Euthanasia Gains Ground

Voluntary euthanasia causes the deaths of an estimated 5,000 people each year in the Netherlands, the highest figure of any European country, according to the Associated Press.

Dutch law sets a 12-year maximum prison sentence for euthanasia. But in recent years courts have passed only suspended sentences on doctors who follow mercy-killing criteria adopted by the Royal Dutch Medical Association. Those criteria allow mercy killing by a physician at a patient’s “well-considered” request in cases of “unacceptable suffering.”

The government of Premier Ruud Lubbers plans to submit legislation this year that would legalize voluntary euthanasia for terminally ill patients suffering unbearable pain, if physicians and family members agree. An opinion poll commissioned by a Roman Catholic broadcasting station found that 76 percent of the Dutch population favors limited legalization of mercy killing.


Increased Food Supply

The worldwide food supply has increased for the second consecutive year, according to Food Outlook, a publication of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO.)

“The ‘1986 cereal output is a record,” the report states, “[and] cereal stocks will rise sharply in 1986–87 for the third consecutive year.” Contributing to the increased production of cereals is a 2 percent rise in aggregate food output in developing countries, where poverty and hunger are the greatest.

“Nine of the [African] countries which suffered profoundly from the hunger crisis are expected to have a 4 percent increase over last year’s record harvest,” said Robert Parham, director of hunger concerns for the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission. Ethiopia’s crop yields are projected to be 40 percent higher than in 1984 and 1985, but still below predrought levels. In addition, the FAO report warned that harvests are threatened in Africa and parts of Asia by infestations of locusts and grasshoppers.

“Despite the increased food supply, an estimated 730 million people around the world remain hungry each day,” said Parham. “Increased productivity does not necessarily mean increased availability.”


Legalized Divorce

Argentina’s Senate last month adopted legislation legalizing divorce and remarriage in the predominantly Roman Catholic country. The nation’s House of Deputies had already approved the legislation.

Last year, Argentina’s Supreme Court struck down a provision in the marriage laws that barred persons from remarrying while their original spouses were alive (CT, Jan. 16, 1987, p. 58). Argentina had been one of only seven countries that prohibit divorce.

The new law will allow divorce by mutual consent after a couple has been separated at least one year. Divorce at the request of one marriage partner will be possible after a separation of at least three years. Public opinion polls indicate that at least 70 percent of the Argentine population favors legalized divorce.


More Methodists

Methodist churches around the world have grown by nearly 5 percent since 1981, according to the World Methodist Handbook.

The handbook, published by the World Methodist Council, says there are some 54 million Methodists around the world. That figure includes the membership of the 298 World Methodist Council-member bodies, as well as Methodist churches outside the council. The largest membership gain was reported in Africa, up almost 23 percent since 1981. North American membership increased about 1.7 percent. In contrast, Pacific region churches dropped about 21 percent, and European Methodist churches reported a loss of nearly 8 percent.


Religious Strife

Three people who were pursuing membership in a Baptist mission have been killed in the mountain village of Santiago Atitlan Mixe in southern Mexico, according to Baptist Press. Several members of the Baptist mission have fled the village.

A newspaper in Oaxaca, the state capital, said the killings were “at the hands of the municipal authorities” of Santiago Atitlan Mixe. Government authorities in Oaxaca said the persons responsible for the killings would be punished.

Religious strife in the village began in late March when police entered a Bible study meeting and arrested Mexican Baptist missionary Esteban Lorenzo and several members of the mission. Lorenzo was released from custody in April after being beaten and forced to sign a document stating he would never return to the village. No formal charges have been brought against the others arrested. The Oaxaca newspaper reported that 28 adults and 11 children are in Mexican jails because of religious persecution.


Winning One, Losing One

The Greek Parliament has dropped a legislative effort to give the government a voice in appointing members to councils of the Greek Orthodox Church (CT, May 15, 1987, p. 56). But it stood by a decision to take over some 370,000 acres of forest and agricultural land owned by Greek Orthodox monasteries and convents.

That move was opposed by the church and by World Council of Churches General Secretary Emilio Castro. Greece’s Socialist government said it will turn the land over to agricultural cooperatives.

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