Doubtless all of us have been stirred with many emotions these last few weeks at what is going on in Hungary. The murder not only of those staunch fighters for freedom but also of innocent bystanders, men, women, and children, has horrified the free world, and has aroused people everywhere to wish to do something both to stop the senseless killings and to aid those trying to escape from the Russian-imposed terror. Americans of all shades of political complexion, with the probable exception of the communists, applauded when the president asked that 5,000 refugees be admitted to this country. Even Rep. Francis Walter, co-author of the much-criticized McCarran-Walter Act, has urged that not only 5,000, but 17,000, be admitted. Obviously, Mr. Walter’s education in principles of humanity had improved greatly as a result of his visit to Austria and Hungary.
Doubtless all these suggested actions reflect the heart and soul of the American people. However, our attempts to carry these actions out have developed into something of a mess. Hundreds of public and private agencies are trying to handle bits of the big and growing job. Nobody is in charge to coordinate the efforts of these agencies and make them bear fruit. Not only that, but government bureaus as well as those of private agencies are getting into each other’s way and hair by not having centralized coordinators. An eyewitness, for example, observed the first 60 refugees land here the day before Thanksgiving. About five times as many officials were on hand to greet them as there were Hungarians to greet. The Army representatives would not even let representatives of the White House and the State Department greet the arrivals. And at one point, armed military police barred the heads of sponsoring agencies from speaking to the refugees. The processing of these unfortunates was to take only a short time, but it lasted far into the night. And a week later, some of these first 60 refugees didn’t know where they’d go for homes and jobs.
Overseas aid is about as badly snarled. The Red Cross is supposed to be collecting money to aid the refugees now in Austria, but it is not putting on a campaign because it does not want Hungarian relief to interfere with the numerous community campaigns it is making in this country this fall. At least 50 other groups, some local and some national, are collecting money on their own, and it is possible that professional fund collectors are utilizing this merry-go-round to secure funds that will never aid anyone but the collectors. Furthermore, there is no central place where money for clothing or supplies can be sent. And generous Americans have gotten nowhere trying to make special efforts on their own. In San Francisco, for example a concerted drive gathered more than 100 persons who were willing to act as sponsors for Hungarian families, but for more than a week they could not get the necessary forms to send in their applications. Pittsburgh bakers wish to send their own unit to Austria to bake bread for the refugees, but they have been sent from one government agency to another, for it appears that none of these agencies knows to whom they should go to put their idea into practice.
The height of the ridiculous was reached when supplies donated by our own International Cooperation Administration, and bearing labels indicated that they came from the U.S. were barred from admission until the International Red Cross erased the labels and replaced them with some of their own.
What can be done about this unfortunate situation? Well, it is, in effect, an international matter, and only the White House itself can act forthrightly and effectively to straighten out the snarl. The president could appoint a national director to straighten out both the government bureaus and to integrate and coordinate the efforts of private agencies and individuals. Here is an opportunity to put the amazing potentialities of American human desires to effective work to relieve human suffering. Hungarians are hungry, and we are not feeding them; they are in prison, and we are not visiting them; they are sick, and we are not ministering unto them. Not because we cannot, but because we let the very machinery of government that should expedite aid bog down in petty jealousy and indecision. Until we get that machinery functioning smoothly to get offered aid to the needy, we are shooting below par, whichever course we take.
Last week I reported to you on the preoccupation of the last Congress with a matter of adopting a general resolution approving the Ten Commandments as a part of our basic faith. A similar instance has come to my attention this week in the reported decision of the president of George Washington University not to consider for employment on the university faculty any person who does not believe in God.
At first blush this might seem to be a commendable policy. However, the thinking person is immediately faced with such questions as: how can you be certain when a person believes in God? In what kind of God do you expect him to believe? And, as a practical matter, if you were an atheist, and your employment hinged upon your asserted belief in a deity, would you hesitate to make such a declaration?
Aside from the purely theological abstraction involved here, are the considerations to be given to the academic side of the matter: freedom to learn, to hear, to read, to know, is basic in a democracy. A great university would certainly be under no obligation to employ an atheist any more than it would be to employ a Protestant, a Catholic, a Democrat, or a witch doctor. The basic question is: Should one be barred from such employment because he happens to fall within one of more of these categories? A thorough knowledge of the atheist viewpoint could do just as much to make a confirmed believer in religion out of a student as it could to make him an atheist. Any other premise assumes that the learner is not capable of thinking for himself, and if this is true, the whole premise upon which democracy is founded tumbles. It is hoped that President Marvin will reconsider his policy decision in the light of calmness and objectivity.
