A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

walking humbly with God: another priest visits Syria

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on November 26, 2006

SANA’s website reports that another American Protestant priest has decided to brave the lion’s den of evangelical criticism by visiting Syria:

Grand Mofti of the Republic meets American Rev. WinWrite

Aleppo (SANA) –

Grand Mofti of the Republic, Ahmad Badriddin Hassoun, discussed on Saturday with Chairman of the Middle East Association in the United States, Robin WinWrite, the necessary measures which should be taken to acquaint the American churches with the Middle East issues, and to pave the way for launching developmental projects in Syria.

Talks during the meeting also dealt with the preparations for the Orient Wisemen Second Trip to the Middle East which will be carried out in autumn 2007.

(http://www.sana.org/eng/21/2006/11/25/88647.htm)

As is often the case with SANA’s English news reportage, enthusiasm has outweighed accuracy. The “Middle East Association” is NOT a mis-nomer for MESA, the Middle East Studies Association, and the trip mentioned is not one led by MESA’s president, the well-known scholar (but not Reverend) Juan Cole.

The priest in question is a man named Robin Catlin Wainwright, a philanthropist active in several humanitarian non-profits. A profile of him can be found on the Ethics and Public Policy Center website; he served as moderator for an EPPC panel on “Governance, Polity, and Civil Society in Islam and Christianity” held in March 2005:

Robin Wainwright is Chairman of the Board of International Fellowship of Evangelical Mission Theologians in the USA (INFEMIT USA). He is also President of Holy Land Trust, USA, a nonprofit humanitarian organization established in 1998 with the aim of strengthening, encouraging and improving the Palestinian community through working with children, families, youth, and the non-governmental organization (NGO) community, and to aid communities in distress in the Middle East. He is Director of the Catlin Foundation in Miami, Florida. He has spent more than 20 years developing and implementing programs for a variety of humanitarian organizations involved in outreach work in the US, overseas, and particularly in the Middle East. He holds a B.A. in Philosophy from WestmontCollege, Santa Barbara, California, and a Master of Divinity/Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.

(http://www.eppc.org/conferences/eventID.96/conf_detail.asp)

In 2000, Wainwright and his wife Nancy led a group that traced the steps of the three wisemen, chronicled at www.magijourney.com. I assume that the “Orient Wisemen” trip SANA mentions refers to a planned second “journey of the magi” tour. Wainwright organized and executed the first tour in his capacity as president of the Holy Land Trust (www.holylandtrust.org). Given that the trust is headquartered in Bethlehem, I imagine that negotiating logistics for the second journey are even more a headache than they must have been six years ago. There must be much holding-one’s-nose-and-going-ahead on both the Syrian and the Israeli sides.

One of Wainwright’s other philanthropic organizations, the Middle East Fellowship, is also sponsoring a trip to Damascus – a nine-week service, learning, and fellowship journey scheduled for July and August 2007.

The MEF looks like a terrific organization – a Christian non-profit dedicated to building bridges in fellowship with Middle Eastern Christian and Muslim communities, committed to social justice and partnership rather than charity. (Ironically in light of SANA’s statement that Wainwright and the mufti discussed ‘developmental’ projects, the Fellowship adheres to the ‘Micah Declaration’ of September 27, 2001, which states that:

“We object to any use of the word “development” that implies some countries are civilised and developed while others are uncivilised and underdeveloped. This imposes a narrow and linear economic model of development and fails to recognise the need for transformation in so-called “developed” countries. While we recognise the value of planning, organization, evaluation and other such tools, we believe they must be subservient to the process of building relationships, changing values and empowering the poor.”

(http://www.middleeastfellowship.org/about/micah))

July and August 2006 put the “sakhin” in what al-3Arabiya insisted on calling “the hot summer”. Hopefully for the MEF’s Damascus Encounter participants, July and August 2007 will prove more temperate.

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One Response to “walking humbly with God: another priest visits Syria”

  1. intlxpatr said

    “Wainwright and his wife Nancy led a group that traced the steps of the three wisemen, chronicled at http://www.magijourney.com.”

    Oh, LIttle Diamond, doesn’t that sound like a very cool trip?

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