The keynote speakers scheduled for the Critical Issues Symposium at Hope College on Wednesday–Thursday, Feb. 24–25, “Engaging the Middle East: Exploring Contemporary Changes,” have both been changed.

Gary BurgeDr. Gary M. Burge, who is a professor of New Testament in the Department of Biblical and Theological Studies at Wheaton College and Graduate School, will open the symposium with the keynote address “Five Things I Have Learned from the Middle East” on Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel.

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, will present the keynote address “The Middle East: Problem or Opportunity?” on Thursday, Feb. 25, at 9 a.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel.

Nabil CostaThe remainder of the program on Thursday, Feb. 25, which features multiple speakers or concurrent events in three blocks at 10:15 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., will proceed as scheduled. Updated information will be available online at

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

The speaker who was originally to deliver the Wednesday, Feb. 24 opening keynote, Dr. Shibley Telhami, has been diagnosed with pneumonia and is unable to travel. The speaker originally scheduled for the morning of Thursday, Feb. 25, Robin Wright, is unable to travel to Hope from Washington, D.C., because of weather conditions.

As announced previously, both Burge and Costa are also among the speakers who will be delivering focus session addresses at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 25. Burge will present “Thinking Creatively about the Israel-Palestine Conflict,” and Costa will present “The Refugee Crisis in the Middle East and the Response of the Church.” Costa will also be participating in the 10:15 a.m. event.

The session on Thursday at 10:15 a.m. will be in 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?,” “Understanding Syria and the Refugee Crisis,” “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?”

In addition to Costa, the participants in the 10:15 a.m. Knickerbocker Theatre event will include 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.

In addition to Burge and Costa, the speakers during the 1 p.m. Focus Sessions will be 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 in 1980 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 event explores a single topic in-depth through a variety of presentations led by experts from both beyond campus and within the Hope community.

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.

Dimnent Memorial Chapel, the venue for the keynote address, is located at 277 College Ave., at College Avenue and 12th Street.