Remembering Lamin Sanneh, the World’s Leading Expert on Christianity and Islam in Africa
January 9, 2019
Scholars explain how a convert “summoned from the margins” of The Gambia became a legend at Yale Divinity School for his curiosity, joy, and deep insights.
Lamin Sanneh, the Gambian scholar who shaped contemporary discourse around World Christianity and missions in Africa, died Sunday at age 76.
As Sanneh wrote in his autobiography, he was “summoned from the margins,” a convert from Islam to Christianity raised in the tiny West African nation.
Over his 30-year career at Yale Divinity School as well as stints at the University of London and two Pontifical Commissions, he brought World Christianity to the forefront, drawing a global network of scholars and friends around his scholarship in the fields of African history, abolitionism, and Christian-Muslim relations.
CT heard from some of these colleagues as they grieved Sanneh’s sudden passing. Their tributes appear below.
Andrew F. Walls, founder of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland:
All members of [the Yale-Edinburgh network of World Christianity scholars] will have learned with deep sorrow of the passing, while still at the height of his considerable powers, of Professor Lamin Sanneh. With the sorrow there is mingled thanksgiving for a scholarly life of immense value and significance, likely to be ongoing in its influence.
For those attending the Yale-Edinburgh conferences he was an ever-present figure, overseeing the Yale end of operations from our very first conference in 1992. In the academic concerns at the heart of the activities of both network and conferences, the historical study of Christian missions and of World Christianity, his influence has been immense; indeed, he is one of the architects of the discourse as we now know it.
As scholar he has added to the sum of our knowledge, transformed understanding with illuminating comparisons, …