Pathfinder is the foundational leadership program offered by The Philos Project. Consisting of five online courses and one in-person capstone retreat for qualified participants, Pathfinder covers topics ranging from religion to foreign policy to history. Participants will come away from this course with a nuanced view of pluralism in the Near East. Pathfinder is offered free of charge to all participants and is a prerequisite for the Philos Leadership Institute.


Course registration reopens spring 2022

Course Descriptions

  • Jews and Christians in the Bible, History, and Today explores the history of the Jewish people and their relationship with Christians from Biblical times to the present day. The course covers the covenantal relationship between God and the Jews in the context of the Old and New Testaments, as well as the role and experience of Jews in the history of Christianity. The final lecture touches on the practices and beliefs of Jews and Christians today. [taught by Dr. Gerald McDermott] 

  • The Religious and Political Ideas of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict aims to prepare Christian leaders for real-time engagement with Near Eastern issues. The course explores the ideological background of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and uses primary texts, as well as discussion of the different approaches, to explore the question of peace in the region. [taught by Robert Nicholson]

  • Introduction to Islam covers the history of Islam and the cultural and political context of its birth. The course surveys the basic teachings and tenets of Islam, as well as the historical, cultural, and theological interplay between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Fernandez proposes a solution on how Christians, Jews, and Western countries should engage with Muslims and the Muslim world today. [taught by Alberto Fernandez]

  • U.S. Foreign Policy in the Near East covers a brief history of U.S. foreign policy in the Near East, an area of historic conflict with varying levels of U.S. involvement in recent decades. The course also outlines the current scope of U.S. foreign policy in the region, and a presentation of Christian Realism as an approach to Near East foreign policy. [taught by Walter Russell Mead]

  • Christian Communities of the Near East outlines the history of various Christian denominations of the Near East and how they came to be. The course explores the key differences between Eastern and Western Christianity, how to foster improved relations between the two, and the role Christians play in the Near East today. [taught by Dr. Steve Cochrane]


    5 Courses

    5 Professors

    2 Months


    How long will it take me to complete each Pathfinder course?

    Each mini course includes 3 hours of lectures, a discussion board, supplemental readings, and a knowledge check quiz. Each course will take about 4.5 hours to complete.

    Who is eligible to take Pathfinder courses?

    Anyone is eligible to participate in the Pathfinder program. These courses, taught by renowned experts in the field, are free and accessible to anyone who wants to begin their journey on the path of discovery towards the Near East.

    How will applicants be selected for the in-person capstone course/retreat?

    Those between the ages of 20-35 who complete all of the Pathfinder course work are eligible to apply for the in-person capstone course led by Robert Nicholson and other Philos staff members.  

    How long will the Pathfinder courses be available to take?

    The courses open on August 16th and remain open until October 16th. Applications for the in-person capstone are due on October 17th. Participants will have two months to complete the content.

    How is Pathfinder connected to other Philos Leadership programs?

    Pathfinder is the foundational leadership program of The Philos Project and the first step towards qualification for further study. It is a set of courses that provide students with invaluable knowledge about their faith, the Near East, and leadership. Only after completing Pathfinder and attending the capstone retreat will participants be eligible for the Philos Leadership Institute (PLI). PLI allows participants to explore what they have learned on the ground in Israel!

    Why should I take the Pathfinder courses?

    The courses provide a unique (and completely free) opportunity to learn from experts about issues relevant to not just those interested in the Near East but anyone who seeks to grow in the area of Christian leadership. They also provide a gateway into a program for those seriously interested in Christian leadership and advocacy to be educated, equipped, and trained to eventually take on boots-on-the-ground advocacy projects in regions around the world.  


    "Without Philos, the work I do now never would have been part of my story" | Peter Burns, PLI '17

    "Be open to having every preconceived notion you had challenged" | Frank Schembari, PLI '19

    "Your soul is going to be on fire"

    | Kelsie Wendelberger, PLI '15

    Meet Your Professors

    Alberto Fernandez

    Alberto Fernandez

    Alberto M. Fernandez (@AlbertoMiguelF5) is Vice President of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a position he held from 2015 to 2017. He previously served as President of Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN), a US-funded Arabic-language news organization, from 2017 to 2020.  Prior to joining MEMRI, Ambassador Fernandez was a Foreign Service Officer from 1983 to 2015 and served as the State Department’s Coordinator for the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications from 2012 to 2015. He also served as U.S. Ambassador to Equatorial Guinea and U.S. Charge d’Affaires to Sudan. He held senior public diplomacy positions at the U.S. embassies in Afghanistan, Jordan, Syria, Guatemala, Kuwait, and in the Department’s Near East Affairs (NEA) Bureau. He speaks fluent Spanish and Arabic in addition to English.

    Dr. Steve Cochrane

    Dr. Steve Cochrane

    Steve Cochrane has a PhD in the History of Christian-Muslim relations from the University of Middlesex in the UK. He has been teaching and involved in inter-faith relations in Asia, particularly India, for the past 40 years, working with Youth With A Mission (YWAM). His particular area of interest is the 9th century in Asia, and the networks across Asia at that time including the Near East. He is a lecturer with the University of the Nations (Hawaii, USA) and is based half the year in Asia and half the year in the United States. Steve has written three books and eleven articles particularly on Christian history in Asia. 

    Dr. Gerald McDermott

    Dr. Gerald McDermott

    Gerald McDermott is an Anglican priest and the recently retired chair of Anglican divinity at Beeson Divinity School. He is the author, co-author, or editor of 23 books.

    Three of those have been on the theology of Israel: Israel Matters, The New Christian Zionism, and Understanding the Jewish Roots of Christianity. He and his wife Jean have three grown sons and twelve grandchildren.

    Walter Russell Mead

    Walter Russell Mead

    Walter Russell Mead is the Ravenel B. Curry III Distinguished Fellow in Strategy and Statesmanship at Hudson Institute, the Global View Columnist at The Wall Street Journal and the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College in New York. He is also a member of Aspen Institute Italy and board member of Aspenia. Before joining Hudson, Mead was a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations as the Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy. He has authored numerous books, including the widely-recognized Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World(Alfred A. Knopf, 2004). Mead’s next book is entitled The Arc of A Covenant: The United States, Israel, and the Future of the Jewish People.

    Robert Nicholson

    Robert Nicholson

    Robert Nicholson is President and Executive Director of The Philos Project. He holds a BA in Hebrew Studies from Binghamton University, and a JD and MA in Middle Eastern​ history from Syracuse University. A former U.S. Marine and a 2012-13 Tikvah Fellow, Robert founded Philos in 2014 to stimulate a new generation of religious and cultural exchange between the Near East and the West. Robert serves on the Board of Directors of Passages and the advisory board of In Defense of Christians. His written work has appeared in the Wall Street JournalNew York PostJerusalem PostNewsweekProvidenceFirst ThingsThe Hill, and The American Interest.

    More questions about Pathfinder?

    Please Contact: Shannon Walsh, [email protected]
    Research & Education Associate Director