"IMES is a response to the increasingly urgent need to dispel mutually-false perceptions between people of different religions and cultures," said Doctor Martin Accad on Sunday at IMES's inauguration ceremony.
Accad, the academic dean of ABTS, said IMES's mission was to increase general awareness about social and political realities in the region while providing Evangelical Christians with resources to serve specific needs in the Arab World and among Arab communities worldwide.
"As such, IMES is geared primarily toward community and religious workers active in the Arab world or among Arab communities worldwide," Accad said. "It is also geared toward leaders of Christian organizations based in and focused on the Arab world, as well as theology students, Christian instructors and researchers in Middle East studies."
According to ABTS president Father Ghassan Khalaf, IMES will be offering a master of arts in Middle Eastern studies (MAMES), and will hold annual Middle East conferences by world-renowned specialists in evangelical studies.
In 1993, the management of ABTS was transferred to a regional board of trustees, representing Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. Ghassan Khalaf was elected president later that year, and in 1998 ABTS came under the legal ownership of the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development.
This transfer resulted in a cut in finances, but also enabled ABTS to reach more evangelical churches in the Middle East rather than being limited to merely the Baptist churches of the region. Since its inception, the Seminary has graduated nearly 200 students from Algeria, Egypt, India, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan and Syria.
"Today, more than at anytime before, a dialogue between Christians and Muslims is needed and appreciated," said MP Bassem Shab during Sunday's ceremony.
"IMES is eager to fulfill this role and play an active part in transforming Christian-Muslim misunderstandings and misconceptions into open and fruitful dialogues," Shab said.
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