No, I’m not the expert. But I know someone who is. I graduated with a degree in Near Eastern Studies almost ten years ago, and spent my last semester of college studying Arabic in Damascus, Syria. I returned home only a few months before 9/11 changed the world and threw into devastating relief the deadly consequences of the misunderstandings and tensions between the Middle East and the West.
The professor who took my group to Syria, Kirk Belnap, is one of the most inspiring people I have ever met. Not only did he find myriad ways to make studying a very difficult language accessible and enjoyable, but he never let us forget that there was a reason we were studying it. Kirk, more than any other person, taught me to see the hand of God in my life and in events in the world around me. The six months I spent in the Middle East under his guidance left a huge impression on me and the way I view the world.
Kirk is someone gifted with both the experience and the understanding to make sense of what is happening in the Middle East right now. So I was just thrilled yesterday when someone sent me the link to a fantastic Deseret News interview with him. He was with Egyptian friends in the Middle East during the Tahrir Square revolution in Egypt this month, and shares his experience, as well as some background on what BYU students and language programs are doing to build bridges of understanding between Mormons and Muslims. Enjoy!