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Bethlehem University - an oasis of peace in troubled Holy Land, says NZ Vice-Chancellor


From: Catholic Religious Australia


Monday, 17 February 2014 08:55

In the birthplace of Jesus, in the heart of troubled Palestine, surrounded by checkpoints, roadblocks and the infamous West Bank barrier, or The Wall, sits an Oasis of Peace, in the form of Bethlehem University.

Bethlehem University, which was established in 1973 as a joint initiative of the De La Salle Brothers and The Vatican, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this academic year, and according to its Vice-Chancellor, the New Zealand-born Br Peter Bray FSC, it is a presence which is more needed today than ever.

“Our vision emerges from our unique and critical mission as an oasis of peace and a beacon of hope, which provides quality higher education to prepare our students to create the future of Palestine,” he said during a presentation at The Broken Bay Institute (BBI) during a visit to Australia last week.

Br Peter gave a brief outline of the obstacles faced by students at Bethlehem University, particularly the restriction of movement, thanks to various checkpoints, barriers, road trenches, road gates and the Israeli-built wall. In addition, a significant number of the university’s male students have been or are still detained in Israeli prisons, and many people in Palestine, both Muslims and Christians are prevented from practising their faith and worshipping at the place of their choice.

“So, in the midst of this religious context, in the midst of the oppression and restriction, Bethlehem University exists,” he said. “And visitors who come to our campus are often struck by the peaceful atmosphere they find there. It is an oasis of peace.”

Br Peter said the purpose of Bethlehem University was to serve the Palestinian people through education.
“The purpose is to raise to distinction the people of Palestine by providing a human and Christian education,” he said. “And I think that’s important. We do not just want to train them for jobs or whatever, but to raise them to distinction. And I think what we’re trying to do in all of that is that we want students to live life to the full.

“And I’m often asked, in Palestine, where only one per cent of the people are Christian, what’s a Catholic Christian University doing there? “And my response is if you go back to John 10:10, what was Jesus doing there anyhow? He said ‘I have come that they may have life and have it to the full’. And that’s what Bethlehem University is trying to do as well.

“And sometimes it’s difficult to know how best to do that, but in my experience, it’s very clear when that is not happening. And so what we are doing is working against things that are preventing that. So, as an educational institution, we’re working against prejudice, we’re working against fear, we’re working injustice, we’re working against isolation. We’re working against anything that is closing people off and preventing them from being the people they are capable of being.”

In his presentation, which was hosted by BBI, moderated by BBI’s CEO, Gerard Goldman, and facilitated and promoted through Cathnews, Br Peter said Bethlehem University, which has grown from 112 to over 3,000 students in its 40 years, was founded on truth, built on justice, nurtured by love.

“And I think what we are striving for in Palestine is peace with justice,” he said.

For more information visit

Watch Br Peter’s talk on the BBI website in full. 

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