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Now More Than Evercomment (0)

May 29, 2014

By Bob Terry

Now More Than Ever

Two events prompt these thoughts. The first is monstrous; the second, rewarding. 

News reports indicate military intelligence teams from Great Britain and the United States are landing in Nigeria as I write these words. Their presence is the result of worldwide pressure caused by the kidnapping of 276 school girls by a Nigerian terrorist group called Boko Haram.

But it was not the kidnapping that sparked the outcry. It was a video posted by Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau threatening to sell the girls as slaves that prompted the outcry. Politicians will blame each other for the lack of response for more than three weeks after the kidnapping. Some will say Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan did not want outside assistance and still refuses some of the help offered. Others will say the world did not care about the girls until a Twitter campaign launched in response to the threat to sell the girls as slaves.

This week, news programs have been talking about Boko Haram. They have been talking about the group’s indiscriminate murders of thousands of people. Stories have tried to explain who this group is, what their name means and goals of the terrorist organization.

One would think Boko Haram was a new group that suddenly burst on the scene, judging by what is being printed and said in mainstream media as I write this column.

Ongoing conflict

Not so. The Alabama Baptist has published stories since 1999 about the conflict between Muslims and Christians in the northern and central parts of Nigeria. In 2009 this publication published a story about Baptists of the world joining together in a Baptist World Alliance (BWA) prayer effort asking God to intervene in Nigeria’s epidemic of violence. That story said that more than 10,000 people, mostly Christians, had been slaughtered by Boko Haram to that date.

Since 2009, The Alabama Baptist has published more than 30 stories about the attacks of this Muslim terrorist group on Christians in Nigeria and the surrounding countries of Niger, Cameroon and Chad. In 2012 The Alabama Baptist published a story about Nigerian Baptist leaders sharing with other Baptist leaders about their precarious situation. BWA leaders responded by writing to Nigerian President Jonathan urging action to safeguard Christians and others frequently targeted by Boko Haram.

Most of the western news outlets did not have time or space for stories of human atrocities in Africa, especially if they involved Muslim attacks on Christians. Now the media has been forced to pay attention, but they still ignore the anti-Christian foundation of this hate group.

This monstrous story is only one of many anecdotes illustrating the value of The Alabama Baptist. Week after week the paper provides news and information about our world that cannot easily be found in secular media. Daily The Alabama Baptist filters news sources from around the world with a commitment to bring important information and insights to Alabama Baptist readers in timely fashion. We report what God is doing in the world, about the conditions impacting God’s people and examine issues from a biblical perspective. When this information is combined with the other valuable material published each week, it helps shape a Christian world view. No wonder the state Baptist paper is deemed by many to be an important resource for Christian living.

The second event is something to celebrate. Perhaps you saw the announcement in the May 22nd issue that The Alabama Baptist won the top Christian newspaper award from two of the nation’s three ecumenical religious press associations. This is the second time in three years Alabama Baptists’ state Baptist paper has earned this prestigious honor.

18th consecutive year

Evangelical Press Association and Religion Communicator’s Council both gave The Alabama Baptist their award of excellence for Christian newspapers. A third association, Associated Church Press, honored the publication with its award of merit. In 2012, The Alabama Baptist also received the same awards from the three journalism groups. This is the 18th consecutive year that the paper has been judged as a top Christian newspaper by at least one of the national organizations.

Forgive me if I seem immodestly pleased with these awards but I am. The sense of accomplishment is not just for the general excellence of the publication but for the quality of the various parts of the publication provided for Alabama Baptists week in and week out.

This year seven different sections of the publication received awards of excellence from at least one press association. Five other parts received awards of merit and a sixth area received an honorable mention.

The five-part January Bible Study series written by retired Christian theology professor Fisher Humphreys was judged as the best Bible reference. The coverage of the murder of Birmingham Baptist Karen Shahan, written by Jennifer Davis Rash and Neisha Fuson, garnered the top news coverage article. The exposé on human trafficking by Kristen Padilla took top honors for theme issue. Grace Thornton’s “Thinking of Going” spread in which she laid out the steps in the missionary appointment process was honored as the best personally useful article. The appearance of the paper, compared to the beginning of 2012, earned the staff top honors in publication redesign. “The healing continues,” a piece by Thornton tracing one man’s journey regarding race relations, was judged the best general article. One of my columns also received top honors.

Other awards

The Faith and Family section done in cooperation with the Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries received an award of merit as a routine department of the paper. John Cantelow III, pastor of Sixth Avenue Baptist Church, Birmingham, “50 years after The Movement” earned the award of merit in the personal experience category. Executive Editor Jennifer Rash’s monthly column “Rashional Thoughts” garnered an award of merit as did the paper’s in-depth news entry on human trafficking.

The paper’s six-part series on health care in America, written by Rash and Sondra Washington, garnered a third place in the article series category. Again I confess to a lack of humility when the health care series placed ahead of the entry by Christianity Today, the acknowledged journalism leader among evangelical Christians.

Also honored were the professional resource entry “How to deal with a shooter” by Thornton and the layout and design of the emphases on “How to Cope with Grief” by Lauren C. Grim.

How do these two events fit together?

Not only do readers find important information in The Alabama Baptist that often goes unreported in secular media, but also the elements — the articles, news stories, columns, editorials, Bible studies and all the rest — are presented in a professional, awarding-winning style.

Because of the issues covered, because of the quality of the articles and stories, because of its proven reliability, Alabama Baptists need their state Baptist paper. In fact, now more than ever you should read The Alabama Baptist.

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