Today's BP Ledger includes items from:
White House Press Secretary/USCIRF/Samaritan's Purse (Sudan bombing)
World News Service
Statement by the Press Secretary on the Bombings in South Sudan
WASHINGTON, D.C. (White House)--The United States strongly condemns the aerial bombardment by the Sudan Armed Forces of the town of Yida in South Sudan. Yida is located inside South Sudan and hosts more than 20,000 refugees who have fled the ongoing conflict in the Sudanese state of Southern Kordofan. International humanitarian workers and United Nations staff have been working to provide food and shelter for these refugees. This bombing of civilians and humanitarian workers is an outrageous act, and those responsible must be held accountable for their actions.
This abhorrent attack follows other aerial bombardments undertaken by the Sudan Armed Forces on November 8 near the international border. These provocative aerial bombardments greatly increase the potential for direct confrontation between Sudan and South Sudan.
The United States demands the Government of Sudan halt aerial bombardments immediately. We urge the Government of South Sudan to exercise restraint in responding to this provocation to prevent further escalation of hostilities.
The United States calls on the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North to immediately resume negotiations on a cessation of hostilities and resume political talks toward political and security arrangements for Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.
USCIRF Condemns Bombing of South Sudan Refugee Camp
WASHINGTON, D.C. (USCIRF)--The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemns yesterday's aerial bombing of the Yida refugee camp in the Unity state of the Republic of South Sudan, the world's newest nation, reportedly by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) of the Republic of Sudan. Located approximately 10 miles south of the border with Sudan, the camp holds more than 20,000 refugees who had fled the SAF's attacks in Southern Kordofan state in the Nuba Mountains region.
According to reports, four bombs were dropped on the camp at 2:55pm local time yesterday. One bomb landed in a schoolyard, but fortunately did not explode. More than 300 students were in class at that time.
"The bombing of innocent civilians in the Yida camp is unconscionable," said USCIRF chair Leonard Leo. "These civilians fled bombardments in Sudan, only to have bombs follow them across the border into South Sudan. These assaults are clearly an outgrowth of Sudan's hostility toward religious freedom. They target the innocent, violate South Sudan's sovereignty, and threaten the fragile peace between the two nations."
In late October, USCIRF met at the Yida camp with refugees who described Khartoum's aerial bombardment in the Nuba Mountains and how SAF planes targeted them as they fled south toward Yida. Christian pastors said they were targeted and their churches burned and looted because Khartoum does not want Christianity in Sudan. Refugees witnessed soldiers killing Christians and declaring Christianity to be the enemy of Islam. Muslim refugees were threatened by soldiers in the mosques in which they sought safety and witnessed mosques being destroyed. They claimed that Khartoum does not consider them legitimate Muslims because they are Nuban.
"While Khartoum continues to attack innocent civilians, it is seeking debt relief," said Leo. "The U.S. government should deny debt relief to Sudan until the bombardments stop and unrestricted, international humanitarian assistance is permitted."
Authorized and initiated by Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, Khartoum has attacked churches, mosques, schools, and markets in the Nuba Mountains and the neighboring Blue Nile state, but not the Sudan People's Liberation Army - North (SPLA-N) in these regions. Khartoum also has been denying humanitarian assistance which is needed due to the destruction of crops resulting from the bombing of farms.
According to local sources, more than 230,000 persons are internally displaced in Southern Kordofan, 20,000 from Southern Kordofan have sought refuge at Yida refugee camp, 29,000 from Blue Nile have sought refuge at Tongo refugee camp in Ethiopia, and an unknown number from the two states are in Juba, South Sudan.
Samaritan's Purse Refugee Camp Bombed
BOONE, N.C. (Samaritan's Purse)--The attack occurs just days after Franklin Graham visited those who fled the deadly military campaign in the Nuba Mountains
The refugee camp operated by Samaritan's Purse in Yida, South Sudan, was bombed by the government of Sudan at approximately 3:20 p.m. local time on Thursday.
Over 23,000 people are living in the camp in the northernmost part of Unity State, after being displaced by fighting across the border in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan State.
Four bombs are reported to have been dropped. One bomb fell on a schoolhouse, but thankfully it did not explode. Another hit the marketplace, and two others fell on the fringe of the camp.
All of Samaritan's Purse staff have been accounted for and are safe. They have not been able to confirm any casualties among the refugees.
Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham, who visited the camp six days before the bombing, called for the world to take action in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
"I urge the United States and the international community to enforce a no-fly zone in the area to protect not only the innocent civilians there but also those who are trying to help them," he said. "My prayer is that the world will not just sit by and watch and hope for the best like they did during Rwanda, where close to a million people were massacred. We need to make it clear to the government of Sudan that attacks on innocent people will not be tolerated."
The bombing occurred as the United Nations agency UNMIS was delivering about 12 metric tons of food, about one day's ration for the camp population. Workers were unloading a helicopter carrying the food aid for distribution by Samaritan's Purse.
"We're trying to help the refugees, to save their lives," Graham said. "The Nuba people are once again facing the horror of brutal persecution. They are in urgent need of our prayers and support. They need churches standing with them, because this is an atrocity."
Since early August, a Samaritan's Purse DC-3 cargo plane has been airlifting tons of food and other supplies to the refugees, who are stranded in a swampy area in Unity State near the border between South Sudan and Sudan. The camp has been accessible only by plane because the rainy season washed out the roads. Our team had to airdrop food into the area for the first few weeks until we could clear a landing strip for our plane.
The Samaritan's Purse team at the camp has distributed more than 420 tons of food staples, with material support from the UN's World Food Program. We have also provided temporary shelter, medical care, and other assistance to the growing number of refugees.
Shovels to Scissors:
TMC celebrates expansion project completion
By Scott Sienkiewicz
CLEVELAND, Ga. (Truett-McConnell College)--On Dec. 3 of last year, Truett-McConnell College President Emir Caner and other school officials broke ground on an $8 million expansion and new construction project.
Trading his ground-breaking shovel for a pair of scissors, Caner, and TMC Trustee Chairman Mike Dorough, cut the ceremonial ribbon Oct. 27, marking the official completion of the project -- the largest in school history.
The project included a new dormitory, renovation and expansion to the school's dining hall, and a new wing on an administrative/educational building.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony coincided with a same-day ceremony wherein Truett-McConnell's faculty signed the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
"Brick and mortar will crumble one day, but what is inside of here is most important," said Caner, looking to the newly remolded Miller Building, an administrative/educational facility. "You can see the beauty of it, but what I hope you see most of all would be students who walk out of here fully equipped to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ."
Focus Design Builders of Wake Forest, N.C., worked diligently to complete the multi-building project months ahead of schedule and before the fall semester began in August -- a difficult task according to Focus' Paul Eitel, who said everything was "stacked against us: from lead times for materials to rock, rain, snow, and deadlines of students coming back to campus."
The project could not have been completed this quickly and injury-free "without the Lord being fully involved, and fully pushing the entire project forward," said Eitel. "The Lord's hand was fully here in all three projects."
The yet-to-be-named residence hall added 173 beds, raising residential student capacity to 541. Currently, TMC has 456 resident students, reflecting the largest freshman class in school history.
The expansion included a substantial addition to the dinning hall, doubling its size. The refurbished eatery -- operated by Chartwells Dining Services -- includes additional seating, serving stations, and a lounge.
The new wing on the administrative/educational Miller Building houses Truett-McConnell's World Missions Center and the newly founded Creation Research Center. The three-story, state-of-the-art addition houses six new classrooms, including a 106-seat auditorium. The addition provides unobstructed views of the Blue Ridge Mountains that surround TMC.
The building houses Outtakes Café -- also operated by Chartwells -- which serves Starbucks' coffee, sandwiches and other refreshments.
During the project, a series of powerful thunderstorms rolled through Cleveland, Ga., slowing construction and sparking a fire in Truett-McConnell's historic gymnasium. The fire destroyed bleachers and the gym's electrical system, and the gym floor, which was already stripped for repainting. Related fire damage rendered the floor irreparable, so it was replaced with a modern, suspended floor.
In just 5 months Truett-McConnell completed the project. President Caner maintains that the building project was not so much about expansion, but about Truett-McConnell equipping students to share the Gospel, "This is not merely a school where anybody can come, but we also encourage discipleship and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. So many of our students will find themselves somewhere half-way across the world sharing Jesus Christ with people they've never met in places they've never been."
Scott Sienkiewicz is a staff writer at Truett-McConnell College.
