The Centre on Religion and Global Affairs

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Our approach to the interplay of religion and global affairs in 5 simple paragraphs!

1. Religions and beliefs play a major role in the way human beings locate themselves in the world and live their day-to-day lives, both as individuals and as communities. Therefore, religions are not simply a matter of personal beliefs about life after death or matter of transcendence. They have direct implications for social, political and economic interactions.

2. At their core, religions are attempts to offer a moral reading of the universe and answer fundamental questions of meaning, and how individuals and communities should live their lives, interact with each other and handle the process of human life. Thus, religions manifest not simply as theological beliefs formulated from sacred texts, but also as social structures and social forces offering belonging, as well as stability and order, to communities. Through rituals and activities of their clerical structures, religions maintain their networks and provide spiritual and physical support to their followers. For this reason, religion often demonstrates itself as the most basic form of civil society in most parts of the world, and emerges as one of the strongest form of mobilisation — cutting across ethnic, socio-economic class, and political differences. Continue reading “The Centre on Religion and Global Affairs”

Ziya Meral – A Theology of Guantanamo Bay


Note: My Turkish friend Ziya Meral wrote this six years ago. Today, my Lebanese friend Martin Accad sherd it on his Facebook wall. Nothing more appropriate, in light of the recent report on the CIA use of torture.

This is a sobering and dangerous text. Read and pray. I may change your worldview. It is also worth reading the comments.

* * *

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Philosopher Giorgio Agamben reminds us of the Roman figure homo sacer – the Sacred Man – who, according to the Roman law, can be killed with impunity but cannot be sacrificed to gods. His biological life is divorced from political life putting him outside of the boundaries of what constitutes a human and what the rights of that human are. He not only does not belong to the realm of the ‘human’, but neither to the reality of the gods. What is not human and what does not have a ‘value’ can not be sacrificed to gods since its sacrifice would defile the sanctity of gods. Thus, homo sacer exists only as a biological body, not as a human. A theology which ascribes such a status inevitably shapes political forms.

During the 19th and 20th centuries a similar systematisation of which biological bodies would be ascribed the status of a ‘human’ was accomplished with the marriage of theological assumptions and the ‘findings’ of science that cemented the difference between biological life and political life. Theologically, there was developed the order of creation, levels of perfection and purity, and at which of these levels the Image of God is expressed in its perfect condition. Out of this cosmic ordering, there emerged the political theology that identified the nation, its security, significance and rights with this stage of advanced human lives, whose superiority has been proved by the shape of their skulls in line with the predetermined intellectual and athletic potential of ‘races’. Thus, Jews, Gypsies, mentally and physically handicapped were nothing but mere bodies that could and should be done away with so that they won’t ‘contaminate’ us. Continue reading “Ziya Meral – A Theology of Guantanamo Bay”

Dr. Martin Accad on the Silent Majority of Religious in the Middle East Who Want Peace

October 2014

Martin Accad, of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, Lebanon, tells Catalyst Live of the silent majority of religious in the Middle East who want peace.

Hind Makki – 7 Questions to Ask Before Asking if Muslims Condemn Terrorism

Many in the Western world, especially among Christians, are asking why Muslims are not condemning terrorism. As if this would be a self-evident fact.

They at least ask. There is, however, even among Christians, especially those of a more fundamentalist persuasion, a growing number of people who are simply accusing Muslims that, in fact, they are not only NOT condemning violence in the name of Allah, but in fact they are condoning it. And, tho this, they add that violence and terrorism is intrinsic to the Muslim faith and the Qur’an.

Such people are guilty of conveniently forgetting the violence done in the past, or present, by Christians, in the name of their own faith,  from the Crusades, to the present so-called ‘war on terror’, as well as the violence and terrorism used by Jews, in the name of Yahweh, either in the so-called Joshua genocide, or the use of sheer terrorism in Palestine prior to the establishment of the state of Israel, in 1948. Not to speak of Israel’s state terrorism during the present bloody war in Gaza.

This being the case, it is good for us to listen to the voice of moderate Muslims, as we may learn a thing or two from them. During my work for World Vision, I had myself the privilege of meeting a few such moderate voices, among which I have to mentioned Dr. Muhammad Farooq Khan, from Pakistan, who paid with his life for his convictions and his actions on behalf of peace and inter-faith reconciliation.

