Dr. Lamin Sanneh, legendary figure in religious thought and civil rights, has died at 76

It is with great sadness that we have learned of the passing of Dr. Lamin Sanneh. He was a dear friend of The Media Project and the McCandlish Philips Journalism Institute

"Lamin Sanneh was an accomplished and courageous scholar and an even greater friend,” said Roberta Ahmanson, Chairwoman of The Media Project and board member to the Center for Early African Christianity. "His work on global Christianity and Islam and their interaction is second to none."

Born in The Gambia, Sanneh descended from an ancient African royal family and was a naturalized U.S. citizen who was educated on four continents. He earned degrees in history and Islamic studies and taught in several universities, including the University of Ghana, the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and at Harvard, before coming to Yale in 1989. 

“It is difficult to find words that can express the profound loss that we feel with the passing of our friend and colleague.” said Michael Glerup, Executive Director of the Center for Early African Christianity. “Lamin Sanneh’s firm trust that God was renewing and transforming creation compelled him to work for a better future, which he did until his last days. He is a model to us all of a life well-lived.”

Sanneh was a life member of Clare Hall, Cambridge University and an Honorary Research Professor at the School of Oriental & African Studies in the University of London. He was awarded honorary doctorates from the University of Edinburgh and Liverpool Hope University. He served several times as chair of Yale’s Council on African Studies. He was an editor-at-large of the ecumenical weekly The Christian Century and a contributing editor of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research, and served on the editorial boards of several academic journals and encyclopedias. 

"Lamin Sanneh was a world class scholar who, among his many accomplishments, broke new ground in understanding Christianity and Islam in Africa. He was also always a gracious man and a wonderful friend,” said Paul Marshall, a board member of The Media Project.

For his academic work, Sanneh was made Commandeur de l’Ordre National du Lion, Senegal’s highest national honor. He was appointed by Saint Pope John Paul II to serve on the Pontifical Commission of the Historical Sciences at the Vatican and by Pope Benedict XVI to the Pontifical Commission on Religious Relations with Muslims. 

He was also the author of over 200 articles in scholarly journals,more than a dozen books on Islam and Christianity and editor of the multi-volume Oxford Studies in World Christianity series. 

"His books Summoned from the Margin and Beyond Jihad are milestones and his unflagging work at Yale and for the Center for Early African Christianity opened new frontiers at Yale and across Africa. The Gambia has no finer son. Memory eternal,” said Ahmanson. 

Last year, a new institute was created in his name — the Sanneh Institute — at the University of Ghana. 

He is survived by his wife Sandra, daughter Sia, and their son Kelefa, a writer at The New Yorker.