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Voices of Devotion: The Connection Between Ministry and Music

Nizar Fares can scarcely walk the streets of his native Beirut, Lebanon, without being approached and embraced by well-wishers. After all, the popular singer boasts almost 70,000 Facebook followers, and is a past winner of Studio El-Fan, the prestigious Lebanese equivalent of The Voice. But Fares is beloved for more than just the usual flashy pop hits and music videos. Unlike some of his fellow stars, Fares is best known for his religious songs; for most of his career, he has devoted his voice exclusively to Christian music. He has done so since 1999, when he experienced a life-changing awakening of faith while imprisoned by Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gadha . Fares’ faith informs more than just his music. He regularly travels to the Middle East, directly distributing food, clothing, medicine, and other supplies to the neediest refugees of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. When he’s not tending to the displaced directly, he’s on tour to raise money for them, maintaining an intensive per- formance schedule that takes him to Australia, Canada, Europe, and around the United States. In the midst of these efforts, Fares has also managed to pursue a successful academic career, earning a PhD in musicology from Holy Spirit University in Kaslik, Lebanon. He immigrated to the United States in 2013, and after brief stints at Tufts and William and Mary, he has served for three semesters as director of Astaza, Boston College’s Middle Eastern music ensemble. Al Noor sat down with Dr. Fares this spring, enjoying a wide-ranging conversation that touched on music, the Middle Eastern refugee crisis, and the status of Christians in the region.

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Image courtesy of Nizar Fares,

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