I copy here below a set of questions that Hind Makki, a Muslim journalist in Chicago, suggests we should ask before wondering if Muslims condemn or not violence in the name of Islam (an example of which you can see in the video clip above). Here are the questions: Continue reading “Hind Makki – 7 Questions to Ask Before Asking if Muslims Condemn Terrorism”

Ahmad Sarraf – O Christians, Get Out of Our lands!

Ahmed Sarraf
Ahmed Sarraf

Dr. Martin Accad, Director of the Institute of Middle East Studies in Beirut – Lebanon writes: This is a powerful lament by a Muslim over the fate of Christians in the Middle East. Or more accurately, it is a lament over the fate of Muslims after Christians leave the ME…

I have taken the pains of translating it quickly (informally) into English for the sake of English readers. I have deep respect for this kind of writing, not because it glorifies Christians and their contribution to the ME region, but because it humbles me, as an Arab Christian, that a Muslim writer would be willing to attribute so much to ME Christians. I am also posting it because I know that Sarraf’s piece reflects the feelings of a vast majority of Muslims in the region over the fate of Christians in Iraq and elsewhere. So my English translation is a tribute to my Muslim friends:

“O Christians, get out of our lands!” (an article written by Ahmad Sarraf that first appeared in Al-Qabas newspaper on 21/07/2014 – this translation by Martin Accad is not an official translation and was done for the sole purpose of sharing on Facebook). Continue reading “Ahmad Sarraf – O Christians, Get Out of Our lands!”

Martin Luther King jr – Loving Your Enemies – Sermon Fragments

Martin Luther King jr

Sermon delivered on 17 November 1957 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church [the underlining in the text is mine]. Please find the time to browse through this amazing sermon. You will not be sorry.

I dedicate this to my many enemies (they know who they are) and I pray that, by God’s grace, I love them as Jesus calls me to do it. Kyrie eleison!

I want to turn your attention to this subject: “Loving Your Enemies.” It’s so basic to me because it is a part of my basic philosophical and theological orientation—the whole idea of love, the whole philosophy of love. In the fifth chapter of the gospel as recorded by Saint Matthew, we read these very arresting words flowing from the lips of our Lord and Master: “Ye have heard that it has been said, ‘Thou shall love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.’ But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”

Certainly these are great words, words lifted to cosmic proportions. And over the centuries, many persons have argued that this is an extremely difficult command. Many would go so far as to say that it just isn’t possible to move out into the actual practice of this glorious command. They would go on to say that this is just additional proof that Jesus was an impractical idealist who never quite came down to earth. So the arguments abound. But far from being an impractical idealist, Jesus has become the practical realist. The words of this text glitter in our eyes with a new urgency. Far from being the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer, this command is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. Yes, it is love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for enemies. Continue reading “Martin Luther King jr – Loving Your Enemies – Sermon Fragments”

Ethics Daily Interview with Dr. Martin Accad on the 2014 Consultation of IMES

Martin Accad, director of the Institute of Middle East Studies at Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Lebanon, talks with about IMES’ 11th annual Middle East Consultation, which aims to foster more understanding between Muslims and Christians. For more information, visit the ABTS website.

Martin Accad, Moussa Bongoyok – Ideological and Political Islam

This presentation was given at the Lausanne Global Consultation on Islam in Accra, Ghana, from 6-12 April 2014.

Dr. Martin Accad is the Director of the Institute of Middle East Studies. He teaches primarily in the fields of Islam, MENA Christianity and Christian-Muslim Relations. He is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, at Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, Lebanon and Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Ca.

Dr. Moussa Bongoyok is Assistant Professor of Intercultural Studies at at Biola University in LA, Ca., and President of the Board of Directors of the Francophone University of International Development.

Graham Cheesman – Decaffeinated theological education

My friend Dr. Martyin Accad, from ABTS in Beirut recommended this blog post.

Cheesman defines ‘decaffeinated theological education’ as ‘theological education with the key ingredient, the life taken out. And the key ingredient? Love to God.’

