Christiaan van Nispen, S.J.

Role box
- PhD in Islamic thought (1987)
- Jesuit priest (since 1955)
Education, Career and Personal Background
Christiaan van Nispen tot Sevenaer was born in The Netherlands in 1938. In 1962 he immigrated to Egypt.
He studied philosophy and theology in France, as well as Arabic and Islamic studies in Lebanon and Egypt. In 1987, he earned his doctoral degree in Islamic thought from the Sorbonne (Paris-III). His dissertation dealt with the concept of 'Habitudes of God' (Sunan Allāh) in the famous Qur'ān commentary 'al-Manār,' by Muhammad cAbduh and Muhammad Rashīd Ridā.

Occupationally, Christiaan van Nispen is a professor of Philosophy and Islam at the Coptic Catholic Seminary in Maadi, Cairo, Egypt. He has been lecturing there since 1964. He is also a professor of Islamic studies at the Institute of Religious Sciences in Sakakini, Cairo, Egypt, and Arabic Studies at Dar Comboni in Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt. Since 2000, he has been lecturing on Islam and Christian-Muslim relations at Centre Sèvres, the Jesuit Faculties in Paris, France.

- Commission of Philosophy at the Higher Council of Culture (since 2000)
- Commission of Philosophy and Religions at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (since 2001)
- Al-Ikhā' al-Dīnī (Religious Fraternity), Egypt (since 1975)
- Arab Working Group on Muslim-Christian Dialogue (AGMCD) affiliated to the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) (since 1992)
- Egyptian Philosophical Association (since 1988)
- Egyptian Commission for Justice and Peace (since 1990)
- Arab-West Report, Board of Advisors (since 1997)
Political/Religious Involvement
Christiaan van Nispen became a member of the Jesuit order in 1955. Since April 12, 1969, he has been a priest. His religious involvement is further described in 'Involvement in Arab-West/Intercultural/Interfaith Relations.'


Involvement in Arab-West/Intercultural/Interfaith Relations
Father van Nispen is a Jesuit priest, who is strongly involved in relationships with Islam. In the beginning of his priesthood he chose 'The service of reconciliation' to be his motto. In an interview with Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly on December 31, 1998, he clarified: "My interpretation of the term reconciliation is entering into a true relationship with people -- of different faiths, denominations, cultural and social levels -- studying, understanding and respecting these differences. Reconciliation does not imply the abolishment of differences; on the contrary, it acknowledges these differences and searches for common ground and the possibility of communication to bring them into agreement and harmony." [RNSAW 99, 1, art.7]

Father Dr. Christiaan van Nispen tot Sevenaer is a major participant in Muslim-Christian and Arab-West dialogue. According to Arab-West Report editor-in-chief, Drs. Cornelis Hulsman, he is an important religious face in Egypt []. He actively seeks to encourage dialogue on different levels, and is frequently consulted by media and parties involved on the issue of Muslim-Christian relations. He has exceptional contacts, not only with Christian dignitaries [see RNSAW 2001, 51, art.1], but also with many Muslim Egyptian figures of public life.

Association commitments
Father van Nispen's involvement in interfaith relations appears in association commitments. He was one of the founders of a group of people with diverse faiths and allegiances, keen on bringing Christians and Muslims together in harmony. The group, officially recognized in 1978, is called al-Ikhā' al-Dīnī (Religious Fraternity). Father van Nispen is also a member of the Arab Working Group on Muslim-Christian Dialogue (AGMCD) affiliated with the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) that focuses on Muslim-Christian dialogue in the Arab World, Egyptian Philosophical Association, and Egyptian Commission for Justice and Peace. Furthermore, he is among the founders of the Center for Arab-West Understanding (CAWU).

Particularly marked point of views
Dr. Christiaan van Nispen frequently attends both national and international conferences on Muslim-Christian dialogue. He advocates that we should accept criticism and not perceive it as an enmity between those who practice dialogue, and stated such during a conference in February 2001, held by The Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS) in corporation with the Ministry of Waqfs (Religious Trusts) of Egypt. Criticism, according to him, does not mean rejecting a person or a religion. On the contrary, its aim is to reach truth through collective work and through meeting the other, for the sake of serving society. [RNSAW 2001, 8, art. 21]
However, he resents foreign intervention in religious matters in Egypt. "It is a misunderstanding of what is happening, and the most negative way of dealing with a problem," he said to Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram Weekly in 1998. [RNSAW 99, 1, art.7]

Christiaan van Nispen wrote a book describing his life experience in Christian-Muslim dialogue. It was first published in French: Chrétiens et Musulmans: Frères Devant Dieu? ['Christians and Muslims: Brothers in Front of God?'], Editions de l'Atelier, Paris, 2004. It has been translated into Italian ('Cristiani e Musulmani: Fratelli Davanti a Dio?' Marcianum Press, 2006) and Dutch ('Christenen en Moslims - Confrontatie of Dialog?' Averbook, 2006).

The book was published in Arabic in 2006, and was edited by the Egyptian Higher Council of Culture.

Additional Information on other issues
Biographical references:
- This biography is partly based on unpublished information provided by Christiaan van Nispen himself. He has also reviewed the content before the biography was published.
Further Reading:
For further information on Christiaan van Nispen, his life and his views on dialogue, refer to his own book 'Chrétiens et Musulmans: Frères Devant Dieu?'
[Christians and Muslims: Brothers in Front of God?]. It is available in French, Dutch, Italian, and Arabic. Publishing information is given in the biography paragraph entitled, 'Involvement in Arab-West/Intercultural/Interfaith Relations.'

Christiaan van Nispen's background is also well described in an interview with Al-Ahram Weekly from December 31, 1998, referred to in the biography.
For full text see RNSAW 99, 1, art.7.

Contact Information:
- Address:
Office address: Catholic Seminary 15, Street 15, Maadi, Cairo, Egypt
Private address: 21 al-Bactha Street, Shubra 11644 Cairo, Egypt
- Phone:
Office phone: (+20 2) 3585046
Community phone: (+20 2) 5775365
Mobile phone: (+20) (0) 12 7420437
- Fax: (+20 2) 5793435
- E-mail address: chris[email protected]
(Contact information can be published on AWR web site. Christiaan van Nispen gave consent on November 27, 2006)

For further internet research on Christiaan van Nispen, search for both "Christiaan" and "Christian," as his name is occasionally spelt with only one "a" due to differences between the English and Dutch spelling of his name.
Nationality: Dutch
Index notes:
Being a board member is his primary function with Arab-West Report.
Mia Ulvgraven, November 2006