“Ramez Atallah, general secretary of the Bible Society of Egypt and program chair for the Lausanne III World Congress, has been chosen as the Bible Expositor for Intervarsity’s 22nd Student Missions Conference. ( A Montreal McGill University Graduate too. Atallah was born in Egypt but spent his teen years in Canada. He became involved with InterVarsity while a student at McGill University and at one time served as Quebec director.
He received his seminary training at Gordon-Conwell Seminary in Massachusetts and is currently the Honorary President of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. ) The Bible studies at Urbana 09 will focus on the first four chapters of the New Testament book of John, which is “a powerful example of missionary communication,” said Urbana director Jim Tebbe according to the first Urbana 09 news release. Atallah, who has a background with Intervarsity, “has a passion for inductive Bible study,” said Tebbe. “He has been practicing it and teaching it all his life.” He is “an ideal expositor for Urbana 09,” the director concluded, and he will join a distinguished tradition of Bible teaching and mission at the conference. istorically, the Urbana student missions conference has had a large impact on North American mission as “one of the longest-running institutions of North American evangelicalism,” with the first conference held in Toronto in 1946, according to the release. Urbana is one way in which Intervarsity has been able to express their purpose to “transform students and develop world changers,” according to the Urbana website. Bible study from the Gospel of John is fitting, given the conference’s mission-oriented tradition. Regarding the scriptural focus, the Urbana director said, “John … is explicitly evangelistic and intends that those who come to believe through his witness will in turn become witnesses,” which is exactly what many participants did right after the previous triennial conference in 2006. “Following an intense five-day Urbana 06 missions immersion, the 20,000 returned to their homes, their campuses, and their careers, stirred to respond to the Urbana theme, ‘Live a life worthy of the calling,’” reported Intervarsity news in 2007. Director Tebbe said, “We worked hard and gave you a five-day convention, but the real story is yours — what you do with the calling you have received.” Rick Warren is also among previous Urbana speakers who encouraged the group to focus on sharing their faith through mission. “It takes unselfish people to grow a church,” he said at the last meeting. “It is only when you start sharing with others that a church becomes a missional church. Churches often fail this goal,” he concluded. The impact of previous Urbana conferences continues on today, and will continue into the future, according to Intervarsity news. “The five days of Urbana 06 were like a pebble in the pond that sent out ripples which will be felt across the globe for months and years to come.” Atallah joins a distinguished list of Bible teachers who have spoken at Urbana, including A.W. Tozer (Urbana 54), Donald Grey Barnhouse (Urbana 57), John R.W. Stott (Urbana 64, 67, 70, 73, 76, and 79), and Ajith Fernando (Urbana 87, 90, 93, and 06). Previous expositors also included Ajith Fernando and John R.W. Stott. Urbana 09 will be held at the America’s Center and the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Mo., December 27-31, 2009. ”
InterVarsity’s Urbana student missions conference is one of the longest-running institutions of North American evangelicalism. The first conference was held in Toronto in 1946, right after World War II broadened the horizons of a new generation of North Americans. For most of the next six decades the triennial conference was held on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 2006 the conference drew more than 20,000 people to its new location in St. Louis, Missouri.
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is an interdenominational ministry to university students in the United States with over 31,000 students involved on 585 campuses nationwide. InterVarsity is a founding member of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, advancing Christian student work in 150 countries.
War Blurs View of Christianity
Selling Bibles in Egypt not only serves Christians but also helps build understanding between Muslims and Christians, says Mr Ramez Atallah, general secretary of the Bible Society of Egypt.
Mr Atallah and his wife Rebecca were in New Zealand in March at the invitation of the Bible Society in New Zealand. Their trip, aimed at informing New Zealand churches and Christians about their ministry in Egypt, was made as the United States-led army began its attack in Iraq.
The couple were very concerned about the polarisation of Muslims and Christians which was occurring as a result of the war. “Muslims misperceive this war as the Western Christian world attacking the Muslim way of life,” he said. “It is making it more difficult and more uncomfortable for Christians and Westerners in all Arab countries.”
Mr Atallah described Egypt as a moderate Arab country, in which Christians, though only about 10 percent of the population, were protected and treated fairly by the government. Christian children were obliged by the government to study the Christian religion, and he felt that the moral society there was generally good for Christians.
“Strict censorship and morality laws meant that Christianity was more protected than in a Western, liberal, pluralistic society such as Canada,” he said. Mr Atallah was born in Egypt but his family moved to Canada as a result of the Nasser government’s socialisation policies in the 1960s. Mr Atallah returned to Egypt with his wife and two young children in 1980.
The Bible Society of Egypt is permitted to sell and advertise their products, as long as it doesn’t proselytise or specifically target Muslims. Hence the society has developed very successful methods of raising awareness of the bible as the ‘source text’ for Christians.
It has sold from shops, stalls at markets, book fairs, and festivals. It has placed advertisements in newspapers and on large billboards by busy highways. It has produced and marketed a range of products including audio-cassettes, CDs and videos. These products include translations of Biblical text into local colloquial languages, making them accessible to a wider range of people, including the illiterate.
“The bible has taken a role not only in serving the Christians but also in symbolising Christianity. It has helped Christians have a higher profile.” Mr Atallah says that the prominent positioning of the bible in this way has meant that many Muslims have chosen to buy bibles, to better understand Christianity.
“Muslims can come and buy (locally produced bible products) and this helps correct distorted views of Christianity (eg from the media) and helps to build bridges between Muslims and Christians,” says Mr Atallah. “They come to us out of curiosity, and ask, ‘is it as bad as we hear?’”
Many Muslims associate Western Christianity with what they see as promiscuity and immorality portrayed on television sitcoms, and fear that the American-led invasion of Iraq will undermine the morality of the Islamic way of life, not only in Iraq but elsewhere too.
Since their arrival in Egypt, the Atallahs have themselves been shining examples of Christian principles. While Ramez has worked selling bibles, a role which also helps unite the different Christian denominations in Egypt, Rebecca has become very involved with helping the people who live and work amongst garbage in the city. She has become a key worker at the St Simon Coptic Orthodox (Christian) Church in the Mokattam Garbage Village, teaching Christianity in school, organising camps and outings for the children, and supporting disadvantaged adults. “As we’ve learned to love each other, these people have become like my second family, we all need each other!” says Rebecca. For this reason and others, the couple say they will remain steadfast in their sense of mission in Egypt, no matter what effect the war has there.