He describes three kinds of such theological education:

1. EUT – enlightenment university theology, dis-interested, uncommitted theology – an investigation or study of the phenomenon called Christianity and a set of classical texts called scripture, all of which can be done without faith commitment. Continue reading “Graham Cheesman – Decaffeinated theological education”

How Should the Church Respond to the Arab Uprisings – An East European Perspective

Here, as I have promised, a summary of the presentation I made at the annual conference of IMES in Beirut, on the topic How Should the Church Respond to the Arab Uprisings: Challenges & Opportunities within the Emerging Middle East & North Africa (MENA) Region

I have started by saying that I agree with the three points made by Dr Martin Accad in the introduction to the topic. He highlighted the problems of the church in the MENA region under three headings:

1. Church siding with power
2. Minority complex
3. Scare of the future
In my presentation of the Arab Spring viewed from an Eastern European perspective, I have covered the following points:
1. I have started with a story. A number of years ago I was in Beirul for a conference of Evangelicals for Middle east Understanding, where a number of Iraqi church leaders spoke enthusiastically about how good and humane is then President Saddam Hussein to the church in Iraq, which reminded me of the way church leaders in communist Romania were praising Ceausescu, the dictatorial leader of the country, for the great religious freedom we/they had . One of the four, the head of the Protestant Church in Iraq at the time, was also a general in Saddam’s army. I have heard that after the war he published in the US a book on Iraq. I am sure his message there was radically different from what I have heard. This illustrates the first problem of the church in MENA as presented by Martin. Continue reading “How Should the Church Respond to the Arab Uprisings – An East European Perspective”

Our Utilitarian Ethics and the ‘Arab Spring’

A new article by my friend Martin Accad on the ‘Arab Spring’. Really worth reading.
Here is, as a teaser, an important question and the way he tries to answr it:
‘Can I, as a Christian, support a dictatorial regime, simply because I fear the negative consequences that might derive from an Islamist government on my Christian community? I would assert that the Church’s stance at such an important juncture should not derive from fear of a future that we cannot possibly know for sure. Conversely, our hope, as Christians, is in no way sustained by the winds of political change. Besides the fact that there is no cause to believe that the Church would be better off, say, in Syria, following an eventual fall of the current Syrian regime, we are not called, in any case, to be foretellers of the future. The Church does far better when it stays away from taking political sides and concerns itself instead with the humanitarian needs that emerge from political crises, regardless of the religious or political affiliation of those in need. We are called to do what’s right today, and leave the aftermath scenarios to God.’

The Institute of Middle East Studies

by Martin Accad

The phenomenon that has been labeled the ‘Arab Spring’ is known today through its diverse incarnations in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria. It looks different in each country and is in each place at a different stage. But in each of these places the phenomenon should be viewed as ongoing, whether the emerging parties are at the stage of constitutional rewriting, elections or involved in ongoing warfare. The label ‘Arab Spring’ emerged early, clearly reflecting an optimistic interpretation of the movement as the beginning of something new. After more than 18 months, however, things don’t look as bright as it was initially thought they might be. In Syria, things look particularly bleak at this point, with both parties in the conflict now heavily armed, and with heavy casualties resulting from intense battles in Aleppo and Damascus as I write. Furthermore, the western media seem finally…

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ABTS – Middle East Conference 2012

Dear friends of ABTS,

“If you throw a stone into a pool of water, the ripples on the surface continue for some time. The creation of the state of Israelin 1948 has had the same effect on the whole of the Middle East. The ripples from this event continue to affect the lives of everyone in the region, and increasingly in the whole world” (Colin Chapman, author of Whose Promised Land: the Continuing Crisis over Israel and Palestine).

This year’s Middle East Conference will focus on the Palestinian issue and the acute questions it raises for Christians. Through an honest exploration of the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a deep engagement with biblical interpretation and theological principles, and direct interaction with realities on the ground, Christians from Lebanon, the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, the US, and beyond, will spend five days reflecting on the Church’s responsibility in arguably one of today’s most important questions. Continue reading “ABTS – Middle East Conference 2012”

Arab Baptist Theological Seminary: Launching of Master of Religion in Middle Eastern & North African Studies

Arab Baptist Theological Seminary :: Launching of Master of Religion in Middle Eastern & North African Studies (MRel in MENA Studies) | October 2012 | Beirut – Lebanon.

This two years degree is a very interesting masters degree programme, designed and led by my friend Dr Martin Accad.

It is frames especially for people who already have a job. It requires only 2 weeks of residential every year, the rest of it being based on online interaction with tutors.

Anybody interested could contact Diana Farhood, the Project Coordinator.

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