Middle East Immersion: Learn. Serve. Experience the Middle East!

A view of the old pedestrian souk in Byblos, Lebanon during the day. A very medieval and picturesque area,  paved with little stones and with little shops.

What is the Middle East Immersion?

The Middle East Immersion (MEI) is a six-week intensive practicum designed for students from beyond the region wanting to experience firsthand the opportunities and challenges of Christian service in the Middle East. Under the mentorship of respected scholars and experienced practitioners, students in the MEI program practice intercultural work in a dynamic context and engage in mutual learning between Christian and Muslim communities.

Centered on critically reflective practice, MEI provides students an opportunity to earn academic credit and fulfill practicum requirements while being exposed to the language, peoples and cultures of one of the region’s most vibrant cities.

MEI 2017 begins 19 June in Beirut, Lebanon, and runs through July. Continue reading

Middle East Consultation 2017 – Apply Today!

from-arthur-mec17-poster

Click Here to Apply

The Institute of Middle East Studies is pleased to announce that we are now accepting applications to attend Middle East Consultation 2017 – The Church in Disorienting Times: Leading Prophetically through Adversity. Please click on the above link to apply.

Disorienting Times

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 Middle East Consultation 2017 (MEC 2017), 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, such as persecution and suffering, minoritisation, 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.

The Four Core Themes of MEC 2017

Each of the initial four days will have a particular focus, with all contributions being based on the daily theme. 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

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

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.

Discipleship Today: Identity and Belonging in the Middle East and North Africa

By Arthur Brown

Last week [15-19 June], IMES hosted its second consultation on the theme of discipleship in the MENA region. This year’s consultation, Discipleship Today: Identity and Belonging in the Middle East and North Africa, attracted representatives from 28 countries, including: Algeria, Tanzania, Iraq, Bangladesh, Singapore, the Netherlands, Syria, The U.S., Romania, Lebanon, Columbia, The U.K., The Philippines, Egypt and many more. It was an amazing opportunity to hear what God has been doing across the MENA region, and beyond, in the lives of individuals and communities.

The purpose of the 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.

Continue reading

What’s Happening at IMES this June 2015?

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 2015 – Discipleship Today: Identity and Belonging in the Middle East & North Africa (June 15-19)

Capture MEC 2015The Middle East Consultation 2015 – Discipleship Today: Identity and Belonging in the Middle East & North Africa, 15 – 19 June 2015, focuses on specific opportunities and challenges related to “identity” and “belonging” that face followers of Jesus within the MENA context. These challenges are particularly important given the diverse socio-religious and cultural backgrounds of Christ-followers in the region and of those leaders who seek to disciple them.

We live in a world where belonging to multiple social and cultural traditions is the reality for many. Identity can be understood as a complex and multi-dimensional aspect of human life, formed in response to a variety of dynamic social, cultural, historical, political, religious and spiritual experiences and commitments within today’s globalized and interconnected world.

As such, the core of MEC 2015 consists of listening to in-depth testimonies from those who live in the midst of specific challenges pertaining to identity and belonging. The consultation also provides an opportunity to reflect upon and analyze the diverse social and religious dynamics at hand through a process of theological reflection via round-table discussion, conversations with global thinkers from diverse social and cultural backgrounds, and practical training workshops.

For more information about MEC 2015 – Discipleship Today: Identity and Belonging in the Middle East and North Africa, please click here or contact IMES@abtslebanon.org.

Click Here to Apply!

2) MRel in MENA Studies – MENA History, Politics and Economics Residency (June 22-July 3)

Capture MRel 2015Immediately following MEC 2015, students in IMES’s Master of Religion in Middle Eastern and North African Studies (MRel in MENA Studies) program begin two very full weeks for the residency portion of their MENA History, Politics and Economics module, under the supervision of Dr. Rupen Das. As lead faculty for the MENA History, Politics and Economics module Dr. Das will be assisted by Jesse Wheeler as support instructor and Elias Ghazal as holistic formation instructor.

The MENA History, Politics and Economics module seeks to develop an inter‐disciplinary understanding of the historical, political and economic dynamics that have shaped the contemporary Middle East and North Africa. This course looks at the formative historical developments of the modern era, major macroeconomic issues at present, and the complexities of regional poverty. It seeks also to explore the manner by which such realities intersect with the idea of the Kingdom of God, as a lens through which to understand and engage with the contemporary MENA. As part of the residency, students will gain training in contextual analysis, needs assessment and problem analysis, project design (developing the logic for change), and peace-building frameworks and strategies, as well as learning first hand from a variety of practitioners in the region.

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, Cyprus, the U.K., Korea, the U.S., Egypt, Singapore, Tanzania, and of course Lebanon itself will be studying the MENA region, within the MENA region!

For more information about the MRel in MENA Studies program, please follow the appropriate links: Program Overview/Academic Flow and Delivery Format/Core Modules/Faculty

Click Here to Apply!

