EMM's David Shenk films video course
Bridge-building lectures on Islam and Christianity for Russia, Central Asiaby Jewel Showalter
Russian Baptists at the Trinity Video Seminary in Kursk, Russia, hosted David W. Shenk for 25 hours of teaching on Islam and Christianity during the month of January. Shenk serves as global consultant with Eastern Mennonite Missions, which is based in Salunga, Pa.
Professional videographers prepare the video course taught by David Shenk (on right). Photo by Mikhail Sushkov.
Shenk says the request for the video series grows out of increasing awareness of the presence and dynamism of Islam throughout Russia and Central Asia. Feelings of apprehension sometimes accompany that awareness, as occasional conflicts have erupted between Muslims and Christians or secularists. Conflicts can also develop between moderate Muslims and minorities that embrace militant visions of a purist Islamic political order.
Loosely affiliated with the Baptist Union but serving a broad spectrum of the evangelical churches in Russia and Central Asia, the seminary will release the lectures on DVD and on the Internet to help equip Christian leaders for peacemaking with Muslim communities.
Shenk lectured for five hours a day on the "Theological and Practical Approaches to Islam." He said he was keenly aware of the diversity in his broader audience, as the course is slated for wide dissemination throughout the region. Sponsors had invited Shenk in part because they felt it would be helpful for someone from outside the region to make these presentations.
As he lectured, Shenk also interacted with the seminary faculty who attended the sessions, contributing appropriate questions and comments as the week unfolded.
Two of Shenk's books on Islam, written with a Muslim friend Badru D. Kateregga, which have been translated into Russian, augmented the 20 lecture topics covered in the course.
"It was an excellent week with professional videographers who captured the dynamism of the experience," Shenk says. "I spoke in English without a translator, but the video will have Russian overlay for release throughout the region. The English version will also be available internationally.”
Shenk says that whenever he teaches a course on Islam, he tries to imagine that his friend, Badru, is in class teaching with him. This leads him occasionally to comment, "What I am going to share, Badru would not agree with. But this is how I see it through the lens of Christian faith."
Shenk used that same format in these lectures. He says he tried to imagine an audience in which large numbers of Muslims were also listening and responding to what was said. This approach requires not only truth but kindness.
"This does not mean sugarcoating the issues," Shenk says, "but rather addressing the divergences between Islam and the gospel directly, in ways that build bridges rather than walls. I hope that Muslims who listen will respond by saying, 'Shenk has represented Islam truthfully.' "
Shenk says that as he lectured he also tried to represent the gospel as good news for everyone, including Muslims.
He says he hoped to teach in a way that any Muslim who might hear and see the teaching would respond, by saying, "Now I understand why Christians believe the gospel is good news for everyone, including us Muslims."
In addition to this new course on Islam and Christianity, Trinity Video Seminary has more than 50 courses on theology and Christian faith that are offered through DVD and the Internet.
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