|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 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." Continued...