|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 contains items from:
Morning Star News
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Charleston Southern University
Uptick Seen in Sudan's Purge of Foreign Christians
NAIROBI, Kenya, (Morning Star News) -- Three South Sudanese took an airline flight out of Sudan tonight after authorities ordered them to leave the country because of their Christian activities -- the latest in a rash of expulsions as the Islamic regime rids the nation of Christianity, sources said.
Dozens of foreign Christians have been ordered to leave the country in the past two months, and many others have fled to Kenya as authorities have stepped up pressure by denying visa renewals and by other means, the sources said. The three Christians ordered to leave the country on Monday (Jan. 28) had been jailed earlier this month.
Sudan's Ministry of Interior, in conjunction with the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), ordered a South Sudanese couple, Anthony and Cecilia Jamu, and a pastor also from South Sudan, Ismail Bashir, to leave the country within 24 hours, sources said. Accused of aiding Sudanese churches, Cecilia Jamu was arrested when she was linked with an associate from Germany, Jasmin Neuman, who was deported on Jan. 7.
For many years Neuman had cared for children in Omdurman (opposite Khartoum on the River Nile) who had taken refuge from conflict in Darfur.
After Cecilia Jamu's arrest, her husband was also later jailed, leaving their children to be cared for by friends, the sources said.
The government incarcerated Pastor Bashir also on Jan. 7 for his involvement with a Christian radio station owned by Sudmedia, they said. The government suspected the radio station had ties with a Korean pastor, Kang Bomjin, who along with his wife Sune Kang had been deported on Dec. 10 because of their Christian activities.
Before his deportation, Bomjin owned a farm that Sudan's intelligence service confiscated, forcing him to sell his cows, sheep and other animals at throw-away prices, sources said. The pastor received no compensation for the land.
Another foreign Christian, Ronald Ssemuwemba of Uganda, had been living on Bomjin's land. Also accused of engaging in Christian activities, Sudanese authorities early this month arrested and beat Ssemuwemba after linking him with Christian organizations - confiscating his passport, laptop and cell phone before ordering him to leave the country, sources said.
Ssemuwemba, who had lived in Sudan for five years on a student visa, went into hiding with friends until he was found and deported on Jan. 5.
"The Christian atmosphere in Sudan is alarming and frightening," said a Christian source in Khartoum. "This crackdown at the moment for foreigners who are suspected to be Christians in the country is alarming."
The source, who like the others requested anonymity for security reasons, said the government is declining to renew visas of many foreigners suspected of being Christians.
Sudan does not allow missionary visas, and those deported were in the country on tourist, work or humanitarian visas. Besides South Sudanese, many of the deported foreigners were from the United States, Europe or South Korea, sources said.
The government of President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted for crimes against humanity, has reportedly indicated that foreigners will find it more difficult to renew visas, and it has reiterated its policy that all arriving foreigners must register with the immigration department within 24 hours of arrival.
A Kenya government source noted that many foreign church workers, especially Western Caucasians, have been leaving Sudan on short notice at a high rate, with most of those going initially to Kenya.
Harassment, violence and arrests of Christians have reportedly intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, when Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. South Sudanese have been ordered to leave the country following the new republic's secession, but thousands are reportedly stranded in the north due to loss of jobs, poverty, transportation limitations and ethnic and tribal conflict in South Sudan.
South Sudanese Christians in Sudan have faced increased hostilities due to their ethnic origins - though thousands have little or no ties to South Sudan - and their faith.
On Dec. 19, security forces arrested at least four staff members of Sudmedia, a non-profit company that produces Christian songs and films, and interrogated them because the manager, Nehemiah Lopai, is a South Sudanese national and a Christian. The staff members, whose identities were withheld for security reasons, were released the following day.
Schools Shut Down
Similarly, authorities in Khartoum have ordered the closure of two Christian-run schools, sources said.
Security agents on Jan. 3 arrived at the Christian-run Aslan Education Center for English, arrested three staff members and interrogated them about evangelizing Muslims, sources said. At least two of them were beaten during interrogation and were warned not to reveal the incident to Western media or churches, sources said. The head of the center, whose identity was not disclosed, had already been arrested and deported to the United States on suspicion of undertaking Christian activities.
