Stories of interest to Arkansas Baptists ...


Freed Boko Haram captives shunned, study shows

NASHVILLE (BP) – Women and girls kidnapped and raped by Boko Haram jihadists are often rejected and ostracized in refugee camps and upon return to their communities and families, a new report released by UNICEF and International Alert reveals.

Hundreds of an estimated 2,000 residents kidnapped in northeast Nigeria since 2012 have been freed as military forces have retaken land captured by Boko Haram, the study said. Returning to their communities and families, often with children born of rape in captivity and forced marriages, the women face unique discrimination, the report found.

"As they return, many face marginalization, discrimination and rejection by family and community members due to social and cultural norms related to sexual violence," according to the report's executive summary. "There is also growing fear that some of these girls and women were radicalized in captivity. The children who have been born of sexual violence are at an even greater risk of rejection, abandonment and violence."

While the exact number of those kidnapped is not certain, still missing are more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in 2014 in Chibok and the subject of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

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Trump receives 'tough questions' on social issues

NASHVILLE (BP) – Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has received an open letter from Focus on the Family's CitizenLink network asking him to clarify what CitizenLink's president called a "contradictory record" on abortion and religious freedom among other social issues.

The Trump campaign has not responded directly to the Feb. 17 letter but addressed some issues raised in the letter in a series of press releases Feb. 15-16. Baptist Press contacted the Trump campaign the afternoon of Feb. 17 but had not received a response by its publication deadline Feb. 18.

CitizenLink's letter, signed by President Paul Weber and the leaders of 25 state-based partner organizations, also raised questions related to government funding of Planned Parenthood, nomination of Supreme Court justices, Trump's personal character and other issues.

CitizenLink is affiliated with but legally separate from Focus on the Family and promotes public policy it believes is consistent with a Christian worldview.

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Most Americans unfazed by Planned Parenthood videos

NASHVILLE (BP) – "What videos?" seems to be the reaction of most Americans to the series of undercover videos targeting Planned Parenthood over the past six months, according to a new LifeWay Research survey.

The videos made national headlines, provoked outrage in Congress and prompted investigations in about a dozen states. In showing undercover activists from the Center for Medical Progress discussing with Planned Parenthood officials possible payments for donated fetal remains, CMP contends the videos show Planned Parenthood illegally selling fetal remains. Planned Parenthood denies the claim.

The LifeWay Research phone survey of 1,000 Americans found that 7 out of 10 are either unaware of the videos (43 percent) or have not spoken out after seeing them (27 percent).

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Uphold abortion rules, ERLC and SBTC urge U.S. Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (BP) – The U.S. Supreme Court's own decisions and the need for states to protect women's lives call for the justices to uphold a Texas law that regulates abortion doctors and clinics, according to two Southern Baptist entities and other religious organizations.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) joined the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) and four other groups in a friend-of-the-court brief filed Feb. 1 with the high court. The brief urges the justices to affirm a Texas measure that requires an abortion doctor to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital in case a woman needs emergency admission. The law also mandates abortion clinics must meet the health and safety standards of other walk-in surgical centers.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments March 2 to decide if the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans was correct in upholding most of the Texas measure.

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International Mission Board shutters communications office; 30 lose jobs

RICHMOND, Va. – Following an announcement that 30 communications positions are being eliminated, the International Mission Board (IMB) said no further missionaries will be required to leave the field as the 170-year-old missions entity enters its second and final chapter of getting back on financial track.

The IMB met with employees Jan. 13 to announce that it was shuttering its communications department April 29 – a move that affected 40 staff. Ten of the staff members will be reassigned to other positions. The other 30, who are losing their jobs, are receiving severance packages.

The firing of communications personnel gives breathing room to personnel around the world who were awaiting news of whether their positions would be eliminated.

In an effort to further reduce staff in the Richmond headquarters and on the field, IMB President David Platt told the two groups the agency is offering a second round of voluntary severance packages that must be finalized by Feb. 22.

IMB Executive Vice President Sebastian Traeger presented specific details of the reset and the Hand Raising Opportunity (HRO) plan in a town hall format with staff.

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