Wahhabism: A Forgotten Legacy of the Bosnian War
By Sarah Schlesinger
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Hudson Institute)--On October 28, 23-year-old Mevlid Jasarevic opened fire on the American embassy in Sarajevo, wounding one Bosnian police officer before he was stopped. Though Jasarevic's lawyer claims he acted alone, the gunman has been identified as a member of the Wahhabi movement, the Islamic sect originating in and supported by Saudi Arabia, which preaches hostility towards people of other religions, including other Muslims. The incident draws attention to Bosnia's growing Wahhabi problem and underscores the problem of Muslim extremism in the Balkans, which threatens local governments as well as international interests.
Analysts such as Stephen Schwartz, Esad Hecimovic, Anes Alic, and Vlado Azinovic have warned of Wahhabi threats in the region for years. Numerous attacks, including the murder of a Catholic Croat policeman in 1996, have been linked to Wahhabis. Several Wahhabis were arrested in 2008and 2009 for plotting terror attacks on Christian sites and European Union Forces in Bosnia. In July 2010, a Wahhabi group was suspected in the bombing of a police station in Bugojno, killing one police officer and wounding several others.
Originally from the Muslim-majority city of Novi Pazar in the Sandzak region of Serbia, Jasarevicrecently spent time in Wahhabi communities in Vienna and Gornja Maoca, a settlement in a remote part of Bosnia that has been the site of repeated anti-terror raids. He was imprisoned for armed robbery in Vienna in 2005 and arrested in his hometown in 2010 after brandishing a knife at an appearance by the American ambassador to Serbia.
The Wahhabi movement has taken hold among a small but vocal portion of the Bosnian Muslim (Bosniak) population — the group is estimated to include a mere 3,000 out of 1.4 million Muslims. They largely live in isolated villages that they govern according to strict Islamic law. Men wear long beards and distinctive short pants and women are fully veiled, in sharp contrast to the majority of Bosniaks, who are moderate in practice.
The movement's presence in Bosnia dates to the 1992-1995 civil war in Yugoslavia, which ended with NATO intervention and the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement. The conflict was complicated by the religio-ethnic divide among the three Bosnian parties involved: the Orthodox Christian Serbs, the Roman Catholic Croats, and the Muslims.
The largely defenseless Muslim community was unable to withstand the onslaught by well-armed Bosnian Serb militias. Their desperate situation drew an influx of Wahhabis, such as veteran mujahideen and Islamic aid agencies, including the al-Qaeda front the Benevolence International Foundation. Many of these remained in Bosnia, where they provided material support to the devastated Muslim community, but also influenced it ideologically with Wahhabism. Leading the way was Saudi Arabia, which raised more than $373 million for the "Bosnian jihad" in the 1990s. The mujahideen, charity staff, and foreign-educated Bosniaks provided the vanguard of a local Wahhabi movement.
Thanks to this foreign support, Wahhabis have been able to aggressively challenge Bosnia's mainstream Islamic community. Two figures led early efforts: Jusuf Barcic and Muhamad Porca, both Bosnian imams who had studied in Saudi Arabia on Saudi-funded scholarships. In early 2007, Barcic and his followers gained national attention by (unsuccessfully) attempting to claim a number of mosques for their movement in Tuzla and Sarajevo. When Barcic died in a car accident two months later, more than 3,000 people attended his funeral.
Barcic's primary financial supporters, according to Bosnian authorities, had been Porca and Porca's close friend Adnan Buzar, the Bosnian-born, Vienna-based son-in-law of Palestinian terrorist leader Abu Nidal. Reportedly, Porca has now been supplanted by Nedzad Balkan, a Vienna-based Wahhabi with openly violent views who gained power after his role in the Bugojno police station bombing.
Nusret Imamovic, one of Barcic's followers, established the Wahhabi settlement at Gornja Maoca, intended as a model for similar communities he aims to establish throughout Bosnia. Gornja Maoca has become Bosnia's ground zero in the fight against Wahhabism. Bosnian authorities took action against the settlement in early 2010, briefly detaining Imamovic and six others and seizing weapons, cash, and videotapes. Bosnian authorities raided the village again following Jasarevic's attack this month. Meanwhile, in Serbia's Sandzak region, authorities recently arrested 17 people for their connections to Jasarevic and have arrested dozens of suspected Wahhabis in past raids.
