What’s happening at IMES this June?

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 2017 – The Church in Disorienting Times: Leading Prophetically through Adversity (19 – 23 June)

mec-2017-poster4-finalWe 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.

Click here for additional information about MEC 2017.

2) ABTS Graduation: Another Big Year for IMES! (25 June)ABTS logo med

Immediately following MEC 2017 is the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary Graduation Ceremony. Not only are we thrilled to celebrate with our resident theology and ABTS online students, but we are very excited as this is IMES’ second year to graduate students from our 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 her experience, one of our soon to be graduates writes:

My time in the MRel program proved to be an extremely formative period in my life. Not only did it spur my growth both academically and spiritually, but it dramatically shifted the course of my life and ministry. It opened my eyes to realities and opportunities in the region previously unseen, while also providing me with a conceptual framework and analytical tools to engage in new and unexpected ways. It broadened my horizons from a Kingdom perspective, which has bled into every other area of my life. Moreover, I cannot overestimate the value of the relationships that were formed. I was challenged and inspired by my classmates, and was surrounded by faculty who supported and catalyzed my development. Looking back, I don’t think I could have ever predicted how such a simple decision would launch me on such a transformative journey, and I will forever be grateful to the faculty and staff who made that possible.

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.

3) MRel in MENA Studies: MENA History, Politics and Economics Residency (26 June –  7 July)

Capture MRel 2015Immediately following both MEC 2017 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 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 visit special ministry, NGO and historical sites and learn 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 gaining critical insight into the rich historical, cultural, and religious heritage of the Middle East. 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.

Click here for more information about IMES’ Master of Religion in MENA Studies program. Click here to apply for the upcoming MENA Christianity module beginning Fall 2017.

4) Khebz w Meleh (“Bread and Salt”)

KwM

Finally, IMES is proud to continue its Khebz w Meleh (KwM) initiative throughout the summer months. Young people today are growing up in a country surrounded by different faiths yet often lead separate lives. As a result, Christian and Muslim young people can experience barriers of ignorance, fear and mistrust in their communities, which sometimes progress into hostility or conflict. KwM, an IMES peacebuilding initiative, seeks to bring together young people from different faith communities to discuss their faith around a shared meal, empower them to spearhead social change within their communities, and build authentic relationships in the process.

KwM is all about…

  • 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 we provide the opportunities for them to get to know one another, work on projects together and build ongoing friendship built on trust and respect.
  • Changing lives: having been to events run by KwM 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.

We at IMES are very much looking forward to the coming weeks and in interacting once again with our friends, students and partners and in making new acquaintances in our efforts to bring about positive transformation in thinking and practice between Christians and Muslims within and beyond the MENA region.

From our Vantage Point: The Signs of the Times Unfolding in the Middle East Today

By Wissam al-Saliby

Earlier this year, I was flipping through the radio channels as I was driving from Houston to Dallas. I fell upon a talk show where, to my surprise, I heard the interviewee mentioning “Hezbollah and Iran.” I focused my attention on the conversation to better understand how our region’s politics are perceived in Texas. However, within a few minutes, Jimmy DeYoung moved from recent political developments in the Middle East to Biblical prophecy to forecasting that Arab nations will unite and attack Israel – a claim that I have heard so many times in the US, but that sounds incredulous, almost impossible, to a Lebanese who is seeing an ever increasing Arab dis-unity. The radio show and the connected website are called Prophecy Today. It concluded with a prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem, a peace that is interpreted in light of the preceding political and theological analysis.

End-Times_Industry

Prophecy Today (DeYoung) and other similar initiatives, usually run by one man, such as EndTime Ministries (Irvin Baxter), Rapture Ready (Todd Strandberg), and Restored Church of God (David C. Pack) all demonstrate similar geopolitical analyses of events that happens to be “always in line” with what the prophecies say. This “prophecy industry” manifests itself in websites, books, radio and TV shows, conferences, church pulpits, YouTube channels, and Internet advertisements. Continue reading

It Is the Centenary, but No One Is Celebrating!

