The annual Critical Issues Symposium at Hope College will examine “Engaging the Middle East: Exploring Contemporary Changes” on Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. and throughout the day on Thursday, Feb. 25.

The public is invited to all of the events.  Admission is free.

The symposium explores a single topic in-depth through a variety of presentations led by experts from both beyond campus and within the Hope community.  The program will include two keynote addresses, a series of short talks, and two blocks of concurrent focus sessions and department-sponsored presentations.

“In 1980 our Critical Symposium began and held its first program with a focus on the Middle East. In particular, our interest, now as it was then, is to provide the Hope and Holland community opportunities for conversations with experts to gain a deeper understanding of the complexities found in the Middle East,” said Alfredo Gonzales, who is associate provost and dean for international and multicultural education, and is co-chair of the event’s planning committee. “Engaging this issue is not only of interest because we share a concern for peace and justice in the Middle East, but because close at home we must learn how to live, learn and thrive with the increasing diversity of people who call the United States home.”

The symposium will open with the keynote address “Engaging the Middle East: Understanding the Current Tumult” on Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel by Dr. Shibley Telhami, who is the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, College Park as well as a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The program will continue on Thursday, Feb. 25, at 9 a.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel with the keynote address “Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion across the Islamic World” by Robin Wright, who is a joint fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a contributing writer for The New Yorker.

On Thursday at 10:15 a.m., the discussion will move to the Knickerbocker Theatre, where visiting speakers, students and staff reflecting on the theme will present talks of eight to 10 minutes each.

On Thursday at 1 p.m., six concurrent hour-long Focus Sessions at locations around campus will address topics including “Thinking Creatively about the Israel-Palestine Conflict,” “The Refugee Crisis in the Middle East and the Response of the Church,” “The Middle East: What's Going on and What Should We Do About It?, What is the Alternative to Religious Violence? A Christian Response,” and “The Revolution Within: Islamic Television and the Struggle for the ‘New Egypt.’”

On Thursday at 2:30 p.m., academic departments and other programs at Hope will consider the issue in a way specific to their disciplines, including Communication, Dance, Modern and Classical Languages, the Peace and Justice minor and A.J. Muste Memorial Lecture Series, and Religion.  The presentations include: “Path to Peace Leads through the Past,” “The Body Speaks for Peace: Cultivating Community and Trust through Movement,” “Learning Arabic in the United States: Prospects and Challenges,” “Strategies for Peacemaking in Israel/Palestine,” and “Ancient Christians and Modern Terrorists: Are Christians and Christianity Becoming Extinct in the Middle East Today?”

The participants in the 10:15 a.m. Knickerbocker Theatre event will include Nabil Costa, who is executive director for the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development and general secretary for the Association of Evangelical Schools in Lebanon; Yasmin Moll, who is an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan and a postdoctoral fellow at the Michigan Society of Fellows; Ohanes Khacherian, a Hope senior from Al Aqaba, Jordan; Jessica Korte, a Hope freshman from Washington, Michigan, who graduated from Cairo American College in Egypt; and Habeeb Awad, international student advisor at Hope, who was raised in Palestine.

The speakers during the 1 p.m. Focus Sessions will be Gary M. Burge, a professor of New Testament in the Department of Biblical and Theological Studies at Wheaton College and Graduate School; Costa; David Dunford, who is retired from the U.S. Foreign Service, where his assignments included being ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman, deputy ambassador and acting ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and chief of the American Embassy Economic Section in Cairo, Egypt; Mohamad Ayman Haykal, a physician in neurology practice in Grand Rapids originally from Syria; Douglas Kindschi, who is University Professor of Mathematics and Philosophy and director of the Kaufman Interfaith Institute at Grand Valley State University; and Yasmin Moll, who is an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan and a postdoctoral fellow at the Michigan Society of Fellows.

The speakers during the 2:30 p.m. departmental presentations will be Majd Al-Mallah, who is on the Arabic faculty and department chair in Modern Languages and Literature at Grand Valley State University; Steven Iannacone, associate professor of dance at Hope; Stephen Kelley, a missionary of World Outreach of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church; John Kleinheksel, an active retired Reformed Church in America (RCA) and Presbyterian Church USA pastor and educator; Dagmar Kusá, who is on the political science faculty of the Bratislava International School of Liberal Arts (via Skype); John D. Paarlberg, senior pastor of the First Church in Albany (RCA); Paul H. Verduin, co-chair of Sabeel DC Metro and chair of the Local Groups Committee of Friends of Sabeel, North America and the Israel-Palestine Mission Network of the National Capital Presbytery; and Angie Yetzke, assistant professor of dance at Hope.

The college’s Critical Issues Symposium was established to stimulate serious thinking about current issues, and to provide a forum in which the Holland community, students and faculty may all engage in discussion with experts. The symposium embodies commitment to open inquiry and civil discourse guided by the highest standards of intellectual integrity.  Hope cancels classes for a day to provide an opportunity for the event.

The symposium has examined a variety of topics through the years, including  “The Configuration of Peace in the Middle East,” “Energy,” “Lives in Transition: The Future of Marriage and Family,” “World Hunger,” “Lifeboat Earth: Decisions for Tomorrow,” “The Role of Media in American Culture,” “Feminism and Faith: Implications for Life,” “Race and Opportunity: Echoes of Brown v. Board of Education,” “Immigration: Shaping and Reshaping America,” “Global Health: From Catastrophe to Cure,” “Exploring Islam,” “Reconciliation: Hope in a Divided World,” and “Technology and the Future of Being Human.”

Dimnent Memorial Chapel, the venue for the two keynote addresses, is located at 277 College Ave., at College Avenue and 12th Street.  Additional information, including the full schedule, locations and biographical sketches of the speakers, is available here.