From its beginnings in 1985, Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding has grown into a ministry which brings together Christians living in the Middle East with those living in North America. In continuing conversations and encounters with church leadership in the Middle East, we often hear that the ministry of EMEU is an essential link and support for them.
Don Wagner and Ray Bakke traveled the region in November, 1985, meeting with political and religious leaders to get a sense of people’s priorities in the region and what a western Evangelical Christian response to those priorities might be. They consistently heard three things:
- The rapid intrusion of western Evangelical agencies is threatening the historic Middle Eastern Churches. These agencies are welcome, but should be encouraged to work with, not around, the Middle East churches.
- Western Evangelicals do not understand the past, present, and future of the historic Middle Eastern churches. The need exists for relationship-building and consciousness-raising within these Western communities.
- The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the heart of the Middle East. There is a rising tide of western interpretation of the nation of Israel as the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, which again threatens not only peace in the region, but also the Christian communities, especially those of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
In response to these concerns, and in answer to this call, EMEU was founded in October, 1986. The Middle East Council of Churches and the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelism were key participants in the consultation, which hosted representatives from World Vision, the Southern Baptist Convention, Intervarsity, Mercy Corps, and Young Life, among others.
Since then, EMEU has hosted conferences and consultations in the East and the West and has organized many tours of the region so that Western Evangelicals and Middle Eastern Christians might begin to bridge the divides of culture and theology.
EMEU has maintained a constituency of interested individuals, churches, and Christian agencies. We have sough to bring the voices of Christians in the Middle East to our Western partners. We have heard those voices speak to us of the unique challenges, needs, and ministry opportunities faced in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel/Palestine, and Egypt, and we have sought to share with Western Christians their work and witness. As participants in EMEU, we have carried their words into communities and congregations, resulting in the formation of vital partnerships in ministry.
With war threatening the stability of the entire region, EMEU’s mission – to encourage and strengthen the Church in the Middle East through partnerships and advocacy from Christians in the West – has never been more urgent. This is especially critical in light of the fact that Christians in the Middle East are often the singular, consistent voice of hope and reconciliation with their fractured and wounded societies.