EDITOR’S NOTE: BP Ledger carries items for reader information each Monday from various Southern Baptist-related entities, and news releases of interest from other sources. The items are published as received.
Today’s BP Ledger includes items from:
Compass Direct News
U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
LifeWay Christian Resources
India’s Anti-Christian Violence in 2008 Linked to Terrorists
Christians call for agency to probe anti-Muslim terrorism ties to Orissa-Karnataka attacks.
By Vishal Arora
NEW DELHI, March 25 (Compass Direct News)–Right-wing terrorists played a key role in attacking and killing Christians in Orissa and Karnataka states in 2008, one of the Hindu extremist suspects in anti-Muslim bomb blasts has told investigators, leading to renewed demands for a probe by India’s anti-terror agency.
Pragya Singh Thakur, arrested for planning 2008 bombings targeting Muslims in west India, told the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that Lt. Col. Prasad Srikant Purohit had “masterminded” the 2008 anti-Christian violence in Orissa and Karnataka, The Indian Express daily reported on Wednesday (March 23). Purohit is accused along with Thakur for the 2008 bombings of Muslims.
Thakur had met with Purohit after the August 2008 Kandhamal attacks against Christians began and told her “he was into big things like blasts, etc., and had masterminded the Orissa and Karnataka ‘disturbances,'” the national daily reported.
The NIA, a recently formed agency to prevent, probe and prosecute terrorism-related incidents on a national scale, is investigating several cases involving right-wing terrorism aimed at the Muslim minority in retaliation for Islamist attacks. Both Thakur, formerly a member of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party’s student wing, and Purohit, who was serving in the Indian Army when he was arrested for his role in blasts in Malegaon city in western Maharashtra state, were part of the Hindu extremist Abhinav Bharat.
Thakur’s statement to the NIA came soon after a Directorate of Military Intelligence report said Purohit had confessed to having killed at least two Christians in Kandhamal and playing a role in violence in Karnataka and other states.
The revelation by Thakur was not surprising, said John Dayal, secretary general of the All India Christian Council.
“We have held that the military precision of the Kandhamal riots, which spread fast and raged for months, could not be a work of mere common people, and that higher brains were at work to ‘teach the Christians a lesson’ while sending out signals of their power lust to the entire nation,” Dayal told Compass.
The violence in Kandhamal began following the assassination of a Hindu extremist leader Laxmanananda Saraswati on Aug. 23, 2008. Though Maoists claimed responsibility for the murder, Hindu extremists blamed Christians for it. The violence began after the arrival of Indresh Kumar, an executive committee member of the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and a suspect in blast cases, said Kandhamal activist Ajay Singh. Local media reports said Kumar was part of Saraswati’s funeral procession, which was designed to trigger the attacks, Singh added.
The RSS denies having played any role in terrorism. On March 12, Ram Madhav, an RSS national executive committee member, called the allegation against Kumar “a concerted political campaign.” Those who were dragging the RSS leader into blast cases “will stand thoroughly exposed,” The Times of India daily quoted him as saying.
Dayal and another Christian leader, Joseph Dias, said they had separately written to India’s prime minister and home minister seeking inclusion of the anti-Christian attacks in an ongoing NIA investigation. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) said he had petitioned the president for the same.
Dias, general secretary of the Catholic-Christian Social Forum, a Maharashtra-based rights group, recalled that violence in Kandhamal spread across 13 other districts of Orissa.
“In Kandhamal alone, more than 6,600 homes were destroyed, 56,000 people rendered homeless, thousands injured, and about 100 men and women [were] burned alive or hacked to death,” Dias said. “Among the women raped was a Catholic nun.”
In September 2008, as the violence continued in Kandhamal, a series of attacks on Christians and their property rocked Mangalore city in Karnataka state.
“In Karnataka, it was hundreds of churches that were desecrated, Christians brutally beaten up, over 350 false cases foisted on them, property held by the community taken over, and no relief to date [has been] received,” Dias said.
