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.

The Commodification of Mission in the Muslim World

Wadi Rum desert landscape,Jordan

By Mike Kuhn

A commodity—something that is bought and sold.

Mission—the loving and joyful response of Christ’s followers to disciple the nations, holding forth Jesus’ life and teaching among all the peoples of the world.

In theory the two appear to be very distinct concepts. In reality, mission is intricately related to the resources (finance, personnel and information) that fuel it.

There is much to celebrate in that relationship. The generosity of Christ’s church enables her to assist brothers and sisters throughout the world to make Christ’s love known in seeking assistance to the poor, justice for the oppressed and reconciliation of human beings to God through the gospel.

Despite all the good that has been done by generous giving, there is also a dark side to this inter-dependence between mission and money. 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

Flush Out your Toxic Thinking about Islam before Election Day!

Illustration of a long shadow brain with  a biohazard sign

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

Is It for the Poor to Seek Justice and Liberation?

Hnde im Netz

By Rupen Das

I have been intrigued that nowhere in Scripture does God encourage or exhort the poor to seek justice. [1]

Throughout the Bible, the responsibility for social justice and care for the poor and those on the margins of life is on society as a whole, on every individual. Micah 6:8 states in no uncertain terms what God requires:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

More importantly, this is not just a challenge to only the people of God but to everyone. Right at the beginning of Micah, in verse 1:2, the prophet declares: “Hear, you people, all of you, listen, earth and all who live in it.” Continue reading

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


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

Subjects of Objectification or Kindred Spirits? Images and Stories of Refugees

mourning sham

by Kathryn Kraft*

Did you know that many Syrians who flee their country choose not to register with the UN as refugees? There are many reasons for this, but one important reason is that they don’t like the images that the word ‘refugee’ conjures. If they were to officially become refugees, they would be eligible for various types of assistance, including food rations and possible resettlement to another country. But they absolutely do not want to lose their identity. They see themselves as Syrians first and foremost, and also associate with their chosen career, their extended family, their interests and passions.

The media seems to have landed on a simple but somewhat misleading image capturing ‘the refugee’, 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

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

Listening, Visiting, and Engaging Arab Christians (Part 2): Considering Arab Christian Perspectives on Palestine

by Wissam al-Saliby*

In my May blog post on the generalized regression of human rights in the Middle East and North Africa, I concluded by promising a follow up blog post on what role the global Church can play to counter this regression. Last week, I began a reflection on how churches that feel called to serve the Middle East can play a role – rather than what role to play. In today’s installment of my post, I will discuss the importance of listening, visiting and learning in relation to Israel and Palestine – an enduring conflict and a pivotal region. Continue reading