Today's BP Ledger includes items from:
Compass Direct News
The Institute on Religion and Public Policy
Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability
Sheaf House Publishers
Pakistani Mother Condemned for 'Blasphemy' Allegedly Beaten
Christian woman, husband apparently pressured into denying incident.
By Murad Khan/Compass Direct News
SHEIKHUPURA, Pakistan (Compass Direct News)--A female prison officer assigned to provide security for a Christian mother of five who was sentenced to death on "blasphemy" charges beat her earlier this month, sources said.
Sources in Pakistan's Sheikhupura District Jail said Asia Noreen, also known as Asia Bibi, was beaten on Oct. 5 by a prison officer identified only as Khadeeja, allegedly because of the Muslim officer's anti-Christian bias, while other staff members deployed for her security looked on in silence.
Noreen, mother of two children and stepmother to three others, was sentenced to death last November after her conviction for blaspheming Islam's prophet, Muhammad, after a verbal disagreement with some women in the village of Ittanwali, near Lahore.
The prison sources said Deputy Superintendent of Sheikhupura Jail Ghafoor Anjum did not initially take any action against Khadeeja for attacking Noreen -- who is being kept in a special high-security cell due to serious threats on her life -- despite learning about the incident immediately after it took place.
Khadeeja was later suspended for three months, and jail Superintendent Sheikh Khalid began an inquiry of her actions after an intelligence agency reported the matter to the Punjab Province government. The Home Department also sent a senior police official to Sheikhupura to investigate, and he recommended Khadeeja's immediate removal from service, sources said.
Based on communications with jail staff members, a source told Compass on condition of anonymity that Noreen had not received any life-threatening injuries, but that jail personnel had apparently pressured the Christian woman and her husband to refrain from telling anyone about the incident. He said that although it was confirmed that Noreen had been beaten, prison officials have apparently pressured her and her husband, Ashiq Masih, to say only that the female prison officer got angry with Noreen over a trivial matter and that jail staff intervened in time before she could attack her; otherwise, Masih could lose his visitation rights.
"It seems that Ashiq has been pressured by the jail authorities to say that Khadeeja did not attack Asia," the source said. "Why would the jail superintendent suspend Khadeeja for three months, and why would the inquiry officer recommend her removal from service, if she just 'got angry with Asia' over a minor issue?"
The source said that two false versions of the incident were circulating in the jail. Some staff members claimed that Khadeeja had asked Noreen to let her use the cell washroom and beat her when she refused, while others said that the guard had objected to the presence of some "prohibited articles" in Noreen's possession and thrashed her when she refused to give them up.
"Both versions of the incident are absurd," the source said. "Why did Khadeeja want to use the prisoner's washroom when she could have gone to the staff restrooms? Asia's the prisoner, not Khadeeja. Could anyone also explain how Asia managed to sneak in 'prohibited items' in her cell, and only Khadeeja objected to it?"
He added that the beating clearly showed the anti-Christian motive of the prison officer.
"The jail authorities are trying their best to hush up the matter as soon as possible, as it is a big embarrassment to the government," he said.
The source said the attack reminded him that former Punjab Gov. Salmaan Taseer, who along with Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti was rallying for Noreen's release, was killed by his own security guard. Bhatti also was later slain for defending Noreen and opposing the blasphemy laws.
"There should be a more thorough vetting of people being assigned security duties," he said, adding that the staff members who witnessed the beating yet kept silent should also be suspended.
While reluctant to admit that the Muslim prison officer had beaten Noreen, a jail official acknowledged that Noreen had struck back in self-defense. Though adamant that Noreen was safe in custody, he said the incident had negatively affected her security and authorities were considering transferring her to another prison.
"It was an unfortunate incident, as we had been keeping Asia's location secret for the last many months, but this episode has blown our cover," a senior jail officer requesting anonymity told Compass. "We made the best possible arrangements for her security. She is kept in a separate cell with a closed circuit camera to monitor her security round-the-clock. More than 10 wardens have been especially deployed around her barrack. She has been strictly forbidden from eating anything offered by any unauthorized personnel. Asia is safe in our custody, and all possible efforts will be made to ensure her security."
