Friday, May 16, 2008

Graduation for Masters' Students

The spring term at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo is almost concluded and we will have four students receiving their Masters' degrees in the program I have been called to administer. The picture above shows the four, about to make their presentations to the "Scholar's Seminar" last week. Behind them are three of the faculty of the seminary. The one in white shirt and tie is Dr. Atef Gendy, who serves at the president of the seminary. The students have been working with an advisor all this term and will "defend" their dissertations to a committee of three professors this coming week, before receiving their diplomas at the graduation ceremonies on May 30.
Briefly, here is some information about them and their work:
Daniel Amum (at the far left) is a pastor from the Sudan who has written an analysis of the concept of affliction (sufferings) in St. Paul, particularly in his Second Letter to the Corinthians. He has developed this so that as he returns to his Christian community in that African country still so involved in turmoil and violence he can lead his people in their faith journeys. He has written how Paul accepts suffering for Christ, and that this has been an essential part of his ministry. Daniel writes that the Christians in the Sudan have also grown in numbers and in faith during their time of tribulation.
Nashat Habi, to the right of Daniel with the dark glasses, has written abou the development and use of the "Van Dyke" Bible, an Arabic translation of the Bible done by a 19th century missionary. It is currently in use among most Christian groups in Egypt. Nashat looks at the reasons for a new translation to be developed today, using the Biblical texts in Hebrew and Greek which were not available to Van Dyke and up-dating the Arabic (since this language too has undergone significant changes in the last 150 years). Nashat works with the Bible Society of Egypt and his dissertation will help that organization in its study of the issue of a new translation.
To Nashat's left is Magdy Rida, who has worked many years as an engineer in Egypt, and has returned to the seminary to study. His topic is the study of the influence of the Evangelicals who have come to Egypt since the mid 19th century on the Egyptian Coptic Church, the church which has been the community of Christian witness here from the beginning. He shows how some positive efforts, like the Sunday school movement, have opened the Orthodox Church to a more ecumenical world view, and also provided current church leaders with the inspiration to write literature using more Biblical texts for their community. Though Evangelicals and the Coptic Church are separate identities here, they work together on many projects.
Sungmin Cho has completed her dissertation on the history and disappearance of the Nubian Church, (the area south of Egypt which for many centuries provided a stronghold for Christian communities). She cites several reasons for this, the most important being that the churches there never developed a truly indigenous expression which touched the hearts of the common people. After graduation she plans to serve as a Korean missionary in Upper Egypt.

That's all for now. The next blog will feature pictures of the graduation of students preparing for ordained ministry in the Presbyterian Church of the Nile. Blessings, Roger

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Gender Issues in the Middle East

Greetings to you at the beginning of May. The seminary is nearing the completion of its spring term. Four graduate students are working frantically to finish their dissertations in time to be recognized at graduation the end of this month. I will share that celebration with you. In addition to concluding my class in the "History of Christianity until 1800", I have been researching the themes for next year's classes. A book which caught my eye, reissued this year is pictured here, and sold at the American University in Cairo book store, (also available from presents essays on how the gifts and contributions of women can be identified and included in addressing issues and problems for our common humanity in this region. One which particularly caught my eye was: "Gender and the Israeli-Palestinian Accord: Feminist Approaches to International Politics" by Simoni Sharoni, a Jewish feminist working in Washington, D.C.

Since the peace process has been restarted between Israel and Palestine, I thought I would share a few thoughts with you and encourage you to read the article, others in this book, and from other literature to be better informed than what we get on the news. Beginning with a review of the Olso Peace Accords of 1993, Ms. Sharoni shows how the contributions of women's groups of Palestinians and Israelis working together have been largely ignored and dismissed. She calls for three ways to redress this:
....Include in the delegations to current talks an equal number of women.

....Listen to perspectives other than the masculine-militaristic approach - ones which include the insights and experiences of women from both sides with their understandings of peace and security.

....Review the basic assumptions about the processes, practices and prevailing power relations which have operated up until now.

Central to this discussion and a major part of the emergeance of what is termed the "feminist movement of the 20th Century"is the assumption that women can and should be freed to develop their own identities and insights which arise out of their particular origins and contexts. This also relates to the ways that women review and challenge the resources from the past and how these have been interpreted by mostly male scholars and out of a male-oriented power base.
Other examples of this are to be found in another book we will be using, (at the right) which supplies information about the stories and struggles of Islamic women within their culture. The new approach regarding the study of Holy Scriptures is the same developed and used by western feminists in the past century: look again at texts, and to review and critique it in the light of its environment and cultures of that time,
- and - bring the experiences of the women who study these texts to bear, and to affirm new insights and "truths" which connect and combine what God's Spirit has done in the past with what it is doing today among God's people, valuing what arises out of their own realities. This is a particularly difficult and risky task within present Islamic cultures, as you might imagine.
To say all this another way: to accept women as also created in the image of God, means to affirm and value who they are and what they can contribute for themselves and for us all. Another author puts it this way:
>Women need to be made visible again in all their realities, often
hidden and forgotten
>Women need to analyze these realities in the light of what is
wrong and describe what should be
>Women need to work with men in the transformation of existing
Lots still to learn and to share. I welcome your comments. You can use the blog or my e-mail -
Peace and justice to all, Roger Rogahn