EDITOR’S NOTE: BP Ledger carries items for reader information each week 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
International Mission Board
Campbellsville grads hear US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom
By Joan C. McKinney
CAMPBELLSVILLE, KY (Campbellsville University)–Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, United States ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, addressed the 248 students who received undergraduate degrees May 5 at Campbellsville University.
Johnson Cook, discussing religious freedom in the world, noted that the U.S. Constitution holds religious freedom to be a fundamental human right, with many of the nation’s founders having fled their countries to escape religious persecution.
“Many of my foreparents, as well as others in the Black church, were brought here against their will and experienced persecution on these shores,” Johnson Cook said.
“They were not always free to worship where or when or how they wanted — nor even with whom. Many were relegated to the balconies or separate areas of a church, required to listen to a message preached by those who enslaved them.”
As an African-American, she said, “We understand what religious persecution means. And we understand that freedom of religion is not just for people who believe like us.”
Johnson Cook became ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom May 16, 2011.
“I am committed to advancing religious freedom for everyone in every part of the world,” she said. “I travel overseas promoting religious tolerance and helping to build bridges between people of different faiths-whatever that faith may be. Our country holds that the freedom to believe, or not to believe, is a fundamental human right which transcends faith, background or tradition.”
Johnson Cook said religious freedom matters more than ever around the world.
She said she was pulled into a direction she never imagined on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
She was in the Bronx, returning from voting, when she heard about the first airplane striking the World Trade Center.
“Being a NYPD chaplain, I was soon asked to report to police headquarters — 10 blocks from Ground Zero. Families of officers who were missing in action after the collapse of the towers had gathered there and I and the other seven chaplains prayed, counseled and consoled them,” she said.
She went to Ground Zero to work with police, firefighters and medics as they searched for survivors.
“When rescue personnel saw I was a chaplain, they paused to catch their breath and to pray — regardless of their religion,” she said.
“At that moment I saw the unifying power of religion — almost in direct contrast to those who tried to use religion as an excuse to commit violence against innocent people. In the face of adversity, Americans prayed together and we were even more unified.”
She said during and after 9/11, “We found our common humanity and sought to find common ground. We formed municipal, national and international faith coalitions to build bridges of understanding, respect, and tolerance to push out suspicion, prejudice, and intolerance.”
Johnson Cook said religious intolerance is not a thing of the past. “Even as we speak, there are thousands around the world being persecuted, imprisoned and harassed on the basis of their faith,” she said.
She said Pew statistics show 2.2 billion people face social hostility because of their religion or where their governments restrict their worship.
She said, “It is our core conviction that religious freedom and respect for diversity is essential for a peaceful society. And research shows that where there is religious freedom, there is more stability in the country.”
Johnson Cook said, “Regardless of tradition, people of faith can work to build peace and strengthen civil society – and to model for society the values of tolerance, dialogue and respect.”
Johnson Cook has traveled to five continents promoting religious tolerance and helping to build bridges between people of different faiths.
“I have seen that great things can happen when members of different faith communities come together to share ideas and to grow a vision of harmony together through relationships that stretch beyond borders, beyond religions.”
She told the graduates, as members of a faith community, they play an essential role: “to build bridges across religious differences, to work together against religious hatred, violence and repression.”
“As members of a faith community, each and every one of you can work to promote mutual respect and freedom for people of your own faith, for people of other faiths, and for people who don’t belong to any religious group,” she said.
She urged the graduates to think of some of the ways they can take a leading role in serving others who face persecution due to their religious beliefs.
She urged them to be informed, get involved and volunteer their time.
“As young people, you have an unprecedented opportunity to make a difference in the world around you,” she said.
“Take a moment to appreciate what your hard work has accomplished,” she said. “You stand poised to live your values, and to work for your values, on a much larger stage.”
She was presented an honorary doctorate degree of public service during the ceremony.
Joan C. McKinney is news and publications coordinator at Campbellsville University.
Bradshaw address highlights Union’s Golf and Gala event
By Tim Ellsworth
JACKSON, Tenn. (Union University)–On a night when Andrew Luck was the first selection in the 2012 NFL draft, a former top pick told stories of his own playing days to a crowd of Union University supporters.