3) Middle East Immersion, Lebanon 2015 (June 15 – July 17)

MEI Lebanon LogoMiddle East Immersion (MEI), Lebanon provides international students the opportunity to practice intercultural work in a dynamic context and engage in mutual learning between Christian and Muslim communities. Graduate seminary and intercultural studies students have the opportunity to earn academic credit in fulfillment of practicum requirements, while being exposed to Muslim-Christian relations in the context of Lebanon.

Now in its 9th year, MEI Lebanon has hosted international students from Fuller Theological Seminary, Truett Theological Seminary, Talbot School of Theology, Bethel Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, among others, who have come to spend their summers in Lebanon and study under the guidance of IMES.

While in Lebanon, students participate in the following:

  • The Middle East Consultation 2015 – Discipleship Today: Identity and Belonging in the Middle East and North Africa
  • Intensive Levantine-Arabic language study with the Academy of Languages and Practical Skills (ALPS)
  • A cross-cultural practicum placement meeting the specific interests and skills of the student
  • Field visits, weekend excursions, church and mosque visits, and extra activities throughout Beirut and Lebanon

For students or institutions interested in learning more about IMES’s Middle East Immersion program, please follow the appropriate links: Program Overview/Testimonials/Academics/Admissions.

4) The Feast, Lebanon

Feast_BW_with_tagThe 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]. In the future, we hope to be able to put on ‘Feast events’ in different parts of Lebanon, thus creating a movement of young people who will break down the barriers of ignorance and mistrust.

Middle East Consultation 2015 – Identity and Belonging in the Middle East & North Africa

Capture MEC 2015

The Middle East Consultation 2015 – Discipleship Today: Identity and Belonging in the Middle East & North Africa, 15 – 19 June 2015, will focus on specific opportunities and challenges related to “identity” and “belonging” that face followers of Jesus within the MENA context. These challenges are particularly important given the diverse socio-religious and cultural backgrounds of Christ-followers in the region and of those leaders who seek to disciple them.

We live in a world where belonging to multiple social and cultural traditions is the reality for many. Identity can be understood as a complex and multi-dimensional aspect of human life, formed in response to a variety of dynamic social, cultural, historical, political, religious and spiritual experiences and commitments within today’s globalized and interconnected world.

As such, the core of MEC 2015 will consist of listening to in-depth testimonies from those who live in the midst of specific challenges pertaining to identity and belonging. The consultation also provides an opportunity to reflect upon and analyze the diverse social and religious dynamics at hand through a process of theological reflection via round-table discussion, as well as conversations with global thinkers from diverse social and cultural backgrounds.

Leading global missiologists will present keynote presentations on a range of related themes, which will in turn be reflected upon and discussed by those personally facing such challenges in the region. This hermeneutical dynamic (or process of accountable theological reflection) provides a framework for mutual enrichment within the worldwide Body of Christ, one that we are sure will impact the future of Christ-centred witness in and beyond the MENA region. Some keynote presenters include the following respected scholar-practitioners:

  • Dr. Tim Green, an expert on discipleship, training and intercultural relations,
  • Dr. Evelyne Reisacher, professor of intercultural relations at Fuller Theology Seminary in Pasadena, Ca,
  • Dr. Martin Accad, Director of the Institute of Middle East Studies at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) in Beirut, Lebanon.
  • Additional speakers include an expert on leadership in the North African church and a leader from a Christ-following community in Bangladesh.

Daily morning devotions will be led by Rev. Dr. Hikmat Kashouh, professor of New Testament at ABTS, who will be exploring the biblical basis for what it means find one’s identity in Christ. This year’s consultation also features a series of practical workshops examining discipleship training courses, practical issues related to witness and discipleship with young people seeking faith, “adaptive” approaches to witness in the Arab world, and factors facilitating faith in the Arab world, among others. In addition, we have the added treat of poet Lucy Berry to share with us her reflections throughout the course of the consultation. The consultation is in both English and Arabic with simultaneous translation.

For more information about MEC 2015 – Discipleship Today: Identity and Belonging in the Middle East and North Africa, please click here or contact IMES@abtslebanon.org.

Click Here to Apply!

The International Journal of Frontier Missiology (IJFM) published a report by IMES on last year’s Middle East Consultation 2014 – Discipleship Today: Following Jesus in the Middle East and North Africa, including an outline of MEC 2015. Check it out here.

Let’s Eat Together!

By Arthur Brown

Food and youth work have always gone hand in hand. While it is true that ‘pizza night’ generally attracts more young people than a discussion on the doctrine of the trinity, good youth workers recognise the significance of young [and old] persons eating together. I was recently reminded of an initiative working in communities that had experienced inter-religious conflict and violence. One of the projects involved a group of women from different religious communities meeting together in order to bake bread. Such a ‘simple,’ and yet profound, activity sought to help reduce community tensions and create friendships.

