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

Reflections on the Humanitarian Crisis in Syria (Part 1)

Humanitarian crisis word cloud

By Rupen Das

This post is based on a plenary presentation made at the ACCORD Annual meeting in North Carolina on Oct. 25, 2016 by Rupen Das to the 70+ Christian US relief and development member NGOs. It is presented here in two parts.

I was asked to share my perspective on the Syrian conflict and the humanitarian crisis and where I see it going.

There are times in history when because of the horrors of the events, the international community is forced to take stock. In recent history, the Biafran crisis of the late 1960s was one such time, out of which Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) was formed and a new way of responding to humanitarian crises began to take shape. The Rwandan genocide was another such time. Our collective failure resulted in the Red Cross Code of Conduct and the Sphere Standards.

With the Syrian crisis, I sense we are approaching another such time, when we will need to ask ourselves – is there another way of doing things. Continue reading

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

color autumn forest as nice natural background

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

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

Do We Lack the Moral Imagination? Part One: Demasking the Scapegoat

Cross-Cultural Service

By Suzie Lahoud

“A common danger unites even the bitterest enemies.” – Aristotle

I was recently having a chat with the water filter guy, who is a fount of information. He was bemoaning the fact that, as a former procurement manager in Dubai, he had not been able to find a suitable job after returning to Lebanon. This, he attributed to the large influx of Syrian refugees who had flooded the job market. Moreover, he seemed none too pleased upon learning that I work for a humanitarian organization serving (though not exclusively) this same refugee population.

What struck me about this encounter was not its particularity, but rather, its seeming ubiquity. Continue reading

Christian Politics at the Expense of Christian Faith in Lebanon

By Wissam al-Saliby

More than a year ago, I gave a training in human rights law to members of a veteran Lebanese Christian political party. At the end of the training, during an informal discussion over coffee, I mentioned my work for the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary. The immediate response from one of the party members was, “You evangelicals only have one seat in parliament.” In his mind, the power sharing formula in Lebanon was the first thing he connected with “Lebanese evangelicals.” My immediate response was, jokingly, “Well yes, we do have one intercessor with the Father, Jesus Christ.”

In Lebanon, parliament seats, ministerial positions and key state positions are allocated equally between Christians and Muslims, and proportionally within the various Christian and Muslim sects. Continue reading

Can Someone Please Take Out the Trash? A Family Systems Approach to Lebanese Dysfunction

flag_of_lebanon-gibran

By Robert Hamd

Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion…

Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero, and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful…

Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting, and farewells him with hooting, only to welcome another with trumpeting again…

Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation.

Lebanese-American poet Kahlil Gibran in 1934 captured the hearts of the people of Lebanon in his prophetic words about his beloved country. I think poetry has the capacity, with razor-sharp words and emotional accuracy, to describe the actual reality experienced on the ground. In a mere 23 lines, Gibran encapsulates the broader complexities and paradoxes of Lebanon in his poem, “Pity the Nation.” According to Gibran, the country that is to be pitied is one that is unwilling to honestly assess its repetitive behavior, or, once it is evaluated, does not have the courage to change. Continue reading

When Will It All End?

Environmental hope concept with a pile of dirty trash at a garbage dump with an emerging new green tree growing out of pollution as a metaphor for the persistent power of nature and global health.

by Elias Ghazal

After a year of fruitless negotiations, empty promises, and shady contracts, the garbage crisis is back in Lebanon! Piles of toxic waste have lined streets of towns and villages, emitting harmful gases, contaminating underground water streams, and causing an environmental disaster at a national level. The solution to this problem is not unknown. In fact, multiple eco-friendly solutions have been proposed and discussed by environmental experts in the field. Yet, one year later and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on makeshift solutions, we are back where we started, and perhaps in a worse situation, now that we have additional tons of untreated waste.

Just as the solution to the garbage crisis in Lebanon is not unknown, the reason behind the failed solution is not that mysterious either. 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.

Responding to Syria: Five Years On

Photograph: John Bowen 
Location: Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

(Photograph: John Bowen – Location: Bekaa Valley, Lebanon)

by Suzie Lahoud

“I wonder why all children are happy around the world enjoying Christmas decorations, different colors, new clothes, but the children in our country live, every year, with a hope that the next year will be better, yet they discover that it is more painful than the year before.” – Tartous, Syria; December 2015

I have never been able to reconcile myself to the disparities of the world. Growing up, I used to regularly travel across time and space from the raw want of the former Soviet Union to the wealthy consumerism of the United States.  In Uzbekistan, the average “middle-class” citizen owned two pairs of clothes, and was annually wrangled into picking cotton in the fields without pay in the hot, summer months.  When we traveled back to America each year I sometimes wandered the streets of the neat, suburban neighborhood that I used to call home and just wonder how people there lived. I longed for a bygone day when that was all that I had known.  When everyone lived in comfortable houses and children rode happily on their bikes in quiet streets.

I believe that today the world is facing a similar coming of age.  We long for a bygone day when children didn’t wash up on sea shores, and mothers didn’t have to walk for miles with bloodied feet just to reach the next border.  Continue reading