The work of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary continues to be very strategic for the Church in the Arab world. Last June we graduated 21 students from the various ABTS programs. We had graduates from Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Lebanon, Egypt, and USA (in the MRel degree in English).
Our Online Arabic program, which we launched last year, continues to grow. The current online students serve God in Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Syria, Turkey, UAE, Yemen, and the diaspora.
The Masters of Religion in Middle Eastern and North African Studies (MRel) English degree continues to draw attention from around the world. Last June we graduated the first cohort. This is a unique and innovative multidisciplinary program that provides a strong theoretical understanding of the Middle East and North Africa and the issues that they face, combined with an emphasis on developing applied skills needed to work in or with the region. It is a flexible distance-learning program that enables students to study while they continue their work or ministry.
One of the ways that our seminary is responding to contemporary issues is by challenging and provoking the Church to think differently. You can follow our blog site for a weekly challenge: https://imeslebanon.wordpress.com.
Middle East Consultation (MEC)
The theme of MEC 2016 was “The Refugee and the Body of Christ: Exploring the Impact of the Present Crisis on our Understanding of Church.” We explored the long-term implications of the significant number of refugees from non-Christian backgrounds who now regularly fellowship with other members of the Body of Christ. This was the largest ever MEC with over 230 participants from across the Middle East and North Africa, Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australia. A full report was published here on Lausanne’s Global Analysis website.
Next year’s MEC will take place June 19-23, 2017. The topic will be: “The Church in Disorienting Times: Leading Prophetically through Adversity.” We 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 MEC 2017, participants will seek to discern a biblical framework that avoids both self-victimization and triumphalism and encourages the church to prophetically embrace adversity in these disorienting times in a way that activates growth and development rather than discouragement and stagnation.
The discussions in MEC 2017 will revolve around four main themes, suffering and persecution, emigration, hopelessness and despair, and minoritization. These themes will be addressed through a wide range of contributors and participants.
Picture from MEC 2016
In Lebanon we have around 1.5 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees. I personally work with the Iraqi Christian families and we get the opportunity to visit with them and hear their stories and the ordeals they have been through. One story is about Butrus who was critically injured in Baghdad when a woman (suicide bomber) blew herself up. Butrus was walking close to her. He is still suffering from his injuries. All his intestines were stitched and he had many broken bones. The kind of food he can eat now is very limited. Marylyn, his wife, used to work as a cook in the French embassy in Iraq, she had to leave because she was threatened by militia men. In Lebanon, Butrus and his family are living in a place that used to be a shop, it is very small and not well maintained, and no proper kitchen or bathroom. Butrus cannot work and they are barely making it.
Besides visiting the families, I see the Iraqi women in our Bible study meetings every Monday and Tuesday. The number varies between 30 and 45 women per meeting. They are very eager to learn about Jesus and the Bible, and they say that these meetings are making them feel comforted, especially by knowing how much Christ loves them and cares about them. As an example, this is what Zarifa shared. She was a teacher in Iraq and did not know Christ deeply because she was busy with her work, her family, and was not reading her Bible. But when she left Iraq because of ISIS and came to Lebanon and started attending our meetings she discovered who Christ really is and her life has changed. She became more patient and hopeful by knowing that Jesus will help her in the difficult times she was going through.
So, despite all the suffering the Iraqi women have been through, they were able to find peace and hope in the country into which they were displaced, and God gave them the opportunity to discover Him and know Him more deeply through the witnessing of many Christian workers.
Mireille Leading a Bible Study
About Elie & Mireille Haddad
Elie serves as President of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) in Beirut, Lebanon. ABTS equips leaders for the Church in the entire Arabic-speaking world. Students come from as far west as Morocco and as far east as Iraq. Mireille serves with Heart for Lebanon, a Christian NGO that provides humanitarian aid and relief to marginalized people groups, including the ever increasing number of refugees who continue to enter Lebanon.