Today's BP Ledger contains items from:
World News Service
University of Mobile
Christian landmarks in Israel under attack by ultra-Orthodox gangs
By Jill Nelson
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (World News Service) -- Attackers torched nine cars in Israel's West Bank and slashed the tires on 28 cars in an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem on June 19. The Hebrew word for "revenge" was scrawled across a number of the vandalized vehicles. Just weeks earlier, vandals spray painted Jerusalem's Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion with the words, "Christians are monkeys" for the second time in two months.
Both incidents are believed to be part of a growing trend in Israel called "price tag" attacks, a form of retribution for violence against Israeli settlers or the government dismantling of illegal settlements. The perpetrators claim a "price" must be paid for any anti-settlement activity and often label the vandalism with their trademark phrase, "price tag."
These attacks are on the rise in Israel, and their targets have expanded from primarily West Bank Arabs to peace activists, churches, and monasteries. For a region accustomed to the unknowns of terrorist attacks, Israel finds itself grappling with how to define these attacks, and what they mean. Some victims claim the government hasn't done enough to track down and prosecute the perpetrators in a country known for its superior security forces.
The number of price tag attacks has grown from only a few in 2008 to more than 200 in 2012. Already the number of incidents reported during the first half of this year has surpassed last year's total. The violators have desecrated mosques and churches, demolished olive trees owned by Palestinians, torched cars and places of worship, and scrawled offensive graffiti across Christian sights in Israel.
The primary suspects are disaffected youth among ultraright Jewish settlers, and while some acts seem to be coordinated and tied to a particular event or announcement by the government, others appear random and unrelated.
On May 17, a group of Palestinians, a mosque, and a Greek Orthodox monastery filed a case in a New York district court against five U.S.-based organizations. The lawsuit alleges that these nonprofits have supported terrorist activities through the funding of Israeli settlements.
Christian Friends of Israeli Communities and The Hebron Fund are among the list of organizations cited in the lawsuit. Both organizations refuse to comment on the allegations, which accuse the groups of violating the material support statute, a law that has been primarily used to ban funding of Palestinian terror groups by U.S. charities. The indictment of the Holy Land Foundation is the most notable example of prosecution under this law.
Omri Ceren, a senior advisor at The Israel Project, says the allegations are a far stretch. "It's going to be tough to tie settlements to the price tag attacks. The settlement leaders are almost unanimous in ostracizing these guys for obvious reasons. It makes them look terrible and it brings attention that they don't want."
With price tag attacks on the rise—particularly against churches and monasteries—the Israeli government is also garnering unwanted attention.
Last fall, price taggers defaced three Christian properties in Israel, including the Trappist monastery in Latrun which was lit on fire and spray painted with graffiti. In February of last year, the Valley of the Cross Monastery and the Narkis Street Baptist House were vandalized with offensive phrases such as "Jesus drop dead" and "death to Christians."
"This is a criminal act and those responsible must be severely punished," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after the attack in Latrun. "Religious freedom and worship are two of the most basic institutions."
Some Christian leaders in Israel say the government isn't doing enough to hunt down the perpetrators of such crimes, pointing to a much quicker government response when a Jewish site has been vandalized.
After the monastery attack in Latrun, senior Catholics and Protestants issued a statement complaining not only about government inaction but ultra-Orthodox teaching they say tells children they have an obligation to attack Christians. "What happened in Latrun is only another in a long series of attacks against Christians and their places of worship," said Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the head of the Franciscan Order in the Holy Land.
In 2011, price taggers targeted the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, spray painting such phrases as, "Hitler, thank you for the holocaust," with a signature of "the global Zionist mafia." The culprits were quickly apprehended and turned out to be an anti-Zionist and ultra-Orthodox gang trying to "copycat" the price tag attacks launched by settlement youth. Police may have had an easier time tracking down the culprits, knowing that only extremist haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, groups would write slogans with such blatant anti-Israel sentiments.
Members of the extremist cell were arrested within three weeks and the leader of the group told police he wanted to bomb the Knesset.
In June, the Israeli security cabinet voted against labeling price taggers as "terrorists" but did adopt stricter measures for preventing and punishing such attacks. These new regulations allow law enforcement officers to treat price tag attacks the same way they would acts of terrorism.
Police in the Jerusalem area arrested 12 suspects with alleged connections to the 56 price tag attacks in their district during 2012, but most of them were released. Ceren, however, disagrees with accusations of a lackluster government response: "It's just very difficult to make the case that these are anything but a fringe group of a fringe group, let alone that the government is providing them with immunity."
Analysts are quick to point out that Christians still fare far better in Israel than surrounding Muslim countries where persecution involves much more than offensive graffiti and vandalism. Israel's price tag attacks have not led to any injuries or deaths. Still, Christian and Muslim leaders are hopeful that stricter laws targeting price taggers will prevent a slippery slope of growing minority persecution in a country that is no stranger to trials and tribulations.
Kentucky Baptist wins Miss Kentucky title
By Ken Walker
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Western Recorder) -- Jenna Day plans to use her platform as the new Miss Kentucky to advocate for special needs children—while hoping encounters with the public will open doors to discuss her faith in Jesus.
"I want to spread Christ-like love to people," said the member of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville. "I hope my biggest witness will be that they see some sort of light in me.
