Today's BP Ledger contains items from:
World News Service
World Watch Monitor
Joni and Friends
Campbellsville prof receives $12,000 grant for Hispanic training
By Samantha Stevenson, student newswriter
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. (Campbellsville University) -- Twyla Hernandez, assistant professor in Christian missions at Campbellsville University's School of Theology, has received a mini-grant from the Appalachian College Association.
The mini-grant, valued at $12,000, will be used to prepare Campbellsville University's campus to receive more local Hispanics by training staff, faculty and administration on the best practices for working with the students and their families.
In addition to the training, various events will be held on campus to help Hispanics learn about Campbellsville University and feel comfortable on campus.
The money must be used for the access, recruitment and/or retention of Hispanic students who live in the United States.
The grant money is available from now until spring 2014.
Campbellsville University was one of 12 schools that were invited to the Appalachian College Association conference, where they submitted an application for the grant.
Hernandez is a longtime advocate for various types of training and education for Hispanic students. She is the founding director of the Hispanic Baptist Bible Institute.
Hernandez said she is grateful for Campbellsville University's commitment to international education.
"I am thankful for Campbellsville University's longstanding reputation of meeting the needs of international students. This grant will allow us to extend that reputation to the Hispanic students in our local area and throughout the U.S," she said.
Evangelical Leaders Back Universal Background Checks
By Tiffany Owens
WASHINGTON, D.C. (World News Service) -- Two of the nation's leading evangelicals are throwing their weight behind President Barack Obama's push for universal background checks for all gun buyers, a measure that faces stiff opposition in both the House and Senate.
Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan's Purse, and Richard Land from the Southern Baptist Convention, told TIME Magazine they supported the proposal.
"As ministers, we agreed together that we could stand on a united front for universal background checks," Graham said. "We think that's reasonable and responsible."
But their support comes with conditions. Graham wants the president to tax violence in Hollywood films and use part of the money to help victims of gun violence. Land said President Obama should improve the nation's mental health system. He emphasized that the organization he leads, the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, does not support the ban on assault weapons, which has passed out of the Senate Judicial Committee.
Meanwhile, Newtown clergy wrote a letter to the committee urging an increase in gun safety measures, and thousands of nationwide clergy have come out in its support. In the letter they expressed hope that better gun safety laws would "spark off a spiritual awakening in America that will transform us into a culture of compassion, reconciliation and civility."
But critics say the types of gun laws the president advocates would not decrease gun violence.
"It is not much satisfaction that criminals are going to have access and we are going to give the American people a pea shooter," Sen. John Cornyn, R.-Texas, told U.S. News. "Why would we turn a law-abiding citizen into a criminal?"
In Burma: Attacks against Kachin Christians & Muslim Rohingyas continue
LONDON (World Watch Monitor) -- Christians around the world who've been praying for Burma (also known Myanmar) have been warned against "euphoria" over reform, while Christian and Muslim minorities remain under attack by the military.
Sunday March 10 marked the 16th anniversary of the Global Day of Prayer for Burma, which celebrated some progress toward reform, but warned that grave issues remained, especially the continuing attacks against the Kachin and Rohingya ethnic and religious minorities.
The Day of Prayer followed a new report claiming government troops have destroyed 66 churches in Kachin State in the north of Burma, on the border with China and India. The report, by the Kachin Women's Association of Thailand (KWAT), also claimed the military is using rape as a weapon of war. It said the Burma army had set fire to churches after the collapse of the ceasefire in Kachin State in 2011. A recent report by Amnesty International has condemned air-strikes against the mainly Christian Kachin.
Hkanhpa Sadan, the Joint Secretary of the Kachin National Organization, told the prayer event in London that up to 100,000 Kachin have been driven from their homes. 75,000 had sought shelter in temporary camps along the China border. He criticized the UN for failing to bring in relief aid and said: "The people are living on rice and salt - that is the only nutrition they can get. The UN is not pushing hard enough to bring in humanitarian aid."
He described the attacks as religious persecution: "When the Burma army come to the villages, they torch the churches but don't touch the pagodas." He told World Watch Monitor: "They want us to be Burman, to be Buddhist, and to follow their orders." The mainly Christian Kachin are seeking autonomy within Burma and say they are attacked for being both separatist and Christian.
Hkanhpa Sadan was skeptical about the claim that widespread reform is taking place in Burma. "We don't see this as genuine. In Kachin State we haven't seen reform at all. All the reforms seem to be centered on Rangoon and Mandalay, and aimed at the Burman majority."