Terry Bradshaw, the former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback and current FOX Sports analyst, was the keynote speaker for Union’s fourth annual Roy L. White Legacy Golf and Gala at the Carl Perkins Civic Center April 26 in Jackson, Tenn.
“You should be eternally happy that God has given you a life and given you happiness, I hope,” Bradshaw said. “He’s given you an understanding of how to accept the grace that he’s given you. He’s also given you an understanding of how to accept the failures in our life.”
Bradshaw was the first player chosen in the 1970 NFL draft after his collegiate career at Louisiana Tech University. He finished 4-0 in Super Bowl play — a feat duplicated only by Joe Montana. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989. After his playing career ended, Bradshaw moved into broadcasting.
In an address filled with humor and antics that those familiar with Bradshaw’s personality might expect, the former quarterback told about his life growing up in Louisiana, where he was raised by Christian parents who taught him about the importance of family.
“We accomplish nothing in life if we don’t turn around and say ‘Thank you’ to somebody else,” Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw encouraged listeners to surround themselves with good people, to find a reason to live and a purpose to get up in the morning.
“You’ve got to have a willingness to overcome mistakes,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to deal with failure. You’ve got to find your way.”
Bradshaw poked fun at his intellectual prowess, saying that he graduated with a degree in physical education and a 2.2 grade point average.
“And two of that was given to me,” he said about his GPA. “You figure out which two.”
He talked about some of the challenges he faced in Pittsburgh, with fans who didn’t always appreciate him and who questioned his intelligence.
“You ever been booed when you got to work?” Bradshaw asked. “You ever walked in your doors at work — ‘Boo!’ It ain’t a good feeling, people, and it hurt my feelings. The Pittsburgh people were nasty.”
Between funny stories that brought laughs from the audience, Bradshaw offered moments of serious reflection and counsel.
“It’s in the quiet crucible of our personal private suffering that our most noble dreams are born, and God’s greatest gifts are given,” he said. “We are measured so often by our status in a community, our enrollment at a university, the money that we have, the car that we drive, the club that we’re a member of. But really, what’s more important, all of that or what kind of person you are?”
The Golf and Gala event featured a golf tournament earlier in the week, with the team of Jimmy Kostaroff, David Salyers, Chris Tursky and Brad Tursky taking first place.
Tim Ellsworth is director of news and media relations and Union University.
Egyptian Judge Frees Attackers Who Knifed Christian
By Wayne King/Compass Direct News
ISTANBUL (Compass Direct News)–A judge in upper Egypt has dismissed all charges against a group of Salafi Muslims who cut off the ear of a Christian in a knife attack and tried to force him to convert.
The Salafists, who say they base their religion on the practices of the first three generations of Muslims after Muhammad, had falsely accused 46-year-old Ayman Anwar Metry of having an affair with a Muslim woman, the Christian told Compass. On April 22 the judge exonerated the assailants only after Metry, under intense pressure in a “reconciliation meeting,” agreed to drop charges, said his attorney, Asphoure Wahieb Hekouky.
“Him dropping the case and accepting the reconciliation meeting is shameful,” Hekouky said of the Egyptian justice system.
The same Salafi Muslims who attacked Metry terrorized him and his family for a year, Hekouky said.
On the afternoon of March 20, 2011, in Qena, in the province of the same name, a group of about 20 Salafi Muslims attacked Metry. Earlier that day, someone had set fire to an unoccupied rental apartment he owned in the city.
While waiting in another part of the city for workman to arrive to fix a metal door on the burned-out unit, two men approached Metry and convinced him that he needed to go back to the remains of his apartment. After his arrival, the Salafi Muslims pounced on him. They accused him of having an inappropriate relationship with one of his former female tenants and began beating him.
“I didn’t know that there were any more of them than the two who were talking nicely to me at the beginning, so I was shocked when I went with them to the flat,” Metry said. “There were 20 more waiting for me there, and they caught me and started beating me up.”
The men interrogated Metry as they beat him, demanding he “confess” to the affair and tell them where the woman was. Metry said he told them he didn’t do anything wrong and didn’t know where the woman was, but the Salafists were able to find her and brought her to the charred apartment.
They demanded that the woman admit to an affair of some sort, but, like Metry, she said they had never been romantically involved. Then the men broke into two groups; one set upon the woman, and the other began beating Metry. During the beating, the men restrained Metry, took a knife and began sawing open the back of his neck. They told the woman that they would kill him if she didn’t say she had had some type of affair with him. She did as they ordered.