Conviction under Section 295-C of the blasphemy law for derogatory comments about Muhammad is punishable by death, though life imprisonment is also possible. Section 295-B makes willful desecration of the Quran or use of an extract in a derogatory manner punishable with life imprisonment. Section 295-A prohibits injuring or defiling places of worship and "acts intended to outrage religious feelings." It is punishable by life imprisonment, which in Pakistan is 25 years.
Mumtaz Qadri, the security guard who murdered Taseer for his defense of Noreen and efforts to revise the blasphemy laws, was sentenced to death this month. After protests by Muslims in the street as well as by high-level Islamists, however, the judge who sentenced Qadri, Pervez Ali Shah, was removed from his post by the Lahore High Court.
The Rawalpindi Bar Association had threatened a nationwide strike if Shah was not suspended or transferred within five days.
The Islamabad High Court has agreed to consider Qadri's appeal of his verdict, thus suspending his death sentence until a ruling is made.
Compass Direct (www.compassdirect.org), a news service based in Santa Ana, Calif., focuses on Christians worldwide who are persecuted for their faith. Used by permission.
Kazakh president signs restrictive, dangerous religion laws
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (The Institute on Religion and Public Policy)--Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev today signed into law two restrictive and oppressive religion laws that threaten fundamental freedoms and places religious minorities at significant risk in the country.
"The Institute on Religion and Public Policy is saddened by yet another example of democratic rollback in Kazakhstan," commented the institute's Founder and Chairman, Joseph K. Grieboski. "Twice previously, President Nazarbayev wisely sent similarly dangerous draft laws to the Constitutional Council for review before signing. With his pen on paper today, President Nazarbayev moved Kazakhstan further toward the status of a pariah and dictatorial state, not the democracy it could have been."
In The Institute's expert analysis and opinion, the legislation contravenes Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and United Nations (UN) standards as they clearly discriminate against minority religious groups.
Now signed, the Religion Law will:
* Require compulsory registration as a religious organization;
* "De-register" all religious organizations currently registered and force these organizations to "re-register";
* Require all religious organizations to submit to a "religious study examination" where religious Scriptures and other documents are reviewed and impermissibly evaluated by the State;
* Ban all religious activity by unregistered religious organizations;
* Prohibit an unregistered religious organization to obtain any other legal entity status;
* Impose compulsory government censorship of religious literature by requiring evaluation and approval of religious literature before it could be shipped into the country for non-personal use or placed in a library;
* Restrict distribution of religious literature to religious buildings, religious educational institutions and "specifically identified stationary facilities identified by local executive bodies";
* Require government approval to build or open new places of worship;
* Require registration of persons carrying out missionary activity -- no person may carry out missionary activity until so registered and no person will be registered unless they have been invited to perform missionary work by a registered religious organization;
* Require a minority religious community to meet onerous membership levels in order to register (minimum of 50 adult citizens) in complete contravention of United Nations and OSCE standards; and
* Impose restrictions and sanctions on religious leaders if children participate in activities of the religious organization when one parent or legal guardian objects.
The Religion Law and the Administrative Code Law are completely inconsistent with fundamental human rights. The recurring theme of the draft amendments is that they are structured in ways that would completely ban religious organizations or severely restrict religious activities; censor importation and restrict dissemination of religious literature; restrict foreign missionary activity; restrict the construction of new places of worship; and impose sanctions on religious leaders and organizations, including the banning of religious organizations, in a manner impermissible under international standards.
New ECFA paper urges faith-based nonprofits to put God first in fund management
Fundraising Expert Offers Guidance on Biblically Sound Stewardship of Endowments
WINCHESTER, Va. (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability)--Faith-based nonprofits must operate with "Kingdom values" as stewards, not owners, of the endowments that help sustain their organizations, even as they manage such funds with an eye toward the future, according to a new monograph offered by ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability).
In keeping with ECFA's mission to help nonprofits sustain the highest levels of integrity and accountability, author and stewardship expert R. Scott Rodin outlines a biblically sound approach to maintaining income-providing endowment funds in "Toward a Theology of Endowment Keeping."
"A proper theology of endowments will not let us treat these funds in a spiritually detached way," Rodin wrote, "but will call us back to Scripture to understand all that is in play when we deal with money."
"Scott Rodin reminds us that in all things - especially in the management of funds - God must come first, and that means a firm trust in Scripture and God's provision," said Dan Busby, EFCA president. "From the vantage point of nearly three decades of experience in the nonprofit field, Scott offers groundbreaking insights into the motivations of ministry supporters and helps organizations understand how to manage what God provides through them."