Sadan went on to accuse President Thein Sein of "lying" over claims that he has ordered a ceasefire in Kachin State. "He is the head of state and head of the army. He is the only Burmese leader ever to use fighter jets against the Kachin. Rather than rolling out the red carpet for him, the international community should send him to The Hague to be indicted for crimes against humanity. He is above the law and using the promise of reform just to get his authoritarian democracy. It is all about power. I pray that he will change his mind and have a genuine desire for peace."
Ben Rogers, chairing the Global Day of Prayer in London on behalf of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), was also skeptical about Thein Sein's ability to deliver a ceasefire. "Either he is not telling the truth about calling for a ceasefire in Kachin state," he told World Watch Monitor, "or other powers are overruling him." Rogers believed the continued fighting could not be put down to a rogue element in the army beyond presidential control. "For air power to be used, that has to be authorised at a high level."
Amnesty International has confirmed three civilians were killed in an air strike in January against the Kachin town of Laiza on the border with China. Laiza is the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Army. Burma has acknowledged carrying out the air strikes, but said they were necessary to prevent rebels cutting off military supply routes. Amnesty has criticized the Kachin for positioning potential military targets near civilian areas but has accused the army of committing "multiple human rights violations against Kachin civilians, including extrajudicial executions, torture and other ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, forced labor and sexual violence."
British parliamentarian Baroness Cox, the founder of the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), has just returned from Kachin State. She told the BBC on March 8: "We saw the Burmese army attacking civilians. There are 156 battalions of Burmese army in that one state. They are bombing civilians and committing atrocities. It is heartbreak land. It is terror." Baroness Cox confirmed that troops were raping civilians.
Another of Burma's largely Christian groups, the Chin, also is facing persecution. Ben Rogers said: "The regime is continuing to use military-run Buddhist monastic schools, where they take Chin children from Christian families, with the promise of an education, but force them to convert and become novice Buddhist monks. This is the practice of the regime, not of ordinary Buddhists," he added. "Until there is true religious freedom for all there is no freedom in Burma."
But the most extreme religious persecution in Burma is taking place against the Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine state, the Day of Prayer was told. Jarmal Ahamed, General Secretary of the Burmese Rohingya Organization UK, said: "Since June 2012 more than 5,000 Rohingyas have been killed, some burned alive. Homes and mosques have been destroyed, hundreds of women and girls have been raped, often in front of family members, and 140,000 have been forced to leave their homes. Many have nothing to eat, nowhere to go, and are dying of hunger and disease."
That conflict is often portrayed as inter-communal violence between the Rohingya and Rakhine tribes; the former Muslim, the latter Buddhist. But Jarmal Ahamed described the attacks as "state organised and sanctioned, backed up by the federal government."
Hkanhpa Sadan, of the Kachin National Organisation, said non-Buddhist religious minorities were being deliberately targeted under a policy of Burmanisation. 'Their motive is "one nation, one command." They want us to be Burman, to be Buddhist, and to follow their orders," he told World Watch Monitor.
While people around the world were praying for Burma, the National League for Democracy (NLD) was holding its historic first Congress in Rangoon. In a recorded message to the London event, U Tin Oo, the Deputy Leader of the NLD acknowledged: "There are still tangible violations of human rights along the border region. The victims are facing great damage and devastation do not have access to food and shelter. Conditions there are gradually deteriorating."
U-Tin-Oo, a former commander-in-chief of the Burmese armed forces and a Buddhist, said: "I do pray with you for relief and a remedy to cure the great poverty helpless refugees."
But the event heard criticism that the NLD and specifically its newly-re-elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi were not doing enough to help the persecuted ethnic and religious minorities. The opposition leader took a seat in Parliament after by-elections in April 2012 and is widely expected to be voted in to lead the country in the presidential elections in 2015.
"Aung San Suu Kyi has been a disappointment," said Hkanhpa Sadan, of the Kachin National Organisation. "She was our only hope. But she has failed to speak up for the ethnic minorities, failed to visit the refugees. She is afraid of offending the army and has one eye towards the elections in 2015. Our message to Aung San Suu Kyi is 'Please help us. Use your liberty to speak up for us.'" It was Aung San Suu Kyi who first initiated the annual Global Day of Prayer for Burma in 1997.
