For the first time since the depression in the ’30’s, the industrialized countries, as well as the developing countries, face persistent unemployment,” says Michel Hansenne, general director of the International Labor Organization (ILO). According to Jornal da Tarde: “Thirty percent of the world’s labor force—about 820 million persons—are unemployed or underemployed.” Regarding ILO’s report on Latin America, the Jornal do Brasil comments: “There has been an alarming increase in the number of what are called ‘precarious’ workers—temporary workers, poorly paid—in harvesting and processing coffee, cutting sugarcane, harvesting cotton, fruits and vegetables for export.”
A boy who was expelled from Kobe Municipal Technical Junior College in Japan is petitioning for his right to be educated. Because of his religious conscience as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, he did not participate in kendo (Japanese fencing) drills taught as part of physical education. The school expelled him even though he was a top-ranking student despite the low evaluation for physical education. “It goes against all ‘common sense’ in school,” said Professor Tetsuo Shimomura of Tsukuba University in the Yomiuri Shimbun, “to disciplinarily expel a student for poor schoolwork who has no other problem, just because he does not measure up to the passing score by a few points in one specific subject.” He called for flexibility and then said: “What is disturbing in this case is the still deep-rooted tyrannical tendencies on the part of the school.”
“Great Moral Failures in History”
“The record of the Vatican in relationship to the Holocaust is one of the great moral failures in history—one from which the Catholic Church itself has yet to recover,” writes columnist James Carroll in The Boston Globe. To back up his point, he lists the following historical data: “1929—The Lateran Pacts between Mussolini and Pius XI give the Vatican freedom and money, and they give needed prestige to Mussolini. —The Vatican signs a Concordat with Hitler, his first international success. . . . 1935—Mussolini invades Abyssinia. Catholic bishops bless Italian troops . . . 1939—Mussolini decrees an end to the rights of Jews in Italy. The pope says nothing. . . . 1942—The pope receives reports from Italian army chaplains about the extermination of the Jews. In his Christmas message, he bemoans the fate of ‘unfortunate people’ killed because of their race, but he does not mention Hitler, Germany or the death camps. Once again, the word ‘Jew’ is not used. . . . 1943—Germans begin to round up Jews in Italy, even in Rome near the Vatican. The pope is still silent.”
Catholic Church to Repent?
In a letter sent to Catholic cardinals, Pope John Paul II has exhorted the church to recognize the errors committed “by its men, in its name” and to repent of them. The pope admits that “coercive methods, prejudicial to human rights” used by the church “were then applied by the totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century,” says La Repubblica of Rome. But of what does the Catholic Church need to repent? “Of many things,” confesses Vatican commentator Marco Politi. “Of witch-hunts, of sending heretics to be burned at the stake, of the scientists and freethinkers who were threatened with torture, of the support of Fascist regimes, of the massacres carried out in the New World under the symbol of the Cross,” not to mention “of considering herself the perfect society, trustee of absolute power over consciences,” and “of believing, at a certain point in history, that the pope really was the vicar of Christ—a theological blasphemy.”
Exodus to Alternative Religion
The Church of England is experiencing a mass exodus of clergymen. Why? “The apparent trigger has been the Church of England’s controversial decision to ordain female priests,” reports The Toronto Star. “More than 130 Anglican priests have already fled. And a stampede of others now appears to be massing,” claims the Star. Seven Anglican bishops and more than 700 priests are looking into the possibility of joining the Catholic Church. Since World War I, support of the Church of England has gradually decreased. In England, of the 20 million who profess to be baptized Anglicans, only one million attend Sunday services. Difficult times lie ahead. The exodus from the church will likely continue.
Staggering Cost of Crime
A recent report by the Australian Institute of Criminology revealed that the cost of crime in Australia amounts to $26 billion each year. This represents almost $1,300 for every man, woman, and child in Australia. A spokesman quoted in the Sydney newspaper Sunday Telegraph said that the most costly form of crime is fraud—accounting possibly for almost $14 billion a year. Other cost estimates: murder, $275 million a year; drug offenses, $1,200 million; breaking and entering, $893 million; and, surprisingly, shoplifting, up to $1.5 billion. The report concluded with the comment that the cost of crime is rising steadily.
A Battered World
As 1994 began, the world was being battered by 43 wars, according to a report from the Political Institute at the University of Hamburg, Germany. Commenting on the report, the Ecumenical Press Service writes that 22 wars were waged in Asia, 13 in Africa, 5 in Latin America, and 3 in Europe. The Institute also found that during the 1950’s, the yearly average number of wars stood at 12. In the 1960’s it climbed to 22, and today that number has nearly doubled.
More Watching —Less Reading
Why do schoolchildren who watch a lot of television lose interest in reading? After studying the behavior of 1,000 Dutch elementary-school children during the last three years, researcher C. M. Koolstra found two reasons. By watching much television, children lose their pleasure in reading and lessen their ability to concentrate. For frequent television watchers—reports a news release from Leiden University in the Netherlands—it becomes gradually harder to grasp what they are reading and to keep their mind focused on the page in front of them. Before long, they push their book aside and reach for the TV’s remote control. The researcher also found that the type of programs made no difference. Whether the children were watching a lot of comedy, children’s programs, drama, or informative programs, the result was the same: “a decline in reading.”
Promoting Deserts and Ill Health
Although 85 percent of Tanzania’s poor rural population desperately needs wood fuel for cooking, heating, and lighting, each year 42,000 acres [17,000 ha] of scarce woodland is cut down for curing the country’s tobacco crop, reports Synergy, the newsletter from the Canadian Society for International Health. “It is indeed paradoxical that we are felling valuable trees and creating deserts in order to gain foreign exchange from tobacco exports,” comments Professor W. L. Kilama, director general of Tanzania’s National Institute for Medical Research. “It is equally paradoxical,” he adds, “that developing countries are producing tobacco that is promoting ill-health.”
Sex Crimes on the Increase
Sex crimes—rape, incest, and child abuse—once deemed a problem of the Western world, are apparently on the increase in some African lands. In recent months, media coverage of sex crimes has become frequent. The Times of Zambia reported that a 37-year-old man was given a five-year jail term and ordered to receive six strokes of the cane for having sex with his 13-year-old daughter. He was found to have abused the girl after his wife left him following a quarrel. The girl is reported to have disowned her father during the court hearing.
China’s Rising Population
The number of people in China will reach 1.2 billion this year, reported the official Chinese news agency Xinhua. Despite China’s strict family planning policy that promotes a maximum of one child per family, the population rise to 1.2 billion came six years earlier than population planners had expected. The news agency suggested two reasons for the increase: First, many rural women are willing to pay the fine imposed for having more than one child. Second, migrant workers who move to cities from rural areas are able to evade the family planning controls that regulate births in settled areas.