Welcome to The IMES Blog!

Welcome to the official blog of the Institute of Middle East Studies (IMES), a research and resource institute of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, Lebanon.

IMES addresses subjects significant to the MENA region prophetically, sensitively and in a non-partisan manner for the purpose of carrying out its mandate to bring about positive transformation in thinking and practice between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East and beyond.

Please enjoy the posts below from our team of respected scholars, experienced practitioners, student researchers and knowledgeable staff. New posts go live each week on Thursday.

The Changing Seasons of Politics: Coming to Terms with the Aoun-Trump Axis

color autumn forest as nice natural background

By Martin Accad

When the global community began to realize that the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ was growing bloody and violent with the turn of events in Syria, many journalists and political analysts – as well as the common pun-lover – began to refer to it as the ‘Arab Winter’ or the ‘Arab Fall.’ But I seriously doubt whether anyone expected that the orange-colored tree leaves of the current Fall season would manifest themselves as they have this month of November from Beirut to Washington, DC. Orange has indeed come upon us – from the orange logo of President Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement to the vastly mediatized orange hair-do of President-elect Donald Trump. Continue reading

PRAY FOR A HIGHWAY: GOD’S DREAM IN DISORIENTING TIMES

Empty road in rocky desert

By Emad Botros

Throughout history, the Church has turned to the Bible to interpret the political situation of its time and to find hope in the midst of disaster. The church in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is not different in this regard. Christians in Egypt, for example, recently attempted to interpret the political situation of the country, as well as the MENA region, in light of oracles about Egypt found in Isaiah 19. Continue reading

Middle East Consultation 2017 – The Church in Disorienting Times: Leading Prophetically through Adversity

high contrast image of a compass on rocks

19 – 23 June 2017

We live in disorienting times. This is a reality for the church in many parts of the world today, not least the church of the Middle East. Many factors, historical and social, have reduced the church to the status of minority, in which persecution and hopelessness have become a reality for many. How must our theology inform our response?

During IMES’ Middle East Consultation (MEC) 2017 – The Church in Disorienting Times: Leading Prophetically through Adversity, participants will seek to discern a biblical framework that avoids both self-victimization and triumphalism and encourages the church to prophetically embrace adversity in a way that activates growth and development rather than discouragement and stagnation.

MEC 2017 provides a unique context for the MENA and global church to address a range of critical issues, focusing on the themes of persecution and suffering, minoritization, hopelessness and despair, and emigration. Together we will explore how the Body of Christ can best respond to such challenges, exploring Biblical and theological responses when confronted with adversity.

Participants and contributors will come from across the region and the world, providing a unique opportunity to reflect on the critical challenges facing the Church today. MEC 2017 will feature high quality presentations, first-hand testimonies, pastoral responses, practical workshops, interfaith forums, and opportunities for all participants to engage in robust discussion. In addition, the consultation will include time for prayer, worship and biblical reflection.

Held the third week of June each year at Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) in Beirut, Lebanon, the purpose of IMES’ Middle East Consultation is to equip participants to respond in prophetic and Christ-like ways to the many challenges facing Christians and Muslims in and beyond the Middle East. Mark your calendars.

Registration information will be made available shortly. Please sign up to The IMES Blog to receive our weekly posts as well as periodic updates regarding MEC 2017 – The Church in Disorienting Times: Leading Prophetically through Adversity.

We look forward to seeing you here!

Do We Lack the Moral Imagination? Part Two: Seeing the Other

Black pawn on a chess board alone against all white pieces

By Suzie Lahoud

 What man. . . if with a scrupulous attention he searches all the recesses of his soul, will not perceive that his virtues and vices are wholly owing to different modifications of personal interest? . . . For after all interest is always obeyed; hence the injustice of all our judgments. -Helvetius[1]

The vision of humanity is inherently myopic. We are barely able to see the needs of our neighbor in the house, apartment, or even cubicle beside us; let alone to recognize the needs of our neighbor across borders. Yet that is precisely what Christ calls us to do.