While the government of Orissa downplayed the violence as “ethnic tensions,” Karnataka officials blamed it on Christian conversions.
The RSS and outfits linked to it such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) and the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram, which claims to work for tribal welfare, facilitated the Kandhamal attacks together with alleged Hindu nationalist terrorists, Dayal said.
“We want the truth about Hindu groups’ anti-national terror activities against minority Christians to come out,” said George, whose GCIC is based in Karnataka.
Dias warned that that the latest statement by Thakur must not to be seen in isolation, as the Military Intelligence report revealed that the Abhinav Bharat had targeted Christians in several states, including Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
The “game plan” is to “cripple Christian religious places, property and institutions, besides eliminating its nascent community leadership at the grassroots,” Dias added.
The Abhinav Bharat was formed in 2007 by a few right-wing Hindus allegedly disillusioned with the leaders of the Hindu nationalist movement, whom they thought were too timid to make India a Hindu nation, rather than one based on religious pluralism.
Vietnam: USCIRF Urges U.S. Government to Speak Out about Human Rights Defender, Name Vietnam CPC
WASHINGTON, D.C. (U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom)–The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) urges the U.S. government to speak out publicly on behalf of jailed human rights defender Cu Huy Ha Vu, who was found guilty and sentenced to seven years under vague national security laws for his activities defending victims of land confiscation and abuse of power, including representing the Catholic villagers of Con Dau.
“Cu Huy Ha Vu’s arrest is part of a disturbing trend in Vietnam where the defenders of the vulnerable are attacked as threats to national security,” said Leonard Leo, USCIRF chair. “The Obama Administration cannot continue to advance Vietnam’s security and economic interests without seeking concrete improvements on U.S. interests in religious freedom and the rule of law. It’s past time for the Administration to re-designate Vietnam as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC).”
Cu Huy Ha Vu is a well known human rights defender who has sued the Vietnamese government to protect cultural heritage sites and publicly criticized officials for corruption and persecution of dissidents. In October 2010, his law firm took on the case of the Catholic villagers of Con Dau, near Da Nang. Residents of this village faced government-organized harassment, detention, torture, and arrest for refusing to sell or vacate land—including a long-standing religious burial site that has been in their village for 135 years—to create an eco-tourist resort. Cu Huy Ha Vu was arrested soon after speaking out publicly about their case. USCIRF testified at the August 2010 Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing on efforts by the Vietnamese government to obtain the property of Con Dau residents and about general religious freedom conditions in Vietnam. A copy of this testimony can be found at www.uscirf.gov.
Cu Huy Ha Vu is the latest in a long list of human rights advocates in Vietnam who have faced government persecution for representing vulnerable communities, including religious groups and individuals. Among the advocates who have been arrested and harassed for representing religious communities or advocating for greater religious freedom including Le Cong Dinh, Nguyen Van Dai, Le Thi Cong Nhan, Le Tran Luat, Le Quoc Quan, and Fr. Nguyen Van Ly.
“Vietnam has been called the United States’ new best friend in Asia, but it continues to trample on individual freedoms and the rule of law with impunity,” said Mr. Leo. “Re-designating Vietnam as a CPC is not only the right thing to do, it will advance the United States’ strategic interests as well, producing tangible religious freedom improvements on the ground without hindering other bilateral interests. Most importantly, it will clearly signal that the United States sides with those in Vietnam who peacefully seek greater freedoms and rights.”
USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in the Senate and the House of Representatives. USCIRF’s principal responsibilities are to review the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and to make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress.
Arkansas LifeWay Christian Store celebrates grand opening
Grand opening celebration for Hot Springs location is April 9-May 14
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (LifeWay)–The Hot Springs (Ark.) LifeWay Christian Store will celebrate its grand opening April 9-May 14.
The 5,580-square-foot LifeWay Christian Store, which officially opened Friday, April 1, features Christian music, gifts, Bibles, books, DVD’s, children’s products and church supplies. Perry Robinson will serve as manager for the new store.