"What I have is security, joy and unconditional love. When you have unconditional love in Jesus there is nothing that can stop you. ... Even on a bad day, you know you're loved."
A Louisville native and 2009 graduate of Male High School, Day is the daughter of longtime Highview members Daniel and Leslie Day. Jenna has one sister, Courtney Nitz, who lives in Lexington.
The crown marked her first victory in four attempts. As the pageant winner, Day received a $12,000 scholarship and the use of a new Lexus for a year. She will also compete in this year's Miss America pageant, which airs on national television Sept. 15.
A senior at the University of Kentucky, Day is taking a year off from school because of the demands of her new position. She hopes to surpass the 400-plus personal appearances recorded by Mallory Ervin, Miss Kentucky in 2009.
Employed by the state agriculture department during her reign, Day will promote Kentucky Proud. The initiative encourages residents to buy healthy vegetables and other locally-produced foods. In addition, she plans to train a spotlight on special needs children.
This cause became dear to her during childhood, originally through extended family members. Her aunt and role model -- former Jefferson County Judge Executive Rebecca Jackson -- taught special education classes and later ran a supported employment agency.
Day gained more appreciation for what families of special needs children experience during high school through a teacher.
Jeffrey Wright was the father of a special needs son named Adam. She said "life chats" with Wright inspired her because she saw how much love and dedication went into raising a special needs child.
And, she saw how Adam taught his father how to love. In the same way, special needs children can show everyone that there is a plan and purpose for their life as well, Day said.
She called this experience the finishing touch on a long journey that revealed to her that she should speak up for these children.
"A lot of times people want to know, 'What does God want me to do?'" Day said. "I think you have to listen to the little things. Sometimes God doesn't hit you over the head with His plan. It's a combination of moments."
She said her supportive role will revolve around advocacy and education. In addition to publicly supporting organizations that help such children, she will let others know about their capacity for achievement.
Many people don't believe special needs youngsters have any potential, which can result in bullying in school and later in life on the job, she said. "I want to educate people and get them talking about this issue so when people see a special needs kid they will look at them as an inspiration," Day said. "They do amazing things every day."
Voices of Mobile performs at Pentagon, Brooklyn Tabernacle
MOBILE, Ala. (University of Mobile) -- Voices of Mobile, one of more than 20 ensembles in the University of Mobile Center for Performing Arts/School of Music, performed at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York City during their summer tour.
From May 12 to July 7, the ensemble performed concerts from Texas to south Florida, from New York to Louisiana, according to Roger Breland, vice president for project development and executive director of the UMobile Center for Performing Arts/School of Music and School of Worship Leadership. Previously, Voices of Mobile has performed at the White House, toured Europe, the Cayman Islands, and the Middle East, and presented concerts featuring contemporary Christian music across the United States from Hawaii to Alaska.
Voices performed at the Pentagon chapel for the Pentagon Prayer Luncheon on June 20, hosted by the Pentagon Chaplains Office. They performed at the Brooklyn Tabernacle on June 23.
University of Mobile vocal and instrumental groups performed before more than 12,000 people during major events in just five weeks during Spring Semester 2013. That doesn't include weekend concerts by the more than 20 ensembles in the Center for Performing Arts.
"Our students have amazing opportunities in the classroom to study with world-class professors, then gain extensive performance experiences in all types of musical styles, from contemporary Christian to opera, from worship leadership to classical guitar," Breland said.
Among the many concerts and productions performed during spring semester were a Passion Play sacred music and theatre production, Godspell musical theatre production, Pirates of Penzance opera production, and concerts featuring jazz, classical music, the university's Steinway Artist performing on the famed Horowitz piano, piano ensemble, guitar ensemble, RamCorps choreographed brass and percussion group, and the annual Spring Spectacular featuring all 21 ensembles.
Breland said the Christian university's music program provides the flexibility to add ensembles based upon students' interests and talents.
"We have a very popular Celtic strings group, Welsh Revival, that features a student who has won awards for Celtic dancing. Our Jazz Band and Voices played before an audience of more than 1,800 at our university's Leadership Banquet featuring Tim Tebow," Breland said.
The Voices summer tour began May 12 in Mobile at Luke 4:18 Fellowship and concludes July 7 in Baton Rouge, La., at Greenwell Springs Baptist Church. At tour's end, they will have traveled over 5,500 miles in seven weeks through nine states, performing more than 30 concerts including at First Baptist Jacksonville, Fla.; Green Acres Baptist in Tyler, Texas; Sherwood Baptist in Albany, Ga.; and the Brooklyn Tabernacle in Brooklyn, N.Y.
One student, Annaclaire Wilbanks, even had an opportunity to be filmed for TLC's "Say Yes to the Dress" television show during a two-day break from touring in New York City.
The University of Mobile is a Baptist-affiliated university located in Mobile, Ala., on an 880-acre campus near Gulf Coast beaches. Approximately 1,800 students are enrolled in more than 40 undergraduate and graduate programs in the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Christian Leadership, School of Business, School of Christian Ministries, School of Education, School of Nursing, School of Worship Leadership, Center for Performing Arts/School of Music and Center for Adult Programs.
For more information about the University of Mobile, visit the website at www.umobile.edu. To audition for the Center for Performing Arts, visit www.umobile.edu/audition.
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