The Institute of Middle East Studies at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary is pleased to announce 2015’s Middle East Consultation [MEC 2015]. Last year’s MEC was an enriching and edifying consultation that identified a number of significant challenges related to discipleship in the Middle East and North Africa [MENA]. Based on the findings of MEC 2014, this year’s consultation will focus on specific 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.
It became apparent through the course of MEC 2014 that 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. In light of this, some of the questions to be explored as part of MEC 2015 include:
- What emotional and psychological trials are experienced by those choosing to follow Jesus within the MENA context?
- How might new followers of Jesus understand, develop and define their new-found identity ‘in Christ,’ while at the same time taking seriously their particular socio-cultural and religious context?
- What factors allow disciples to have confidence in their identity to the degree that they can become effective witnesses within their own community capable of discipling others?
- How might a disciple’s personal narrative be convincing for members of his or her family? How might family, marriage and child rearing issues be addressed?
- And, how might the regional and global Body of Christ support Christ-followers from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds within and beyond the MENA context to grow and become influential leaders?
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 missiologists will give 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.