Lebanon (MNN) – Burrowed in the foothills of the Middle East’s “Paris” is the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary. ABTS, based in Beirut, Lebanon, is training leaders globally for living out Christ in the Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) contexts. With the last decade of diaspora from the region, this kind of training has become particularly important.
About the MENA Studies
The President of ABTS, Elie Haddad, explains the seminary offers a distance-learning degree in English; the Master of Religion in Middle Eastern and North African Studies (MRel in MENA studies). The degree is designed to prepare individuals for addressing MENA issues. This includes work in the Arab world addressing poverty and humanitarian crises and work with churches, Christian organizations, and NGOs who are seeking to engage people in an Arabic Majority context. Geographically speaking, the wisdom reaped from this degree can be applied anywhere.
“It’s mostly [an] online program. It requires a two-week residency in Beirut for every module. So that’s twice a year, two years, so that’s four times total for residencies in Beirut. The rest is all online. We have these four modules; we have language requirements and some other requirements and projects. So, students can graduate anywhere between two-and-a-half and four years.”
Students of the MRel in MENA studies acquire the ability for contextual cultural analysis, needs assessment and problem analysis, project design, and peace-building and conflict transformation skills and more.
The four modules required for the program include:
- MENA History, Politics, and Economics
- MENA Christianity
- MENA cultures
- MENA Islam
However, one emphasis in these studies is how a history of one’s own religion doesn’t always effectively communicate personal beliefs. The “MENA Islam” module specifically helps students understand the mindset of Muslims and their beliefs. Digging into the course, students are exposed to the history of Islam, Qur’anic sciences, Islamic jurisprudence, and the diversity of Muslims. The course also touches on the unity and division within Islam and the necessary approaches and skills for Christian-Muslim relations.
“It’s very important for us if we want to communicate the Gospel message effectively with our context, that we understand what people think, what people value, and what’s important for them, and what questions they have, and what challenges they have so that we present Jesus as the answer to their specific questions and challenges,” Haddad says.
So please, with that said, it’s also important for students to understand Islam from a Muslim context, not how it’s perceived by Christians or other non-Muslims. The same goes for Christianity, it’s best understood from a Christian’s perspective rather than a non-Christian.
“We work a lot in interfaith. We do a lot of interfaith events with religious leadership and now we’re doing a lot of peace-building initiatives among grassroots and youth groups and church and mosque leaders,” Haddad shares.
“This kind of dialogue is extremely important to communicate our message. Some people mistake dialogue for compromise, it’s not about that. If we compromise on our faith, they will not respect us. The premise of dialogue is standing firm in what we believe, but learning how to communicate with love and respect.”
How to Get Involved
Therefore, consider Haddad’s words an invitation to enroll in the Master of Religion in MENA studies and get involved with work in the MENA context.
However, if working in the MENA context isn’t where God’s compelling your heart, then please consider giving to ABTS to off-set student’s cost of attendance. Education can be expensive, but financial gifts help make it more affordable.
To give to ABTS, click here!
And finally, regardless of giving or attending, pray for ABTS’s students. Pray for the Church in the Arab World, for leaders to understand the changing social landscapes and then respond biblically.
Is IMES' Master of Religion (MRel) in Middle Eastern and North African Studies right for you? Learn from our graduates how the MRel has transformed their work and ministry.The MENA Cultures module begins April 2018. Apply Today! https://abtslebanon.org/mrel/Administered online with two residencies per year in Beirut, Lebanon, the MRel is designed around your schedule to equip you in becoming more effective for God's Kingdom in and beyond the #MENA region.
Posted by Arab Baptist Theological Seminary – ABTS on Monday, February 26, 2018