There is a traditional Arabic phrase, ‘baynatna khubz wa milah,‘ which translates ‘there is bread and salt between us.’ In Egyptian Arabic, the word used for bread [instead of the more typical khubz] is ‘aish,’ which is also the Arabic word meaning ‘life.’ This goes to show the significance in which bread is held in the Arab world.

Before I get myself into trouble for massacring the Arabic language, let me explain. The idea behind this phrase refers to the nature of relationship between two parties. As a Moroccan twist on this proverb makes clear, those who share bread and salt [or eat together] become close:

By bread and salt we are united.Moroccan proverb

There is a sense of bonding between those who have shared this meal together. In many Eastern European countries, the same idea refers to a ceremony of greeting.

Okay, so this isn’t a food blog. So why such a focus on food?

Feast_BW_with_tagIn the coming weeks IMES, in partnership with World Vision Lebanon and Youth for Christ Lebanon, will be launching The Feast. The Feast is an initiative based in the UK that seeks to develop community cohesion between Christian and Muslim young people. In such a context as Lebanon, this strikes me as a significant need.

What is The Feast?

Essentially, The Feast in Lebanon is about great quality youth work with religiously diverse young people who are committed to their faith. We will be creating a new 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.

As in The Feast UK, there will be three main elements guiding everything we do.

  • Exploring faith: young people are encouraged and equipped to discuss their faith in ways which draw out both the similarities and differences between them.
  • Creating friendships: by bringing together young people in a positive and fun environment, The Feast provides the opportunities for them to get to know one another, work on projects together and build ongoing friendships built on trust and respect.
  • Changing lives: having been to events run by The Feast the young people are challenged and enabled to live out the lessons they have learnt in their everyday lives amongst their friends, family and the wider community.

Spearheading Social Change

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, maybe, just maybe, The Feast in Lebanon, by virtue of these relationships, will also have wider peace-building implications. As a youth worker, I have always believed in the potential for young people to make a difference in society. And, it seems evident from recent events in the MENA region that the youthful voice [with the help of social media] is becoming a force to be reckoned with.

As well as building peace, there are many social issues that need addressing in Lebanon: the treatment of migrant domestic workers, the environment, domestic violence, and the list could go on. Often it is ‘non-religious’ NGO’s who spearhead campaigns to bring about change and social justice. However, often these same NGO’s are somewhat removed from the powerful [and political] religious institutions. Imagine if young people, inspired by their Muslim and Christian faith, became advocates not only for the building of peaceful inter-sectarian relationships, but for social change…based on their faith commitments! Imagine if groups of young people are inspired to go to their religious leaders and ask them what their faith tradition teaches on any number of issues or concerns.

What We Will Do

The Feast Lebanon youth group will meet every two weeks for a diverse menu of activities. It is anticipated that these will include:

  • Talking about what is good about being a Christian or a Muslim
  • Fun and games during creative youth meetings
  • Arts and crafts
  • Trips to each other’s religious sites and communities
  • Celebrating special religious events [Feasts!]
  • Discussions on a wide range of issues and themes
  • Sharing food!
  • Scriptural reasoning [exploring the Bible and the Quran as they relate to particular themes]
  • Drama & role-play
  • Campaigning / advocating [from a faith base] for positive social change
  • Life skills and peace-building training

And the list could go on.

However, each activity will be 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 will encourage young people to decide on the specific activities they themselves see as important [and fun]. One trip already in the works is igloo building in the snowy wintery Lebanese mountains! [Honestly, there is a company that does this!]

Dialogue Values

The Feast has a number of what it calls ‘guidelines for dialogue’ to help young people explore faith in healthy and appropriate ways. In Lebanon, this is imperative as we ensure all our young participants [and their faith leaders] feel safe and secure. Given some of the recent events around the world involving so called ‘religiously inspired violence’ the following three guidelines seem particularly pertinent:

  • [We will] not judge people here by what some people of their faith do.
  • [We will] not treat people as a spokesperson for their faith. [We come as individual young people, and not representatives of our religion].
  • [I will] speak positively about my own faith, rather than negatively about other people’s. [And, in the Lebanese context we will encourage the same at it relates to political belief].

Working in Partnership

This is a significant step for IMES. It is the first time we will be working directly with young people [aged 15-19]. In the future, we hope to be able to put on ‘Feast events’ in different parts of Lebanon, thus creating a movement of young people who will break down the barriers of ignorance and mistrust. In addition, we hope to start an informal network of youth leaders who are committed to intentional interfaith youth work in Lebanon.

Returning to The Taste of Salt

Mark 9:50 says,

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” [NIV]

As salt flavours all it touches, it is my prayer that The Feast [and more importantly the young people who participate in it] will help flavor their own communities and spheres of influence. Maybe it is Lebanon’s young people who will flavor the relationships between different religious and sectarian groups in Lebanon towards a future where we can see glimpses of hope amongst signs of hatred and conflict.