Edmiston Center Library and Reading Room

The Edmiston Center Library Collection seeks to procure books written by Western and non-Western theologians, missiologists, historians, and Christian practitioners who exemplify the importance of practical theology on the margins of the world's societies.

Lamin Sanneh (1942-2019)

Dr. Lamin Sanneh was born in MacCarthy Island in the River Gambia, a small West African country that shares a boundary with Senegal and the Atlantic coastline. Though a descendant of an African royal family, Lamin was raised in poverty. He was one of eleven children, and he grew up watching his parents work tirelessly to provide for their family.

Sanneh began life in a Muslim household, as 95% of Gambia’s two million residents are practicing Muslims. Less than four percent of his nation of origin practices Christianity. Sanneh’s teenaged conversion to Christianity occurred thanks to the Methodist missionaries who made their mission his ancestral home.

Sanneh studied at the University of Birmingham and the Near East School of Theology in Beirut, accumulating a global perspective on life and doctrine. He has utilized his doctorate in Islamic history as a professor at the University of Ghana and the University of Aberdeen abroad, and Yale and Harvard stateside (where he is a naturalized citizen).

He was a co-editor of twenty books, several essays, and over two hundred journal articles. His notable works include, Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture, Abolitionists Abroad: American Blacks and the Making of Modern West Africa, Whose Religion is Christianity? The Gospel Beyond the West, Disciples of All Nations: Pillars of World Christianity, Beyond Jihad: Pacifist Impetus in Muslim West Africa and Beyond, and The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to World Christianity, co-edited with Michael McClymond.

Lamin was made Commandeur de l’Ordre National du Lion, Senegal’s highest honor. After his death from a stroke in 2019, Lamin’s work was recognized by the University of Ghana, which began the Lamin Sanneh Institute. The Institute exists to promote research about religion and society in Africa – particularly the Islam of Sannneh’s upbringing and the Christianity which he devoted his life to. Sanneh recounts the details of his life – his upbringing, conversion, scholarly pursuits, and family – in his 2012 memoir, Summoned from the Margin: Homecoming of An African. The margins are where Sanneh worked best, bringing a much-needed global perspective to the Western institutions where he was often called.

His daughter Sia remembered him as boundlessly curious: ““He always described himself as a thorn in the side of his teachers and imams and professors — he just had so many questions. He wasn’t from a place where you questioned doctrines and teachings.” This endless questioning is what led Sanneh to Christianity, and what leads the way in his enduring legacy. The Sanneh Institute continues Lamin’s important work of exploring Christianity and Islam in Africa.

Visit the Edmiston Center

Connect the Local and the Global