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Bethlehem University Hosts Legacy Dinner in DC


From: Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Human Rights

WRMEA, January/February, 2015, pp. 52

Omar Faqih of the PLO (l) and Br. Peter Bray celebrate Bethlehem University.

Friends and benefactors of Bethlehem University gathered at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, DC on Nov. 2 for a dinner in celebration of the university. Proceeds from the evening helped fund the university’s library renovation project.

The $3.8 million library project is part of a comprehensive plan to improve the school’s facilities over the coming decades. Thus far, about $2 million has been raised for the library. Once complete, the renovated library will feature a rooftop café, a quiet study area, Wi-Fi and other technological enhancements.

Brother Peter Bray, FSC, vice chancellor of Bethlehem University, opened the evening by noting that operating a university in occupied territory poses many challenges. For instance, he noted that students from Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank often have difficulty reaching campus due to checkpoints and other so-called Israeli “security measures.”

That being said, Brother Bray chose not to dwell on the negative, and devoted the majority of his talk to discussing Bethlehem University’s uplifting mission. Founded in 1973 by the Vatican and the De La Salle Christian Brothers, the university is devoted to enhancing the lives of Palestinians, he said: “We want to raise to distinction these young people that we have.”

Bethlehem University is an unashamedly Christian school in a Muslim-majority country, Brother Bray said. This, however, does not mean that the school forces its student population to accept Catholic theology. Rather, he explained, it means the school cares for the well-being of all its students. “Our goal is to bring life in all its fullness to the young people entrusted to us, be they Muslim, Christian or of no faith,” he said. “We want to create an environment where people know they are safe, where they know people really care about them.”

Academically, he said, the school develops its offerings based on the needs of Palestine. One such need is improving the country’s tourism industry, Bray noted, which is why the school has a program that trains students in the art of hospitality.

Concluding his remarks, Bray said he is convinced Bethlehem University is making a real difference. “I’ve never been in a place where it’s so obvious that what we are doing is worthwhile,” he commented.

Later in the evening, Fr. Larry Snyder, president and CEO of Catholic Charities, received the Bethlehem University Medallion in recognition of his years of service as a priest and his support for Bethlehem University. Father Snyder reminded those in attendance that Pope Francis has described the Church as a “field hospital,” and encouraged everyone to be agents of hope and healing.

Omar Faqih, counselor of the General Delegation of the PLO to the United States, offered some remarks as well. He commended Bethlehem University for making great contributions to Palestinian society and for playing a vital role in helping build state institutions.

—Dale Sprusansky

Bethlehem University Foundation
Phone: +1-240-241-4381
Fax: +1-240-553-7691
Beltsville, MD USA
Bethlehem University in the Holy Land
Phone: +972-2-274-1241
Fax: +972-2-274-4440
Bethlehem, Palestine