Christian opportunity in the Arab Spring

25 July 2012 |

by Ian Shaw, Langham Scholars

One of the great challenges of everyday life and mission for thousands of Christians around the world is the question of how Christians should engage with Islam. The issue is nothing new, and has been something Christians have grappled with since the beginnings of the Muslim faith. But fresh light is being shed on these approaches from past centuries by the research work of Langham Scholar Wageeh Mikhail, at the University of Birmingham.

Wageeh is from Egypt, and he is studying the little known work of a ninth-century Arab Christian theologian from Iraq, known as Ammār al-Başrī. His Kitāb al-Burhān is both a work of Christian theology and also an apologetic defence of Christianity in the face of Muslim objections to its teachings.

Ammār debates the nature of ‘true’ religion, before considering the character, existence and attributes of God, and then the incarnation and death of Christ. The importance of learning from these early apologetic works for contemporary Christian approaches to Islam is all-too-evident to Wageeh, who lives and works in Egypt. The Christians of Ammār al-Başrī’s day who saw the spread of Islam across the Arab region succeeded in retaining a distinctive place in the new Islamic world. Some made indispensable intellectual contributions to the Arab renaissance in the Medieval period. Wageeh hopes that, in similar ways, Christians who have witnessed the Arab Spring can also be significant players in the future of the Arab world.

Wageeh is a lecturer at Cairo Evangelical Theological Seminary, where he will head up the Centre for Middle Eastern Christianity when he completes his research programme. Christians in Egypt need great courage and wisdom in changing times, with a new President just installed. Wageeh and his fellow workers welcome our prayers, as Christians face the new opportunities of the Arab Spring.

Wageeh Mikhail and family
Wageeh Mikhail and family