Has Lebanon finally figured out its own version of the ‘Arab Spring’? هل توصّل لبنان أخيرًا إلى إصداره الخاص لـ’الربيع العربي‘؟

By Martin Accad

I was travelling when the recent popular uprising began in Lebanon. At first it emerged as an outcry to the trash crisis that has been engulfing Lebanon with its stench for several months now. Lebanon hasn’t had its ‘Arab Spring.’ Some people think that’s because – God forbid – everything works perfectly here! Others note that Lebanon has no dictator to overthrow. Yet the reality is that nothing is working,

كنت أقوم برحلة خارج البلاد عندما انطلق الحراك الشعبي الأخير في لبنان. نشأ في بدايته كصرخة في وجه أزمة النفايات التي ما زالت تغمر لبنان برائحتها الكريهة منذ عدّة أشهر. لم يعِش لبنان “ربيعه العربي.” يعتقد البعض بأنّ سبب ذلك هو – لا سمح الله – لأنّ الأمور كلّها هنا على ما يرام! ويشير آخرون بأنّ لبنان ليس لديه ديكتاتورًا يطيح به. ولكن الواقع أنّ لا شيء هنا يسير كما يجب… التتمّة بعد النص الإنجليزي Continue reading

“The World Is Yours!” A Brief Reflection on Citizenship and Stewardship

The World Is Yours_horizontal

By Martin Accad

Yesterday morning, I collected my daughter’s U.S. passport that needed renewal. It was accompanied by a leaflet that read on the front: “With your U.S. passport, the world is yours!” Nothing shocking on first glance; just a sense of pride and patriotism that citizens of most countries feel towards their flag, passport, and other symbols of nationhood.

Though the slogan is of course no more than a symbolic affirmation, something troubles me with the statement. Continue reading

Responding to Franklin and the Politics of Fear

By Arthur Brown

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them…There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. [1 John. 4:16 & 18].

There is no shortage of fear in this world, and of course no shortage of things to be fearful of. Given recent comments by a well known Evangelical Christian leader in the US concerning his views on Islam and Muslims – and how he feels his country should respond to it/them – it seems there is the need to address some basic gospel principles [yet again] in relation to the responsibility followers of Christ have towards their Muslim neighbors.

Islamaphobia has been defined as: Continue reading

Notes from my Visit to Iraqi Kurdistan

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to visit a dozen of pastors in Iraqi Kurdistan, in the cities of Erbil and Duhok. The purpose of my visit was to promote ABTS’s educational programs with Arabic-speaking churches, namely our new online degree program and our English language Master’s program.

We often hear about the Kurdistan region in the news when violence happens – armed violence, US bombings, crimes by ISIS or terrorism. How can we pray for the people groups of this region, for the Church and for those called by God to serve Him in this area? The following are some of my notes from this trip to guide our prayers. Continue reading

Jesus and the Overthrow of Religion

by Mike Kuhn

Having grown up in the West, I was aware that a trend emerged in the post-World Wars era towards a rejection of religion.  The brutality and sheer evil of the World Wars led many to reject belief in God.  If God is good and all-powerful, how could such evil proliferate in the world this God created?  Much of the debate with atheism in the West has centered on this “problem of evil.”   Though Christian intellectuals have responded, the hemorrhaging of mainline churches in the West demonstrates that skepticism is here to stay and too obvious to be denied.  A culture that recoils from faith in God has increasingly become the environment in which we live and move.

Then I relocated to the Middle East and learned that in this culture, religious faith is ubiquitous.  Continue reading

Choosing Our Battles: brief reflections from the Middle East on homosexuality and the “marriage equality” controversy

By Martin Accad

Normally the LGBTQ[1] issue is not one that I like to address in public. But since last week’s legalization of gay marriage at Federal level in the US, we have all been flooded by the topic, from the social media to private conversations. Whatever you say, you’re sure to draw angry reactions from one side or the other. So mostly I have contented myself with deepening my friendships with some of my friends who happen to be gay. I have been intentional about spending time with them, listening to their heart and life experiences, learning from their perspective about what it means to live a life saturated with rejection, marginalization, prejudice, and even physical abuse. I have learnt enormously about the complex psychological, physical, emotional, spiritual, and theological dimensions of the issue. In the process, I have been transformed and enriched in my understanding of God, self and humanity. Continue reading

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

Touching the Heart of a Refugee

by Kathryn Kraft

Zahle church

A few weeks ago, I was sharing with a friend at my church in London about my research with churches in Lebanon. As Rupen Das described in a post several months ago, many churches in Lebanon are providing assistance including food, blankets, clothing, or education, to refugees, most of whom are from Syria. They also engage refugees in a variety of other social and religious activities within the everyday life of the church. Churches are doing this as an expression of Christ’s love for all people, and out of an understanding of what it means to be “Church” in the world today.

Then I told my friend that one of the most interesting things about how churches are assisting refugees, is that they are doing more than just providing life-saving material aid. There is a deeper element to what they are doing. 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.

What Could Christians Learn from the ‘Party of God’?

by Elias Ghazal

If you are familiar with the politics of the Middle East, you might be disturbed by the title of this blogpost.  That’s because the Party of God is not some right wing pro-Christian party that serves a Christian cause in the Middle East.  The Party of God is none other than Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which is classified as a terrorist organization in the US, Canada, Israel, and a number of Arab countries.  So is there anything to learn from a “terrorist” organization?

Hezbollah is an exclusively Shiite political party with a military wing, invariably promoted as the Islamic Resistance.  The story of Hezbollah is peculiar once you consider the history and context of Shiites in Lebanon.   Continue reading