Burmese president Thein Sein has been in Europe in a quest for international legitimacy and on March 4 appealed to the EU to lift remaining sanctions against his country. Europe has already suspended all non-military sanctions for a year. But Baroness Cox is adamant that sanctions must remain in force. She told the BBC that Thein Sein's visit to Europe was for "propaganda" purposes, and the international community risked turning a blind eye to injustice because of the desire to trade with Burma, which is rich in resources. She continued: "Do not lift those sanctions until there is peace, justice, equality and freedom for all the peoples of Burma."
In a specially written prayer for the Global Day of Prayer, the Catholic Archbishop of Rangoon, Charles Maung Bo, said: "We pray that Myanmar becomes a land whose future belongs to her sons and daughters and not to outsiders, the business makers, the peace-makers and the hundreds of NGOs.... We pray for a nation built on compassion and mercy, justice and peace."
London event organizer Ben Rogers described the Day of Prayer as a success: "Our aim was to help people see that Burma still has many challenges, and while it is right to give thanks for the signs of hope, there is a danger of premature euphoria. The situation in Kachin is extremely serious and we must redouble our prayers for Burma to have genuine freedom and peace. For that to be permanent, it must turn into a peace process, a meaningful political dialogue that leads to a lasting political solution for Burma's ethnic nationalities."
World Watch Monitor (formerly Compass Direct News, online at www.worldwatchmonitor.org), where this article first appeared, is a California-based news organization reporting on instances of persecution or pressures facing the Christian church around the world. Used by permission. This report by World Watch Monitor also contains information from the BBC & Amnesty International.
Joni and Friends 'Beyond Suffering' Curriculum Now Available in iBook Format
AGOURA HILLS, Calif. (Joni and Friends) -- "Beyond Suffering: A Christian View on Disability Ministry" by Joni Eareckson Tada and Steve Bundy, with Pat Verbal and Dr. Kathy McReynolds, is now available as a multi-touch book for the iPad. "Beyond Suffering" is a study course created to transform the way Christians view God's plan for disability and suffering and was originally introduced as a curriculum in courses offered at the Joni and Friends Christian Institute on Disability in August 2010. Since then, it has been released as a textbook for use at other educational institutions around the country, as well as in Spanish and Braille editions.
"At Joni and Friends we recognize that today's students need textbooks designed for the way they like to learn, so we're excited to introduce the first ever disability ministry course for iPad users," founder and CEO Joni Eareckson Tada said. "This dynamic, new format provides students hands-on access to the multifaceted course by combining the Study Guide and Leader's Guide into one interactive, multi-media book. It's our prayer that this course, whether in print or on an iPad, will equip the next generation with the skills to think critically about the complex issues impacting people with disability and their world."
The Beyond Suffering curriculum contains 16 lessons organized into four modules: An Overview of Disability Ministry; The Theology of Suffering and Disability; The Church and Disability Ministry; and An Introduction to Bioethics. The Beyond Suffering iBooks Edition takes advantage of all the iPad's accessibility features for students with visual and hearing impairments.
The iBooks edition puts the entire course in the palm of the student's hand.
-- The new interactive format provides students instant access to Joni and Friends' television series and articles from the leader's guide.
-- New colorful photos, graphics, videos and links embedded in this multi-touch book enhance the learning experience for tech-savvy student
-- Resources, stats and articles can be added or updated as current issues on disability ministry are in the news.
-- Downloadable PDFs of promotional flyers, e-cards, surveys and evaluations are linked for ease of use.
The iBooks edition contains everything students need to complete the course. However, leaders teaching a large class may want to purchase the Beyond Suffering Leader's Guide for large screen projection or for adapting the PowerPoint slides to personalize the course.
The Beyond Suffering iBooks edition is available on iTunes with more information online at Joni and Friends.
The original curriculum, as well as the Spanish and Braille versions, are available for purchase online at the Joni and Friends online store, along with an introductory video on the need for these materials featuring Tada, Bundy and other contributors.
For more than 30 years, Joni and Friends has worked to accelerate ministry to the disability community, offering a wide array of life-affirming ministries to people with disabilities around the world. Joni and Friends does this through the Christian Institute on Disability; the International Disability Center; international radio and television programs filled with inspirational stories; Wheels for the World, which every year sees thousands of individuals receive wheelchairs and the life-giving message of the Gospel; and Family Retreats, where families affected by disability learn they are not alone.
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