International panel meets to discuss Middle East

By Jon Platt

A panel featuring special international guests discussed issues from around the world Wednesday afternoon.

Baylor faculty and guests from Lebanon, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates discussed Western interaction and social development in the Middle East.

The forum was a pre-meeting session of this year’s Consortium for Global Education, which takes place this week. This is the consortium’s 27th year to meet.

Dr. Nabil Costa, executive director of the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development, discussed the need for Christians to address atrocities in the Middle East.

“While others are fighting and killing each other, we, as Christians, have an excellent track to follow,” he said. “Our presence is very vital for the Middle East.”

He said while he is encouraged by the focus America is putting on combating ISIL, he is disheartened attention to the crisis only came after the beheading of American journalists. Costa said he is heartbroken for the families, but frustrated that little was done before their deaths.

“We need to remind ourselves that before him, tens of thousands were killed,” he said. “And no one cared about them. That’s how it seemed.”

Intervention by America has been reactive instead of what it should have been, proactive, Costa said.

“The West thinks democracy is a product that you can export to the East,” he said. “What’s happening now, it did not come by parachute. What’s happening now came from history.”

Costa also spoke of his work building Christian schools in Lebanon. He said this work is vital because it allows communities to come together.

“Building schools is the church of the future,” he said. “We do not want to replace the church; we want to empower the church through education.”

Rami Gammoh, assistant director of CGE in Jordan, also detailed the importance of his country in terms of geography.

“Jordan is a gate between Africa and Asia,” he said. “People in Jordan would like to help and be friendly with anyone.”

He said Jordan is a safe place to travel and visit because of the friendliness of the people and acceptance embedded in the Jordan culture.

Gregg Vossler, vice president for global education for Leadership Development International in the United Arab Emirates, offered the audience the perspective of international issues from an American’s perspective.

Vossler grew up in the US, and, after living in China as an educator and missionary, moved to Al Ain, UAE, to build a school and spread the gospel.

“I’m not Arabic,” he said. “I’m not Chinese. But my heart is there.”

Vossler’s first school in the UAE failed, he said. But he and his family saw it as a chance to strengthen their faith and trusted God.

Soon after, he became involved with a Muslim school in the area that he later took over. Now, the school operates to spread the love of Jesus and welcome children from every belief.

“We are the only school in the city that has said, ‘Bring your kids to us,’” he said.

Also on the panel were five Baylor faculty members, all introduced by Dr. Bill Mitchell, professor emeritus of political science. Mitchell said the need for a panel of this sort and at this time in world history is clear from events seen on the news.

“It’s almost hard to not watch the tragedies in the Middle East unfold on television,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell, who has visited the Middle East several times, said he and other Baylor faculty members are working on a book about their experiences in the Middle East. It will be titled “Baylor in Iraq During a Time of War.”

Baylor students should take advantage of what CGE is offering this week by attending panels and lectures, he said.

A schedule of this week’s proceedings can be found on the CGE website,