All facilities and assets of the center, which provided English-language instruction to some 500 adults in Khartoum, were confiscated by security agents, including computers and laptops.
Additionally, a primary school in Khartoum run by Aslan Associates, Nile Valley Academy, will close at the end of the academic year in April after the government found it was not teaching Islamic religion - long required by law of all schools in Sudan - and was not separating male and female students. Sources said NISS, in conjunction with the Ministry of General Education, made the determination to shutter the institution.
Secession has brought other changes. Christians were surprised to find that Christmas was not officially observed as a public holiday in Sudan last month, and church leaders complained that government permission for a Yuletide "March for Jesus" was withdrawn one day after being granted.
"They have denied us Christmas holiday this year for the first time since South Sudan separated in 2011," one source said.
The source said government officials stated only that the situation in the country does not allow for such marches.
"They banned the march in the last minute after all arrangements were met," the source added.
c. 2013 Morning Star News. Used with permission.
Movie Maker Tells Students the Importance of Creative Courage
ABLIENE, Texas (Hardin-Simmons University) -- Steve Taylor, director of the movie "Blue Like Jazz," spoke to students at Hardin-Simmons University Jan. 22 in conjunction with a screening of the film in HSU's Logsdon Chapel. He calls the movie an example of an unlikely pairing of art and faith.
Contrasting two paintings, one of a glowing chapel in the woods by Christian artist Thomas Kinkade, and Pablo Picasso's painting, Guernica, representing the horrors of war, Taylor said, "There is no truth in this painting," showing the embellished chapel. In contrast, he said, Picasso "is telling people a truth the world does not want to hear."
"That is where the art of courage comes in," Taylor said.
Christians have to have the courage to tell the truth, he said. "The church has abdicated its role in shaping culture," he said. By doing so, "We are not showing the world the relevance of Jesus."
In 2010, author Donald Miller, writer of the best-selling book, Blue Like Jazz, announced that after years of trying to raise money for the movie adaptation of his book, he and the film's co-creators, Taylor and cinematographer Ben Pearson, would put the project on hold.
While it looked like the film would not sweep the country as the book had, Taylor told students about the groundswell of donations from a website that made the movie possible.
Taylor told students in chapel that the money for the movie was raised in just 30 days with 4,500 donations on the website Kickstarter.com. The movie's public funding illustrates a new generation of Christians who have the courage to tell the truth, who want to see Christians creating better art.
"If Christians are negligent in telling the truth, our culture decays," Taylor said. "The Bible tells us we have to be the salt and the light of the earth." The first disciples would have been intimately familiar with preservative function of salt. Without refrigeration, meat would quickly spoil and rot unless was packed in salt. Many Christians today think that Christianity means family friendly, Taylor said, noting, "A safe Bible for the family would be a much shorter book." The role of Christians is to counteract the world's corruption, like salt preserves against decay.
"Use your God-given creativity to tell the truth. Creativity and courage will work to inspire the world. Know your Bible. 1 Corinthians tells us to know the mind of Christ. When you have that, you don't have to create Christian propaganda. The mind of Christ will flow naturally out of the work you do," Taylor said.
Southern Seminary aims for vision, innovation to Web-based education
By Aaron Cline Hanbury
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- April 2012, Stanford University president John Hennessy told a writer from The New Yorker that "there's a tsunami coming" regarding online education. It seems the evolution that occurred in newspapers and magazines is about to happen in higher education: reorientation centered around the Internet.
The Babson Survey Research Group reports that from 2002 to 2010, the number of students enrolled in at least one online course increased by almost 300 percent. Far from slowing down, these numbers seem to indicate a growing demand for non-traditional education. Just recently, large and influential universities Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology invested millions of dollars in online courses and distance learning.
Hennessy's words may prove prophetic, not only as momentum grows for innovative educational models, but also as expectations among students shift from a desk-and-chalkboard education to a learning experience without geography. Continued...