How Should Arab Christians React to Persecution?

By Martin Accad

The Arab Baptist Theological Seminary has just completed its fourteenth Middle East Conference/Consultation, organized by its Institute of Middle East Studies, the highlights of which were presented last week through our blog. Under the overarching concept of “disorienting times,” we explored the four themes of “Persecution and Suffering,” “Emigration,” “Hopelessness and Despair,” and “Minoritization.” The four themes were well integrated and tied together through a specific logical framework: The persecution that the MENA church has suffered historically has driven it to a sense that its status as minority was not simply a matter of numbers, but that it has been subjected to a process of subjugation which we referred to as “minoritization.” This process, which has led many to despair and to a general sense of hopelessness, continues to drive many to the search for new hope through emigration.

The bombing of two churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday last April, which claimed more than 44 lives, was a gruesome reminder that there are many still in this region who would seek the complete demise and disappearance of Christianity from the MENA. Continue reading

Can You Trust Muslim Kindness this Ramadan?

By Martin Accad

In post 9/11 anti-Muslim discourse, taqiyya has been redefined as a religious obligation for Muslims to lie to non-Muslims not simply for survival, but in order to serve the expansionist agenda of their religious community. According to the taqiyya-focused strand of the anti-Muslim moral panic, Muslims stand condemned for their participation in this hidden agenda even when no criminal or anti-social behaviour is apparent.[1]

As Shakira Hussein vividly describes, Taqiyya, best translated as “dissimulation,” may be one of the most misunderstood Islamic concepts today. Continue reading

Biblical Peace begins at Home: Challenging Common Notions of Peace in the Global Church

By Martin Accad

In his significant visit to Cairo, Egypt, last week, Pope Francis delicately tackled a whole series of sensitive issues in the gracious way that has become his trademark. Many conservatives, both Christian and Muslim, were nervous about his visit. Christian conservatives feared that he would lean over too far in his search for Muslim dialogue partners. Muslim conservatives (with Muslim Brotherhood affiliation – some have claimed), put out the trending hashtag #بابا_الإرهاب (baba al 2erhab – “the Pope of terrorism”) on the eve of his visit. But Pope Francis was rather unequivocal in his message of peace, seemingly addressing militant Islamism with his assertion that “Religiosity means nothing unless it is inspired by deep faith and charity.” But no doubt his message also addressed rising anti-Muslim political populism around the world, when he affirmed that “True faith is one that makes us more charitable, more merciful, more honest and more humane.” He added with the all-embracing warning that:

“God is pleased only by a faith that is proclaimed by our lives, for the only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity! Any other fanaticism does not come from God and is not pleasing to him.” Continue reading

The Death and Resurrection of Jesus Were the Culmination of His Life and Teaching: An Easter Reflection

By Martin Accad

In the gospel of John, chapter 12 (1-8), we read the story of a woman called Mary, who anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume. But who was this enigmatic Mary character, and what was the significance of her act?

1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. Continue reading

Theological Education as Formation for Prophetic Ministry

By Martin Accad

When we think about theological education in a country like Lebanon, we are forced to think differently from the way that seminary education has traditionally been understood in Europe or North America. In many seminaries around the world, both in the west and sadly also in the Middle East, students are still primarily taught how to interpret the biblical text largely for preaching purposes. They may also take a couple of counseling courses and some classes in pastoral ministry. They may be offered a limited number of courses in missiology, but often in the form of electives that students can opt out of. This reflects an older mentality, where the seminary views itself as operating at the service of ‘Christendom’ – a society where Christianity is dominant and where the church often lives with a triumphalistic mindset. A large proportion of seminaries, however, have become increasingly aware of functioning in a post-Christian world. Continue reading

A Wakeup Call for People of Faith in the Twenty-First Century

By Martin Accad

Judging from the opening seventeen years of this new millennium, I expect the twenty-first century to be one of major social and political transition. We have entered an age where world religions are having a key role in the rise of global conflicts, and in which therefore people of all faiths will have to play a key role as peacemakers. If we do not rise to this unprecedented challenge in the most robust ways, we will have failed in our most fundamental divine calling to be agents of God’s reconciliation and transformation in the world.

In the years 2015 and 2016, we witnessed a degradation of fundamental values of human decency at a global scale, which many would say they have never seen before. The rise of ISIS in the summer of 2014 triggered a global reaction that must have stunned most people, except perhaps the leadership of ISIS itself. In the Muslim world, there has been an outcry against the horrors committed by the group.  Continue reading

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

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

Flush Out your Toxic Thinking about Islam before Election Day!

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

Reflections on the Burkini: Symbol of Oppression, Liberation, but mostly Power

Sign stop Islamic swimsuits burkini.

by Martin Accad

You may be thinking: ‘Not another blog about the Burkini!’ Many of us have grown tired of these divisive issues. The building of minarets in Switzerland, of another mosque in America, or the debate over whether Muslim courts with limited jurisdiction over family affairs should be allowed to emerge in the West; all of it has become rather tiresome.

Let’s face it: the matter has become little to do with women’s rights to dress as they please, or their not having the right to wear certain garments. This is about a deepening and growing social rift and struggle within western societies.

Continue reading

Mission in a World Gone Wild and Violent: Challenging the Monochromatic View of Islam from a Silent Majority Position

By Martin Accad

[Note: This post was first published on Fuller Theological Seminary’s ‘Global Reflections Blog,’ in preparation for Fuller’s 2016 Missiology Lectures on 3-4 November. To learn more, click here]

On May 16, 2016, the day that I am writing this blog, we are commemorating the secret deal between Britain and France known today as the ‘Sykes-Picot agreement.’ Following secret negotiations in 1916, Britain and France agreed on the new borders of the Middle East as they predicted the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of WWI (1914-1918). A third minor party to the agreement was the Tsarist government of Russia. But following the Bolshevik Revolution and the end of the Tsarist era, Russia would fall out of the agreement, and the Bolsheviks would make the agreement public on 23 November 1917, provoking what one scholar has described as ‘embarrassment’ to the British, ‘dismay’ to the Arabs, and ‘delight’ to the Turks (pun intended!)[1]

In the summer of 2014, the group calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS – or in Iraq and the Levant, ISIL) went on a rampage, conquering and massacring Christians, Yazidis, Shiites, and any Sunnis who disagreed with its program. Continue reading