Rodin's paper, which can be downloaded free of charge at http://ecfa.org/Rodin/, urges nonprofits to seek and respond to God's daily guidance as they "live in the tension … between preparing for times of famine and playing the owner of our assets." This includes keeping the endowment in perspective, "holding it loosely with regard to any feelings of absolute ownership," through constant prayer and accountability built into the securing, managing and spending of endowed funds.
"Toward a Theology of Endowment Keeping" is among hundreds of resources available to ECFA members and the public on topics of interest to nonprofits and churches, ranging from charitable gifts and expense reimbursements to board governance. To receive the quarterly newsletter, "Focus on Accountability," as well as alerts when new monographs and other resources become available, go to www.ecfa.org/subscribe and register.
ECFA, founded in 1979, provides accreditation to leading Christian nonprofit organizations that faithfully demonstrate compliance with the ECFA standards pertaining to financial accountability, fundraising and board governance. For more information about ECFA, including accreditation and a listing of ECFA-accredited members, visit www.ecfa.org or call 1-800-323-9473.
New Bible study nurtures women at home, scatters Gospel seed abroad
CHARLOTTE, Tenn. (Sheaf House Publishers)--Many Christian women today are spiritually malnourished, yearning to sink their teeth into the meat of a deeper relationship with God. "Jacob: Journaling the Journey" (Sheaf House Publishers, November 2011) by Michelle Lesley is a Bible study for spiritually hungry women which grew out of the author's own devotional journal.
"For years, I felt like I was only scratching the surface of true communion with God," Lesley says. "Then I opened the Bible and started simply reading and journaling what God was teaching me through His Word. It brought me to a closeness with Him that I wanted to share with other women."
Lesley is the associational prayer coordinator for the Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge, working with over 100 churches and pastors. She and her husband Scott are members of Redeemer Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.
Sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic, Jacob: Journaling the Journey follows the life story of the Old Testament patriarch Jacob as he grows from an impetuous "mama's boy," as Lesley describes him, into one of the founding fathers of the faith. Equally important to Jacob's story are the family members -- such as "Manipu-Mom" Rebekah, as Lesley calls her; "Wild Thing" Esau and Rachel, "Queen of High Maintenance" -- who played such vital roles in his life.
Designed for the individual, but adaptable for use by small groups, Jacob: Journaling the Journey offers Christian women an alternative to traditional "fill in the blank"-style workbook Bible studies. Each daily segment of the book begins with Scripture reading, followed by expositional teaching, questions to stimulate reflection and space for journaling what God has spoken to the reader that day. Readers will have the opportunity to apply the daily lesson to their own individual life circumstances by communicating with God in their own words and helping her to cultivate a more intimate relationship with God.
But Lesley's passion for the Gospel doesn't end with Christian women in America; it extends nearly 7,000 miles across the globe. "We've got to wake up to the hard, cold fact that a billion people on this planet have little or no access to the Gospel," she says, "Thousands of them will die today and spend eternity in hell because they haven't heard the good news of Jesus Christ. What are we going to do about that?"
And Lesley puts her money where her mouth is. For the next year, all royalties from the sale of Jacob: Journaling the Journey are being donated to the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention to reach an unreached people group in the Middle East with the Gospel.
"This is a group of Bedouins who 'journey' around in basically the same area where Jacob lived," Lesley says. Via Jacob: Journaling the Journey, the author says, "you're not just investing in your own spiritual life but also in the spiritual lives of people a world away who have never heard the name of Jesus."
John Russell, associate director of development with the International Mission Board, notes, "The combination of Mrs. Lesley's passion for leading women to deeper spiritual maturity through the words of her book and her burden for the lost and unreached in other lands makes Jacob: Journaling the Journey a perfect fit for the shelves of any Christian retail outlet."
As Lesley puts it, Jacob: Journaling the Journey is "a unique way Christian retailers can offer their customers the opportunity to participate in international missions."
As an army brat, Lesley has lived in such locations as Alaska and New Mexico, but returned to her native Baton Rouge, La., in 1989, where she graduated from LSU. She and her husband have six children God.
More information is available at www.michellelesleybooks.com.
Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net