Without question, June is consistently our busiest month of the year at the Institute of Middle East Studies. As such, we wish to highlight a number of the projects that we have been working on as we seek to fulfill our institutional mandate: To bring about positive transformation in thinking and practice between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East and beyond.
1) Middle East Consultation 2016 – The Refugee and the Body of Christ: Exploring the Impact of the Present Crisis on our Understanding of Church (20 – 24 June)
MEC 2016 will explore the long-term implications of the significant number of refugees from non-Christian backgrounds who now regularly fellowship with other members of the Body of Christ. By doing this, MEC 2016 seeks to encourage healthy practices between and within different expressions of the local church in the Middle East, Europe and beyond. MEC 2016 will be creating space to reflect on the challenges and opportunities facing the MENA church in the present and in the years ahead that result from the demographic changes currently taking place. In addition, we will be creating the time and space for church and ministry leaders to step back and reflect not only on what God has been doing in and through His church in recent times, but to envision the church of the future in and beyond the MENA region.
Throughout MEC 2016, IMES will be exploring two critical questions:
- From a theological, biblical and sociological perspective, to what extent do non-Christian refugees need to be integrated into the previously established church?
- How might a biblical expression of church – made up of new believers from non-Christian backgrounds – be fostered in such a way that it would flourish within a non-Christian context?
MEC 2016 comes at a critical time in history for the church in the region. Furthermore, what is already happening in the Middle East has the potential to happen further-afield. Will the Church – will our churches – be ready?
2) ABTS Graduation: A Big Year for IMES! (26 June)
Immediately following MEC 2016 is the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary Graduation Ceremony. We are especially excited this year as IMES will be graduating its first students from the Master of Religion in Middle Eastern and North African Studies (MRel in MENA Studies) program!
Having completed four core modules (MENA Islam; MENA History, Politics and Economics; MENA Christianity; and MENA Cultures), essential language learning, electives, and the MRel Final Project, our students have done remarkable work to make it to this point and have every right to be incredibly proud of themselves and their accomplishments. For our part, we at IMES are extremely proud of our graduates.
With regard to their experiences, some of our soon to be graduates write:
“My experience in the MRel has been a journey of discovery, a discovery of a dynamic region, of cultures, of people, of faiths, of myself and, most significantly, of God’s kingdom at work here and now. I have been equipped to engage challenges around me and seize the opportunities to address pressing issues within my context of life and ministry.” – Brent
“The MRel program helped me to discover the needs of our region and understand the challenges facing Christianity in the Middle East. It is such a great program because of its focus on practical issues. Church leaders in our region need these kind of studies. I am so grateful to all my professors and colleagues in the MRel program.” – Amir
“The MRel program is one of the best investments that I have made in ministry training. The program helped me to gain a deeper understanding of the region where I do ministry and has provided me with very practical insights which have greatly improved my impact as a Church planter.” – Chris
The MRel in MENA Studies program is a unique and innovative multidisciplinary program based in the MENA region. This postgraduate degree focuses on providing a strong theoretical understanding of the region and the issues that it faces, combined with an emphasis on developing applied skills needed to work in the region and among MENA communities worldwide. It is based upon a strong theological and Biblical framework in that each module weaves scripture and theology into its theory and practice.
For more information about the MRel in MENA Studies program, please explore the links below:
3) MRel in MENA Studies: MENA Cultures Residency (27 June – 8 July)
Immediately following both MEC 2016 and the ABTS graduation ceremony, students in IMES’s MRel in MENA Studies program begin two very full weeks for the residency portion of their MENA Cultures module, under the supervision of Dr. Richard McCallum. As lead faculty for the MENA Cultures module, Dr. McCallum will be assisted by Dr. Kathryn Kraft as support faculty and Dr. Robert Hamd as holistic formation faculty.
MENA Cultures seeks to develop an understanding of and appreciation for the important elements and diversity of MENA cultures, the ability to draw critically upon the literature and practices of the social sciences and theology in thinking about culture and religion, (including trends analysis, cultural hermeneutics, and anthropological research and reporting), as well as to reflect critically upon the cultural implications of Christian ministry and work within the MENA context. Students will gain practical experience in cultural exegesis, ethnographic fieldwork, culturally appropriate ministry, and personal intercultural skills. Through it all, students will learn to think missiologically about culture, identity and faith within the pluralistic context of the contemporary Middle East.
During their residency, students and faculty will be together in the same location for a unique and intensive learning experience, all the while being exposed to the rich historical, cultural, and religious heritage of the Middle East. As part of their residency, students from as far away as Brazil, the U.K., Egypt, Korea, the U.S., The Netherlands, and of course Lebanon itself will be studying the MENA region, within the MENA region!
Instruction and learning is accomplished through a blended delivery system combining 2-week residencies and the use of distance learning technologies that facilitate discussion and feedback.
4) The Feast: Lebanon
The Feast in Lebanon is about great quality youth work with religiously diverse young people who are committed to their faith. IMES helps facilitate a youth group in Lebanon comprised of Sunni Muslim, Shiite Muslim, Maronite Christian, and Evangelical Christian young people, aged 15-19. Over time, and as the young people get to know each other better, we hope that not only they but their families and communities will be impacted for the better.
While it is a good end in and of itself for individual young people’s relationships to be developed with those from different faith communities, it is our hope that The Feast, by virtue of these relationships, will also have wider peace-building implications. The Feast Lebanon youth group meets every two weeks for a diverse menu of activities, each inspired by faith.
The Feast is about religion [and religious faith] having a positive impact, rather than what is often considered negative. Yet, as an intentionally youth-led initiative, we encourage young people to decide on the specific activities they themselves see as important [and fun]. We are in the process of developing ‘Feast events’ in different parts of Lebanon, thus hoping to create a movement of young people who will break down the barriers of ignorance and mistrust.
 Students are currently in the process of completing their final requirements for graduation.