“We are excited about the opportunity to be a part of Hot Springs and the surrounding communities,” said Mark Scott, vice president of LifeWay Christian Resources. “We look forward to serving people and churches by providing them with biblical solutions for life.”
The Hot Springs store is one of seven LifeWay Christian Stores in Arkansas and one of 163 stores the chain operates in 27 states. The store is located on Higdon Ferry Road in the Fairgrounds Crossing Shopping Center near Best Buy and Sam’s Club and will be open from 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
LifeWay Christian Stores are owned and operated by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. The organization has headquarters in Nashville, Tenn. Customers can also shop LifeWay Christian Stores online at LifeWayStores.com or by calling the toll-free number 800-233-1123.
Manager: Perry Robinson
Address: 1446 Higdon Ferry Road, Hot Springs, AR 71913
Phone number: (501) 623-2328
Hours:9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Opening day:April 1
Grand opening celebration:April 9-May 14
Campbellsville University launches new radio station WLCU
By Elena Groholske, student news writer
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. (Campbellsville University)–Campbellsville University launched a new radio station, WLCU 88.7 FM, today. The radio station is broadcasting out of Campbellsville University’s Office of Broadcast Services at 203 West Broadway, Campbellsville, Ky.
“WLCU-FM radio is an exciting new venture for Campbellsville University and one that holds great promise for enhancing learning opportunities for CU students who are preparing for careers in broadcast media and for communication of the many exciting programs at the university,” Dr. Michael V. Carter, president of Campbellsville University, said.
“We believe that the radio station, coupled with our television station, sets CU apart among Christian universities in this part of the United States and becomes an additional dimension to fulfilling our institutional mission.”
University students will be heavily involved with the radio station; working hands on in the station as well as creating the segments and music programs that will air on 88.7 FM. Most of the students involved are enrolled in the university’s Introduction to Broadcasting class that is taught by Dr. H. Keith Spears, vice president for regional and professional education, and assisted by Jeannie Clark, WLCU technician specialist, and Jimmie Wooley, director of broadcast services.
The radio station comes with the university’s announcement of the offering of the new broadcast and digital media emphasis. Additional broadcasting courses will be offered in the fall.
“As students learn the trade of broadcast journalism,” Spears said, “the radio station will become their lab. Broadcast 1 will deal with producing public affairs and news sport, public service announcements and other programming.”
WLCU 88.7 FM will be student operated supported by the staff and faculty. Internships and possibly work-study student workers will be available but overall volunteers will run the station — mainly this year by students in the broadcasting class.
“These students will also be required to record sports play-by-plays, university newscasts, commercials and interviews,” Spears said. “They must be ‘air worthy’ and will then be used by WLCU.”
WLCU will air contemporary Christian music, information segments, public services announcements and news and weather segments. Students in the broadcasting class have recorded PSAs that have already aired during the testing phase of the station.
“All programs will reflect the core values of the university,” Wooley said. “The station will be a great tool for the broadcast major.”
The addition of the radio station and an existing television station provide the university with a unique opportunity to offer a revised program that will better meet the needs of all students pursuing a career in mass media, according to Stan McKinney, lead professor for mass communication.
Pending board approval in April, the program will begin offering majors in Broadcasting and Digital Media, Journalism and Public Relations in fall. Minors will be offered in Broadcasting and Digital Media, Journalism, Photojournalism and Public Relations. An area is also available, McKinney said, which is the equivalent of a major and minor and includes courses from all disciplines.
“Under the revised programs, every mass communication student will get exposure to broadcasting and digital media,” McKinney said. “Students will also develop their own websites and post online portfolios. We believe the new radio station and the opportunities it affords along with our revised programs will make our students extremely competitive in the job market.”
Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with over 3,000 students offering 63 undergraduate programs, 17 master’s degrees and five postgraduate areas. The website for complete information is campbellsville.edu.
* Campbellsville University’s new radio station is on the air.: http://app.readmedia.com/news/attachment/28299/radio.jpg