A Christian & the Qur’an


Early last year, the Ministry of Culture of the Islamic Republic of Iran awarded its World Prize for the Book of the Year to The Banquet: A Reading of the Fifth Sura of the Qur’an—originally published in French as Le Festin: Une lecture de la sorate al-Mâ’ida. The book’s author was invited to Tehran to receive the award from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and was subsequently asked to present his findings to academic gatherings in Tehran and at Iran’s principal Shiite university at Qum. He managed to win over his initially skeptical audience and was invited to give a lecture to seminary students (which his travel plans did not permit).

The irony in all this is that the author, Michael Cuypers, is a Belgian Catholic, a member of the Little Brothers of Jesus who had been expelled from Iran in 1989. He had initially lived in Tabriz at a leper colony run by the brothers, but was later asked by his order to start a foundation in Tehran. There he studied Farsi and Iranian culture at Tehran University. But when some Iranian students were expelled from Belgium, the Iranian government retaliated by expelling two Belgian citizens, one of whom was Cuypers. He then moved to Egypt, where he learned Arabic and got a job as a file clerk at the Institute of Oriental Studies, run by the Dominicans. When the director of the Institute learned that Cuypers had a gift for analyzing...

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About the Author

Jerry Ryan joined the Little Brothers of Jesus in 1959. He lived and worked with them for more than two decades in Europe and South America. He and his family now live in Massachusetts.