By Elias Ghazal

One hundred years ago, on November 2nd, the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, Lord Balfour, issued a letter on behalf of his government that favors the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. Perceived as a fair resolution to Jewish persecution in Europe, the letter, known as the Balfour Declaration, ignored the impact of such a decision on the welfare and rights of the indigenous population of Palestine. Plus, it broke British promises of independence previously made to Arab leaders. The declaration paved the way for the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians by Jewish armed groups and the establishment of the State of Israel – what Israeli historian Ilan Pappe calls the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

Three weeks later, on November 23, 1917, the Soviet Bolsheviks exposed a secret agreement between Britain, France and the ousted Russian Empire. The agreement was negotiated between Sir Mark Sykes of Britain and François Georges-Picot of France, 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

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

MEC 2017b Flyer Final

CLICK HERE TO APPLY

Places at MEC 2017 are filling up fast. If you are planning to attend MEC this year, and have yet to apply [or have had your application approved but have not gone on to register] please do so as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

IMES’ Middle East Consultation [MEC] has developed a fantastic reputation for providing a unique context in which the MENA and global church can come together to address the critical issues facing the Body of Christ in the context of the Middle East and North Africa. As always, MEC will include creative presentations from diverse perspectives, practitioner interviews and witness accounts, 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.

However, we are changing our methodology slightly for 2017. Continue reading

Social Capital: Seeds of Friendship Growing into a National Symbol for Reconciliation

By Manal el-Tayar

Her voice quivered as she started speaking. One could sense how intimidating it must have felt for a twenty-year-old to address a crowd of religious leaders, politicians, ambassadors, civil society leaders, academicians and other notable delegates about her vision for a united Lebanon. As Alaa spoke, she glimpsed back a couple of times at Jennifer who stood by her. Jennifer’s beaming smile reassured her friend. Slowly, Alaa grew more confident in her speech and her words resonated with the audience.

The contribution of Alaa and Jennifer to the Celebration of the Annunciation[i] in downtown Beirut on Sunday 26th of March 2017 seemed to be the highlight for many in attendance. “You are the hope of the future,” said one ex- combatant in the civil war: Continue reading

Statelessness: Banned from Belonging

By Brent Hamoud

Much has been made of US President Trump’s executive decisions temporarily banning select nationals and refugees from entering the USA. The order has been met with opposition in forums ranging from airport terminals to federal courts, which have so far blocked the executive decision from going into full implementation. The ban stirred strong feelings across the globe; there is something about singling out particular nationalities and rejecting the extremely vulnerable that simply does not sit well in the hearts of many. (The topic received the IMES treatment here.)

While I personally have been unsettled by the logic and the implications of Trump’s proposed travel and refugee resettlement ban, I see it as a comparatively small issue compared to a much larger, harsher ban that has been enduring for the better part of the past century. 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

A Reflection on Traffic through a Theology of Sin

By Caleb Hutcherson

Have you ever thought about your theology of sin in the middle of being stuck in traffic? That chortling I hear doesn’t faze me. And of course, you are right. My friends and family chuckle, too, at my goofy probing of the everyday with theological lenses. But, I think there is something to be gained when we recognize and reflect on how the actions and practices of everyday life are, in a very real sense, a form of speaking about God. Reflection can be short or long, focused or philosophical. But the practice of reflecting theologically on the everyday can help us to grow to be more mindful of the ways that our speaking about God (in words and actions) shapes and is shaped by life.

This particular reflection burst through the mind-bending frustration that built as I once again sat in traffic in Beirut, trying to get home from work. Continue reading

Migrant Crises in Muslim and Christian Countries

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 63.91 million “persons of concern”, which includes refugees, people awaiting recognition as refugees, and people who have fled their homes but not sought refuge in another country. Of these, 16.1 million are refugees, that is people who fled to a different country in search of safety.

The largest number of refugees registered with UNHCR hail from Muslim-majority countries: Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia. UNHCR figures do not include Palestinian refugees, who number an additional 4-7 million. The largest numbers of refugees are also living in Muslim-majority countries: Jordan, Turkey and Pakistan, Continue reading