From The President
NEST receives many visitors in the course of an academic year. They are very varied, coming from different countries, religions, denominations and involved in different types of work. But they all ask the same questions at some point or another during their visit: What do you think the future holds for you as Christians in the Middle East? How do you cope with all these political crises around you? What rays of hope do you see on the horizon?
The situation in the Middle East and the rest of the Arab world is no doubt not very positive; in fact it is definitely getting worse. Upheaval and turmoil in many countries, bloodshed, and displacement; religious extremism on the rise; regional and international interference in the affairs of supposedly “sovereign” states; sectarian tension and violence, both verbal and physical; and continued and devastating emigration of many people, especially Christians. Things do not look bright at all. The Middle East seems to be doomed to be the eternal battleground of sects, religions, political parties, regional and international powers. So, the questions posed to us are always legitimate and timely.
Let us remember, however, that the mighty phrase, “In hope he believed against hope” was invented in the Middle East! It was a Middle Easterner who first lived it (Abraham), and another Middle Easterner (Paul) who coined it. If Abraham were to consider his body only, analyze his biological and physical condition, or consider the barrenness of his wife, again physiologically and realistically, his faith would have weakened, and he would have given up. But he trusted in God and in God’s promises, and “hoped against hope”. It is in this spirit of trust in God and acknowledgement of the God of Abraham and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom death could not vanquish, that we at NEST dare to hope and so to plan for the future.
And it is in this spirit that NEST held an international Consultation on May 21, 2013, to discuss future plans and directions. We considered our almost “dead body” and the “barrenness” that surrounds us, but not on their own. Inspired by God’s life-giving and hope-filling Spirit, we proposed a way ahead: expand teaching of theology to reach other institutions of higher learning, preserve and research our rich Evangelical heritage and contributions, develop resources for Middle Eastern contextual theology and invest in local income-generating projects. For we are fully convinced that God, who raises the dead, is able to do what God has promised.
Dr. George Sabra, President
Near East School of Theology