October Selection

Book cover
Summoned from the Marginby Lamin SannehWm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 299p $24

A convert from Islam to Roman Catholicism, Lamin Sanneh possesses an in-depth knowledge of two of the world’s most talked-about religions. In an age in which individuals and churches too-often reject interfaith dialogue in favor of hate speech, protests or violence, Sanneh’s voice is a welcome one, respectful of all faiths and infused with refreshing honesty. As the D. Willis James Professor of Missions & World Christianity at Yale Divinity School and Professor of History at Yale University, Sanneh puts his extensive knowledge to good use, and with the publication of this memoir, his students won’t be the only ones to gain encouragement from his wisdom, strength and life story.

A conversion story beginning with a long quote from St. Augustine, and ending with a quote from Pilgrim’s Progress, the book also includes lessons from voices as varied as Helen Keller and St. Paul. Summoned is not simply the story of Sanneh’s own journey, but of all those who helped him along his path to success. Gratitude is a theme that plays out not only in his relationships with others, but in his relationship with God.

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Sanneh, it seems, truly trusts both his own writing voice and that still small voice of the Creator, which leads the author in his life and work. Sanneh’s honesty and balanced perspective permeate the book and allow the reader to trust the author as guide. He is unafraid to tackle topics of race, interfaith relations and cultural differences. His voice is stern at times, but without anger, and often with good humor. This includes his description of his experience with the pastors—both Protestant and Catholic—who urged him to find another church when he came to inquire about becoming a member. It seems no one knew quite what to do with a young man born in Gambia to a polygamist, Muslim household, who now hoped to become a Christian. But Sanneh persevered, despite the fact that a conversion risked a fall in social status in his hometown and rejection by his family and friends.

Sanneh’s love for both Islam and Christianity permeates the book, even as—and perhaps especially because—he finds fault with both. But he makes it clear, through moving anecdotes and compelling prose, that he finds much beauty, too.

Kerry Weber

Purchase Summoned from the Margin: Homecoming of an African from amazon.com.

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