Salwa Haddad and Smyrna Khalaf Moughabghab are members of a growing group that consists of three previously incompatible categories: 1) Women 2) in Christian leadership 3) in the Arab world. Times are changing. Salwa and Smyrna share what it is like to be an Arab woman in Christian leadership in this part of the world.
Salwa works with World Vision International as their People and Culture Business Partner focusing on the areas of Organizational Development and Change Management for the West Africa region, based in Dakar, Senegal. Smyrna has a Master’s Degree in Family and Marriage Counseling, is a practicing psychologist in this field, leads the Family and Couple’s Ministry at Hadath Baptist Church and serves in the Sunday School Education Ministry. Both Salwa and Smyrna serve as members of the Board of Trustees at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS), Lebanon.
“What I like about the board is that it includes a wide array of different skills. Theologians, pastors, professionals…and the female board members add ‘soft skills’ that are essential for the board’s overall,” Salwa says.
Paul Sanders, ABTS International Board member, agrees, “It is not common in the Arab world to see women compose 40% of a board of trustees, and yet that is the case for the ABTS local board. Salwa and Smyrna are both highly trained professionals. Not only do they bring a ‘feminine’ perspective to the issues discussed, but they bring their own distinctive contribution through their training, intelligence and experience. They are a real blessing to the ABTS board, and I believe that other Middle Eastern boards would do well to avail themselves of capable women as board members, an amazing resource.”
Smyrna says, “I would like to see more women equipped for leadership, not just in Christian settings but also medical, teaching [and other] areas.” A specific area she sees as important is providing women with adequate theological and ministerial training. “At ABTS, I still see a majority of men, although I know the ABTS leadership works to recruit both men and women. I would like to see more churches encouraging their women to study theology and putting an emphasis on equipping them for ministry.”
Salwa says she believes it is important not to let hurdles hold women back from that which the Lord is calling them. “I encourage Christian women in our region to step out of their fears and comfort zones and be courageous to move into leadership roles in relevant ministry areas. By God’s grace, they can excel, shine, make a difference and glorify the Lord.”
For stepping forward into the full calling of God upon their lives, Salwa and Smyrna are indeed two women of courage and strength who are active laborers in their local contexts against all odds!