Metry said his attackers demanded he say the Shahada, the Islamic creed for conversion, and that when he refused, they cut off his ear.
Covered with puddles of his blood, the apartment looked like a slaughterhouse, Metry said.
“If you saw how I looked then … My shirt, if you squeezed it, it dripped an unbelievable amount of blood. With all the blood that was on the floor, it looked like there was a sheep slaughtered there,” he said. “They thought that I was dead, so then they called the police and said, ‘We took our sharia [Islamic law] rights, now you come and take your civil rights from him.'”
The police came and took Metry and the woman to the hospital. The two, along with a Muslim friend of Metry’s who witnessed the attack and happens to be a police officer, were then taken into police custody.
“Officer Khaled was with me and worked hard to help me – he witnessed the whole thing and he testified at the police station,” Metry said. “Also, the girl came to the police and said that there was nothing between me and her. She said that the Salafi men forced her to say there was.”
Somehow the Salafists found out what the woman said to police, and when officers released the woman after questioning, the hard-line Muslims caught up with her, Metry said.
“Then when they heard that the girl didn’t say what they wanted her to say, they beat her up again and broke one of her fingers and threatened her and told her if she didn’t change what she said at the police station, they would kidnap her sister,” Metry said.
None of the Salafi Muslims who committed the attack were arrested.
Almost as soon as the police questioning ended, the assailants began pressuring him not to prosecute anyone, Metry said.
“They used all sorts of ways to persuade me to let it go and drop the case against them — they shot at us; about 500 Salafi gathered around the house trying to set it on fire. When they threatened to set the house on fire and kidnap my sisters, I had to drop the charges against them,” he said.
As the date for a hearing drew near three months ago, the Salafi Muslims shot at Metry’s house in Qena and at his brother’s car, he said.
“I went to see the police to get them to do something, and nothing at all was done to arrest anybody,” he said. “It seemed like they were the police and the controllers of the city, those Salafis.”
The attackers threatened all his family members, he said, including his brothers and sisters, to try to force him to drop the charges, he said
“Some of my brothers and sisters emigrated and left the country – they went to Italy,” he said. “I tried to, but I wasn’t allowed to leave the airport.”
Metry said he informed criminal prosecutors what was happening, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.
“During the first reconciliation meeting, I told the attorney general everything and told him that I am dropping the charges under the Salafi threats,” he said. “After all that, I saw that the police did nothing to arrest any of them, and they are all free.”
A final factor was a request from Bishop Sharoubeem, the Coptic Orthodox bishop of Qena, who asked him to drop the case, according to Metry.
“He asked me to drop the case, but I insisted on not dropping the case at all. I insisted on getting my rights back,” he said. “But when a bishop comes and asks you to drop the case, what else could you do other than following his advice? He told me that they might try and attack or burn the local church if I didn’t drop the case.”
Metry said the bishop, speaking for the Coptic Orthodox Church, agreed to compensate him for the property he lost in the fire and attack. The bishop could not be reached for confirmation.
Still, Metry said he was robbed of justice.
“They are free in the street threatening us when we come or go,” he said. “Even when they shot at us, and we called the police and security forces thinking that they would arrest them, nothing was done at all.”
Emotionally ‘Below Zero’
The recovery for Metry and his family after the attack has been difficult, but he said it has brought him closer to God.
The Salafists were trying to beat him to death, Metry said, so they could “kill the facts” of the attack. In addition to slicing off his ear, they cut him all over his body and left bruises from a beating that “would have killed a camel,” he said.
In total, he had to have 35 stitches and two reconstructive surgical procedures where his ear once was. The ear was too badly damaged to be reattached.
“It took me three months to recover from all the injuries and the two plastic surgeries on my ear,” he said.
Metry and his immediate family spent most of the year after the attack fleeing from one part of Qena Province to another, making it impossible for his three children, ages 6 to 12, to attend school. Because his employer cannot or will not transfer him, he has had to take a year off from work and support himself with savings and what rental income he has left.
The attacks and the changes of residence have scarred his children, too, with his 6-year-old girl probably suffering the worst, he said.
“She shakes if she sees a bearded man walking down the street, because of what happened to me,” Metry said. “The little girl asked her mother to let her take a knife with her to her kindergarten class in case somebody attacks her, so she can defend herself.”
