The final part of the conference was a summary of all the main sessions, presented by Dr Dwight Swanson, Co-director of MCSCI. The main presentation was fairly short, and this 20-minute recording may be a good starter for anyone who was not able to be at the conference.
Martin Accad, Lecturer at Arab Baptist Theological Seminary and Director of the Institute for Middle East Studies in Beirut, offered the perspective of an Arab Christian on the conflicts in the Middle East. He asked us in the West to be aware of the history and geopolitical situation in our attitudes and actions, because these actions do have an effect on the Church in the Middle East, often detrimental. He presented three practical implications for the Church to keep in sight in light of the current crisis:
You can download the latest version of the schedule here: Daily schedule (web) – correct as of 11 December While all effort will be made to avoid it, the organisers reserve the right to amend session timing, content and speakers if required. Day 1 – Thursday 7th January Morning The conference
Greg Livingstone, founder of Frontiers, as well as Operation Mobilization, now living and serving in High Wycombe, spoke from his experience of fifty years of living and working among Muslims. He gave a global picture of the Church in the Muslim world (with reference to David Garrisons’ A Wind in the House of Islam) from a personal perspective. He encouraged us that ‘God is doing more than we think’, and lest we be triumphalist, ‘but also less than we hear’.
Fittingly, in the closing session Gordon Hickson, director of Mahabba in the UK, spoke to the centrality of prayer as the Christian response to Islam. Hickson described the origins of Mahabba, which is ‘love’ in Arabic, in prayer. This prayer is not simply that Muslims become believers, but it is prayer for a tenderness of heart towards Muslims, and prayer for the Church to live out the witness to Christ.
Michael Lodahl, Professor of Theology and World Religions at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, addressed the theological implications of Christian responses to Muslims. As a theologian in the Wesleyan tradition (and the conference was held in a Nazarene college), Lodahl chose to look at the question through the lens of John Wesley’s interaction with ‘Mohametans’ and other religions. This lens presented three areas for the Church to bear in mind.
Salim Munayer, director of Musalaha (Arabic for ‘Reconciliation’), working for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, spoke of a ‘clash of domination’ to which the Christian response reflects our beliefs for all creation—that is, a call to a redeemed creation, and positive transformation in Christ. He challenged the Western Church’s tendency to take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a ‘failure to be witness to the glory of God’, and to seek reconciliation. In agreement with Accad regarding the effect Western actions have on the Church in the Middle East, Munayer added that the way to reconciliation is inherently a political undertaking, and this cannot be escaped. He offered four challenges to the Church (not just the West)
Phil Lewis is a sociologist of religion, recently retired from the University of Bradford, and perhaps the foremost Christian scholar on Muslims in the UK. His analysis was specific to the UK, but exemplified an approach to understanding the particulars of Muslims in any part of the West. Wherever we are it is important to understand what ‘kind’ of Muslims live among us, and what the specific issues are that they face in our societies: cultural and historical, and not simply religious.
Lewis identified the socio-economic situation of Muslims in Britain, focussing on the increasingly significant role of Muslim women’s groups in trying to find ways for Muslims to navigate the changes in society at large. He recommends that Christians support the initiatives such people are taking with regard to issues such as poverty, unemployment, prisons, and single families—as well as radicalisation of youth.
Read more about Dr Lewis and his speech, “Made in Britain – the birth of the adjectival Muslim“