Humanity’s natural proclivity is to act, and increasingly so at the collective level, primarily in its own self-interest. However, despite our innate failings, there is a means by which this propensity may be transcended. Continue reading

Do We Lack the Moral Imagination? Part One: Demasking the Scapegoat

tahaddi1

By Suzie Lahoud

“A common danger unites even the bitterest enemies.” – Aristotle

I was recently having a chat with the water filter guy, who is a fount of information. He was bemoaning the fact that, as a former procurement manager in Dubai, he had not been able to find a suitable job after returning to Lebanon. This, he attributed to the large influx of Syrian refugees who had flooded the job market. Moreover, he seemed none too pleased upon learning that I work for a humanitarian organization serving (though not exclusively) this same refugee population.

What struck me about this encounter was not its particularity, but rather, its seeming ubiquity. Continue reading

Lausanne Global Analysis: The Refugee and the Body of Christ

Fake Dictionary, Dictionary definition of the word refugee

 

By Arthur Brown

The purpose of IMES’ annual Middle East Consultation (MEC) is to equip participants to respond in prophetic and Christ-like ways to the many challenges facing Christians and Muslims in and beyond the Middle East. Each year during the third week of June IMES hosts a dynamic gathering of people from across the globe who are interested in how the church may respond to the critical issues of the day within both Middle Eastern and global contexts.

The consultation includes creative presentations from diverse perspectives, practitioner interviews, roundtable discussions, workshops, interfaith encounters with leading Muslims leaders, Biblical reflections, prayer and worship, and an opportunity to visit a local community to see firsthand some of the challenges faced by certain communities in the region.

MEC 2016 – The Refugee and the Body of Christ: Exploring the Impact of the Present Crisis on Our Understanding of Church was no exception; in fact, the feedback we have received has been extremely positive. What follows is an abridged version of a report on MEC 2016 recently published by the Lausanne Movement, as part of their Lausanne Global Analysis. Continue reading

The Commodification of Mission in the Muslim World

Wadi Rum desert landscape,Jordan

By Mike Kuhn

A commodity—something that is bought and sold.

Mission—the loving and joyful response of Christ’s followers to disciple the nations, holding forth Jesus’ life and teaching among all the peoples of the world.

In theory the two appear to be very distinct concepts. In reality, mission is intricately related to the resources (finance, personnel and information) that fuel it.

There is much to celebrate in that relationship. The generosity of Christ’s church enables her to assist brothers and sisters throughout the world to make Christ’s love known in seeking assistance to the poor, justice for the oppressed and reconciliation of human beings to God through the gospel.

Despite all the good that has been done by generous giving, there is also a dark side to this inter-dependence between mission and money. Continue reading

Christian Politics at the Expense of Christian Faith in Lebanon

By Wissam al-Saliby

More than a year ago, I gave a training in human rights law to members of a veteran Lebanese Christian political party. At the end of the training, during an informal discussion over coffee, I mentioned my work for the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary. The immediate response from one of the party members was, “You evangelicals only have one seat in parliament.” In his mind, the power sharing formula in Lebanon was the first thing he connected with “Lebanese evangelicals.” My immediate response was, jokingly, “Well yes, we do have one intercessor with the Father, Jesus Christ.”

In Lebanon, parliament seats, ministerial positions and key state positions are allocated equally between Christians and Muslims, and proportionally within the various Christian and Muslim sects. Continue reading

Flush Out your Toxic Thinking about Islam before Election Day!

Illustration of a long shadow brain with  a biohazard sign

By Martin Accad

As our American friends approach election day this coming November 8, the rest of us around the world are holding our breaths as we consider the implications of that event on the country’s foreign policies. At a time when the question of Islam and Muslims in America has become so divisive, it would be easy to vote for one or the other candidate for the wrong reasons. In this brief reflection, I would like to point out a few mistakes that we often make in our thinking about Islam and Muslims, perhaps to help some of the voting be less fear-driven and more rational and socially compassionate. Continue reading

Is It for the Poor to Seek Justice and Liberation?

Hnde im Netz

By Rupen Das

I have been intrigued that nowhere in Scripture does God encourage or exhort the poor to seek justice. [1]

Throughout the Bible, the responsibility for social justice and care for the poor and those on the margins of life is on society as a whole, on every individual. Micah 6:8 states in no uncertain terms what God requires:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

More importantly, this is not just a challenge to only the people of God but to everyone. Right at the beginning of Micah, in verse 1:2, the prophet declares: “Hear, you people, all of you, listen, earth and all who live in it.” Continue reading