Dr. Kent Van Til of the Hope College religion faculty is co-author of “From Cairo to Christ: How One Muslim’s Faith Journey Shows the Way for Others,” published this summer by IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press of Downers Grove, Illinois.
Van Til co-authored the book with Abu Atallah, through whose voice the narrative is told. Atallah, who was born a Muslim in Egypt, converted to Christianity as a young adult. The autobiographical volume follows Attalah’s faith journey and decision to come to the United States, where he studied theology and eventually became a missionary sharing the Christian faith with Muslims in the U.S. and abroad. The book includes reflections by Attalah on both Christianity and Islam, as well as on relations between “the three peoples of the book”: Jewish, Christian and Muslim.
Craig Van Gelder, an emeritus professor of congregational mission at Luther Seminary, has called “From Cairo to Christ” “insightful, informative and provocative,” noting, “The challenges encountered and dealt with by Abu Atallah provide fresh insights into understanding how Christians can better relate to Muslims today, in our context of religious pluralism. This book also serves as a mirror for Western Christians to more carefully critique their own understanding and practices of Christianity.”
Atallah is the founder and chief executive officer of European Training Centre and a pastor, professor and missionary with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Now based in Grand Rapids, he previously founded the Arab American Friendship Center in Dearborn, and was a consultant and trainer for Arab World Ministries in London and across Europe. He has ministered in 56 countries on six continents.
He was attending Cairo University when he converted. Endangered in Egypt because of his faith choice, he came to the U.S. in 1979 to attend Reformed Bible College in Grand Rapids. His academic credentials include a master of divinity from Calvin Theological Seminary and a doctorate of theology from Providence College and Seminary.
Van Til, who is a lecturer in religion at Hope, met Atallah as a fellow student at Calvin Theological Seminary in the 1980s. Van Til was inspired to help develop from “Cairo to Christ” after they reconnected some years ago and Van Til learned more about Atallah’s experiences growing up as well as his missionary work with Muslim refugees in Europe and with Muslims in countries where Christianity isn’t welcome.
“I thought his was just a story that needed to be told,” Van Til said. “I had also been a missionary, but in far less hazardous conditions in Central America, so I have an active interest in Christian missions.”
Van Til is the author of two previous books, both published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. of Grand Rapids and Cambridge: “Less Than Two Dollars a Day: A Christian View of World Poverty and the Free Market” (2007) and “The Moral Disciple: An Introduction to Christian Ethics” (2012).
Prior to coming to Hope in 2004, he taught at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago; Marquette University; and ESEPA (Escuela de Estudios Pastorales, the School of Pastoral Studies) in San Jose, Costa Rica. After graduating from Calvin College in 1980 with a major in music and completing a master's in advertising in 1982 at Northwestern University, he worked as a media planner in Chicago. Changing his career focus, he subsequently returned to school to complete his M.Div. at Calvin Theological Seminary in 1989 and a Ph.D. at Marquette University in 2003.
Copies of “From Cairo to Christ: How One Muslim’s Faith Journey Shows the Way for Others” are available for $16 at the college’s Hope-Geneva Bookstore, which is located on the ground level of the DeWitt Center, 141 E. 12th St., and can be called at 800-946-4673 or (616) 395-7833. Additional ordering information may be obtained by e-mailing the Hope-Geneva Bookstore at firstname.lastname@example.org.