Metry’s wife, Thanaa Yakoub Gerges, concurred.
“We were living well, the children and us, but after what happened emotionally we are below zero,” she said. “It made us hate the house, the city and the whole country. Imagine when you lose your reputation and can’t move. We were destroyed gradually, this happened more than a year ago, and the children are being destroyed gradually. I am willing to die for Christ, but these are my children who are being attacked.”
Through it all, however, Metry said he found a glimmer of faith he previously had not known.
“I am not saying this to puff up my spirit, but at that moment when they were attacking me, I couldn’t believe the faith that was in me. I couldn’t believe that I actually had this faith, it was a testimony — I won, I didn’t lose,” he said. “They tried everything to convert me to Islam, but I didn’t care. I said they could do anything they wanted to me, I wouldn’t convert.”
Compass Direct News (www.compassdirect.org), a news service based in Santa Ana, Calif., focusing on Christians worldwide who are persecuted for their faith. Used by permission.
ASIA PRAYER REQUESTS, INTERNATIONAL MISSION BOARD
SOUTH ASIA (International Mission Board)–Brief items reported by South Asia News (http://www.go2southasia.org) in May include:
BANGLADESH. “Political agitation is not new to Bangladesh, but recently the strikes called hartals here have turned violent. It is felt by the tribal team that the agitation will increase leading up to the time monsoon starts. Violent hartals make travel dangerous and disrupt ministry plans and teams coming into the country to work with us. Those of us living here are use to this reality, but we would truly appreciate your prayers that the violence relating to any upcoming hartals will be kept to a minimum.” A city team writes, “Please continue to lift up this land before the Lord. We are fine but the inconvenience and frustrations just mount for citizens each day, not to mention the loss in productivity and income. Pray that God would bring about a solution to the current issues and bring long-term peace to Bangladesh as people turn to Him.” http://southasianpeoples.imb.org/
BHUTAN. Pray for the Kurtopa (Gurtu) people who live in the Lhuntse District in northern Bhutan near the China border. Numbering approximately 16,000, they are one of the few people groups in Bhutan yet to be engaged with the Gospel. It is estimated that at least 80 percent of the Kurtopa have never heard the Good News. Known for their embroidery and basket-making, the Kuropa count it a privilege to send their sons to the monastery for a time. The royal family traces their ancestry to this area. Pray that the Kurtopa would soon become “children of the King!” http://southasianpeoples.imb.org/
DIASPORA. “As we drove home from church last Sunday, we passed an ox-driven cart carrying a Hindu idol with dozens of worshippers bringing offerings. As we turned the corner from that ceremony, we passed a mosque and heard the call to prayer. Further down the road, we passed Buddhist cemeteries where graves of loved ones have been weeded and cleaned, and offerings of paper money and joss-sticks can be seen. Buddhists believe these offerings help the departed to make purchases where they are and be more comfortable. In a span of 20 minutes we were acutely reminded of the great deceptions of various types all around us. Ask God to keep our hearts tender to the spiritual needs around us and yet grounded firmly in the truth. Pray we will speak boldly as he gives opportunity.” http://southasianpeoples.imb.org/
INDIA. This month please focus your intercession on pregnant women who are seeking to find out whether they will have a boy or a girl. It’s illegal in India to have a sonogram to find out the sex of a baby because of the huge program of female feticide. Many women will have illegal sonograms and after finding out they are having a girl, they will abort the baby. The world average is 1000 girls for every 1050 boys. In Delhi, the average is 866 girls for every 1000 boys. Pray that these mothers and fathers will see each life as precious and a gift from the One True God. Pray that they and their daughters will understand how God knit them together tenderly and lovingly and is calling them unto Himself. http://southasianpeoples.imb.org/
MALDIVES. It is against the law to bring God’s Word into the Maldives. Pray that God will reveal Himself in the Maldives through dreams, visions, radio broadcasts, and a bold verbal witness by the few Christians living there. Pray that the Maldivians who travel abroad would seek the Truth and be exposed to the Scriptures in Dhivehi (their language). http://southasianpeoples.imb.org/