Sarah Schlesinger is a research fellow at Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom.
Shaping Lives, One Photo at a Time
Professional photographer Alicia Hansen uses skills to encourage students
By Amy Cutler
NEW YORK, N.Y. (World News Service)--Alicia Hansen is wearing blue jeans, a white button-down blouse, and navy blue Converse sneakers. Smiling, she opens the heavy metal door to a studio on West 29th St. "We're still getting settled in," she says, leading the way into a white room with huge windows, a ladder, open paint cans, and boxed photography equipment. It is the new studio for New York City SALT, a nonprofit photography program for low-income middle and high school students.
Inside, she introduces Lewis Escano, a part-time employee and NYC SALT student. His dark curls are pulled into a ponytail. He slips wireless headphones back into his ears after shaking my hand with a smile.
Hansen unfolds two white chairs for us by a window overlooking Chelsea, then tells me how she fell in love with photography: She left her own camera on a train in Italy and had to share her friend's manual Pentax camera for the rest of the trip. Back home, that first taste of photography translated into classes, workshops, and then an internship with The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Illinois.
During the internship, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer saw her work and told her she had potential. That was the encouragement she needed to pursue photography professionally. She eventually moved to New York City in 2003 to work with world-renowned photographer Joe McNally. "I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would actually get a job and move to New York City."
In 2005, she started her own photography business. Then she saw the movie "Born into Brothels," a documentary chronicling the experience of brothel-born children in India through photos the children took with disposable cameras. The film inspired Hansen and her friend Rebecca Locke to start a free photography class for students enrolled in "Operation Exodus," a Christian after-school program in Washington Heights.
Six years later, NYC SALT is thriving as a nonprofit organization aiming to empower New York City teenagers through photography, professional skills, and mentoring. The name comes from Matthew 5, where Jesus refers to salt as necessary for flavor and preservation. "I was reading through notes from a Bible study fellowship I was involved in, and it spoke to me," Hansen said. "I wanted my program to do that."
Almost all the NYC SALT students are Latino, and most live in government-subsidized housing. The time they spend with Hansen is time off the streets --- away from drugs, gangs, and alcohol. Instead, they're learning professional skills like "what it means to be on time...how to plan ahead, presentation skills, and how to speak articulately about... art."
NYC SALT places an importance on going to college since college graduation is often synonymous with escaping poverty. "I have eight kids who are the first generation in their family...going to college," Hansen said. "Talk about an end to poverty...Hopefully they will have good jobs and enter into a professional workforce in an area they are called to, created for."
Devin Osorio started attending NYC SALT in middle school and continued through high school graduation, becoming one of the first students to graduate from Hansen's class. He said NYC SALT taught him more than professional skills and a good work ethic - it allowed him to reinvent himself and gain confidence.
"Devin didn't think college was worthwhile," explained Hansen. "He thought it was way too much money until he started interning with Diane Von Furstenberg." Fashion and photography often go hand-in-hand. Now, the 18-year-old is studying fashion design at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. He and one other NYC SALT student received a combined $17,000 in scholarships for their portfolios.
Hansen supports herself with her freelance business since most of the work she does at NYC SALT is unpaid. The volunteers, all of whom are professionals working in their industries for at least 15 years, are also unpaid. Five foundations support SALT through finances and equipment like printers, ink, and paper.
NYC SALT has also earned support from the local church. Hansen lists Trinity Grace Church, Everyday Church, and Central Presbyterian Church as supporters that have either featured the organization's video during service or provided funds. While she says funds from the churches are good, she's hoping for more Christian mentors.
"It is still a challenge to find people who are committed to being a part of the organization in one specific way that they are gifted in," Hansen admitted. "I want them to come behind what we're doing," she says. Specifically she wants "people who will commit to a year of building a relationship with a kid-that's what I'd like to see."
Hansen knows the influence a mentor can have. Her own confidence as a photographer came from encouragement she received as a young woman. Now she is the one encouraging others, using her skills and network to help students achieve their dreams.
"I'm using what I know best to catch kids' attention and grasp their interest, and using it as a vehicle to help them become who they're created to be."
She stops speaking and smiles, pointing to the far end of the room. Escano, the young student I met earlier, is engrossed in whatever song is playing on his headphones. He's dancing the Bachata with his eyes closed, wet paintbrush held high.
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