Most Langham scholars’ eyes light up when they talk about their doctoral studies supported by a Langham Partnership International (LPI) grant. But Andrea Zaki Stephanous positively sparkles as he describes the difference it has made in his life. Andrea did his Ph.D. in Manchester, England, in the field of religion and politics. LPI International Director Chris Wright met him recently in his home country Egypt and asked him about it.
“My Ph.D. programme absolutely transformed my life,” Andrea began. “It was a paradigm shift for me. First it gave me a deep appreciation of the importance of education and adapting a proper scientific approach to problems. Secondly it equipped me with the skills I need in my role now. By the grace of God I serve in a top position in my church and country, and in that role I have to deal with intellectuals, with officials. I would not know how to do so without the experience and skills of the Ph.D. Thirdly it has empowered me in my job, as a professor, publisher, writer, speaker. I am invited both by the state and other organizations to give papers and presentations on a range of social and political issues as well as theological ones. Being academically equipped gives my church as a whole respect, in a culture where religious leaders are often despised as people of slogans only. Absolutely all my work as a leader in church, seminary, and society, has been transformed by the academic skills and challenges of the Ph.D. work.
“And yet at the same time, as you go through the Ph.D. you always affirm to yourself that you are a child in the world of learning. And even afterwards, I never feel that I am a ‘scholar’ – when you know how much there is that you don’t know! I don’t feel worthy of that title. There is still a very long way to go.”
So what exactly does Andrea do? Prepare to be astonished. He carries an amazing portfolio of responsibility. He described six of them.
• Director of Communications at The Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Service (CEOSS). Andrea was involved with CEOSS, working among the poor in squatter camps, since the 1980s. He now directs its publishing department, Dar El Thaqafa, producing books and multi-media resources not only for Egypt but the whole Arabic speaking world. In this role he is also involved as a resource person for inter-faith dialogue and peace-building and conflict resolution programmes for church leaders. This is Andrea’s main (and only salaried) job.
• Professor at the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Cairo. Andrea teaches at both undergraduate and graduate level on Religion and Politics, Theological Foundations for Social Change, and Inter-Faith Dialogue in the Middle East.
• TV Presenter: Andrea both writes and presents a weekly programme for SAT 7, which goes out across the Middle East, called, Without Embarrassment. Each programme features two guests – Christian and Muslim, discussing all issues imaginable, from religious violence to the resurrection of Jesus.
• Chair of the Council for Service and Development for the Synod of the Nile (the main Presbyterian church in Egypt). This works to empower local churches to be salt and yeast in society. He oversees the work of 10 staff, 500 volunteers and several major health, education and economic projects.
• Vice President of the Protestant Council of Egypt. There are 1,200 Protestant churches within this alliance, and its council functions not only as a forum for working together, and an authority structure, but also as a combined voice to the government. So Andrea needs great political wisdom as well as ecclesiastical diplomacy.
• International Deputy Director for the Middle East, for the Lausanne movement.
“And yet,” says Andrea, “I like to keep up my first love as a researcher and writer. This is a crucial part of what I do. I set aside time weekly for that. I have a nice office in my home where I do that. All of my children are at school or university, so everybody is studying and I am studying with my family around me!”
It would be hard to think of a better example of a rounded ministry of head, heart and hands, than the work of Langham Scholar, Andrea Zaki, in Egypt.
“I would not be as I am now without God’s grace and the support of Langham,” he concluded. “That is from my heart.”
Read more about Langham scholar Andrea’s work with the production of “Arabic Contemporary Theology”
View the LPI photo gallery of the January 2008 Egypt gatherings
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