A rather curious bit of anti-Semitism came to my attention this week in the form of some comments made by a well-known woman reporter whose column is syndicated widely in American newspapers. Entitling her column, “America Can Now Free Herself of Dictation,” the reporter discusses briefly the situation in the Middle East, construes the election results as a verdict on our foreign policy, and proceeds to insist that until recently our foreign policy has been influenced unduly by our sympathy with the state of Israel and by our (to her) disproportionate regard for our diplomatic ties with France and Britain.
In her comments upon the influence of American Jews on our foreign policy she says, “There is not the slightest hope of salvaging American influence in the Arab world until, or unless, the United States shakes off the stranglehold that Israel, via the powerful Zionist organization of America, has exercised over our policies…. In all American history there is no comparable example of a national minority…. America cannot have any policy in the Middle East if her actions are dictated by the interests of one single Middle Eastern state, a newcomer at that, and one established against the vehement protests of the whole Moslem world…. The Eisenhower administration has tried to break that dictation, regardless of the domestic political consequences…. The election landslide … evaporated the myth of “the Jewish vote” – as interpreted by the Zionists.”
The reporter thus faces the reader with a dilemma: She cannot prove that her assertion is true; neither can the thinking reader prove that it is in error. All of us are aware that there are Jews in this country; all of us are aware that there is a Zionist movement. But it is difficult to believe that there is such a thing as a “Jewish vote.” Most analyses of Jewish voters concludes that the Jews, like any other ethnic group, vote pretty much according to their socioeconomic status rather than along strictly cultural or religious lines. The reporter in question, though, has inserted a neat bit of suggested propaganda that will probably be grist for the mills of those who wish to promote religious intolerance in America.
Washington: Church leaders, both Protestant and Catholic, are becoming more concerned about the increasing numbers of interfaith marriages. Marriages between Catholics and Protestants once were rare in the United States, but are now becoming commonplace. The official Catholic Directory reports that more than one-fourth of all marriages performed last year by Catholic priests involved a non-Catholic partner. Many thousands of other interfaith marriages were performed by Protestant ministers or civil authorities. Clergymen say that not only do many such mixed marriages end up in divorce, but also that there is a strong tendency for one or both partners to drift away from religion altogether. And that tendency, they add, also extends to the children.
The world’s Jews are celebrating now the world’s first great war for religious freedom. That war started some centuries ago, when a small, motley group of troops took on the armies of King Antiochus IV of Syria, with guerilla warfare. The Maccabeans finally shattered the vastly superior forces that were used to try to make the Jews become pagans. Dr. Maurice Eisendrath, the president of the American Hebrew Congregations, says Judaism – and also Christianity – would not be except for those efforts in 168-165 B.C. Legend says when the Syrians were defeated the temple lamps burned for six days on a normal one-day supply of oil. Thus began “Hanukah,” with the candles glowing in Jewish homes and synagogues in what is sometimes called the Festival of Lights. This past Wednesday the first “Hanukah” candles were lit at sunset. On each evening then, until the final day, this coming Thursday, one more candle is lit. At the end, eight candles burn in the “menorah,” a special candelabra. While the Hanukah gives glory to God for the preservation of the faith against tyranny, it also recalls the fighting Jew. Such a figure is often overlooked in the long record of Jewish oppression and disaster. But Rabbi Samuel Silver of New York City has noted that when the Jew has the least means and the cause is important, he fights as do the best. Thus in memory of the first big war for religious freedom, candles are lit, songs are sung, pageants staged, and gifts exchanged.
A Vatican City publication says the apostolic exarch in Sofia, Bulgaria, has been arrested. The paper, L’ Osservatore Romano, adds the arrest of Monsignor Cirillo Kurteff means all Catholic bishops in Bulgaria have disappeared under the persecution. An apostolic exarch is a Roman Catholic bishop appointed as head of a diocese of the Eastern Catholic Church.
A Presbyterian conference on promotion of world missions has heard plans for increased interchange of information about foreign mission activities of the three U.S. Presbyterian denominations. Dr. Edward Grige, of Philadelphia, has told the area mission meetings at Louisville, Kentucky, “We must alert the home church to what is going on abroad.” Not only will information be exchanged by the United Presbyterians, the Presbyterians U.S.A., and the Presbyterians U.S.; so will missionaries.
Rome: Withdrawal of government subsidies may force Catholic Bantu schools in South Africa to curtail their activity. The missionary news agency, Fides, says the 800 schools were seriously affected by the Bantu Education Act, which forces them to accept the government’s so-called apartheid (or segregation) policy, or lose their government subsidy. The schools teach 121,000 students.