NEPAL. A Christian executive in Nepal is calling for prayer for their country regarding the issue of Freedom of Religion in Nepal which is being threatened by a draft law (Article 160) that “makes it illegal to do anything which might be construed as influencing someone to change their religion.” He writes, “Despite concerns which have been raised, this article is a clear breach of basic human rights, and undermines both Nepal as a secular state and the progress made on freedom of religion.” Pray God’s Word would go forth throughout Nepal, that His people would stand strong in their witness throughout this beautiful land. http://southasianpeoples.imb.org/
PAKISTAN. Pray for new believers that they would have full assurance of the truthfulness of the Gospel and that nothing can separate them from the love of Christ. One day, the truth will be plain to all. May believers have the boldness to make the truth known while people still have a chance to believe in the Gospel. May new believers have confidence in the promise that if they do not deny Christ, then one day Jesus will acknowledge them in the presence of God. http://southasianpeoples.imb.org/
SRI LANKA. Pastor M believes that greater things are yet to come in Sri Lanka. For the past nine months, he and approximately 10 leaders from the church have been obediently following the pattern set before them. In January, they began meeting daily for worship, prayer and Bible study. Since then, they have seen people come to faith weekly and new discipleship groups are being formed. A handyman and gardener for the church shares this report: “As I was working one day, I asked the Lord to bring me someone to disciple. ‘I’m a simple man, Lord, but I want to be obedient and disciple someone.’ A short time later, a man came walking up the hill, looking for the pastor. I shared the Gospel with him, and he prayed to receive Christ. I asked him if I could teach him more, and he said yes. I praise the Lord!” This church could very well be witnessing the beginning of a church-planting movement. Ask the Lord to pour out His Spirit and bring many to faith. Pray for the new believers to be formed into house churches and for each leader to take on the responsibility of leading these house churches and training future leaders. http://southasianpeoples.imb.org/
MUSIC, ART and STORYTELLING. “Around 250 people from throughout the area, representing at least nine languages, attended a songwriting workshop led by a team of American songwriters. We lost track of the number of songs written, but praise God that the workshop went really well. One group of attendees has since written 10 more songs in their heart language after going home. Pray that these mostly young, new songwriters will establish a pattern of “singing new songs to the Lord” for the building up of believers around them and the spreading of the Gospel.” http://southasianpeoples.imb.org/
SOUTH ASIAN HINDU FESTIVALS. Amayavasa is the Indian word for “new moon.” Traditionally, every new-moon day is an auspicious day for worshipping the forefathers, and special “poojas” (prayers) are made. Religious Hindus are not supposed to work and are to concentrate instead on the rites of Amayavasa, which includes presenting black sesame and water as offerings to departed forefathers. As Hindus in South Asia focus on discarding the old and embracing the new, pray that God will reveal the new life He has promised to them in Christ Jesus, who is the only way, truth and life (see John 14:6). http://southasianpeoples.imb.org/
SOUTH ASIAN UNENAGED PEOPLES. The Pattanavan people of the coastline of Tamil Nadu, India, number more than 130,000 and are generally sea fishermen who catch their fish by casting nets from catamarans. The nets are made by the Pattanavan people, who are experts at weaving. The Pattanavan have been known for their weaving skills for centuries, with a Pattanavan legend telling of how they supplied silk thread to the Hindu god Shiva. The Pattanavan people of Tamil Nadu remain Hindus, with no known believers among them. Please pray for these dear people to allow the one true God, who knitted them and formed them in their mothers’ wombs, to draw them to Himself. Pray for national and international Christians to have a desire to live among the Pattanavan people and share Truth with them. http://prayerthreads.imb.org
SOUTH ASIAN UNREACHED PEOPLES. Spending most of the time in their homes, South Asian Muslim women are considered to be one of the world’s most unreached people groups. As you celebrate Mother’s Day this month, pray for doors – both physical and spiritual – to open so that God’s Light may enter into the homes where Muslim women live and work. http://prayerthreads.imb.org
Praying for Mothers Prayer Guide. Specific prayer requests voiced by mothers working among South Asians. http://southasianpeoples.imb.org/
Praying for Mothers 31 Day Prayer Guide. Pray daily for mothers and grandmothers working among South Asians. http://southasianpeoples.imb.org/
New in 2012 is a monthly South Asia Prayer Guide. This can be ordered from www.imbresources.org or downloaded as a pdf at http://southasianpeoples.imb.org/