The Department of Religious Studies offers a Bachelor Degree in Religious Studies that concentrates on the study of Christianity from a Catholic and ecumenical point of view. It seeks to meet the spiritual and academic needs of all its students, and promotes the study of religion at university level. The program aims at promoting an appreciation of the religious culture of the Holy Land in an ecumenical and interfaith atmosphere. The language of instruction is Arabic, with English as a second language. Living in the Holy land is a challenge by itself where different Churches meet and where different religions are present. The mission of the department is to prepare future catechists who are ready to make a change in their lives, families and groups they serve. all this is done in the light of the numerous holy places that empower the students’ academic and spiritual formation.
The curriculum of the Department includes courses on the Bible, dogmatic theology, ethics, history of the church, the Holy Land, catechetics, and more. The curriculum concentrates on the study of Christianity from a Catholic and ecumenical point of view. It seeks to meet not only the academic needs of its students, but also their spiritual needs. Being Christian in the Holy Land means to appreciate the mosaic OF diversity within the church and among other religions, this appreciation paves the way to a constructive ecumenical and interfaith dialogue.
The Department contributes in a special way to the mission of Bethlehem University by preparing qualified graduates to teach Catechism, to participate in the mission of the local church, to be positive members of the church and society and to be qualified to continue higher education. By limiting enrollment and having smaller class sizes, the learning process is personalized and formative. Besides the academic goals, the department offers ecclesiastical, ecumenical, and personal formation for its students. Several activities accompany the academic formation to make learning a more enjoyable journey.
The overall aims and objectives of the program is to:
- Prepare the students to be qualified catechists.
- Prepare the graduates to work with the church and its organizations.
- Meet the spiritual and religious needs of the students.
- Understand and appreciate the history of the Church in the Holy Land.
- To know and understand their religious identity in a multi-religious society.
- Know the different religious archeological sites the Holy Land.
- Appreciate the religious culture in the Holy Land in an atmosphere of openness towards others in an ecumenical way.
- To be able to create and use educational methods (posters, photos, worksheet, movies…).
- To enable students to develop independent critical thinking.
- To provide a basis for research which is appropriate to the field.
- To offer students a knowledge and appreciation of the contextual approaches to the different theological fields.
- To encourage in students a sense of enthusiasm for the subjects studied.
The Department began to recruit students, both lay and religious in 1998 in order to offer them a unique opportunity, not only to obtain a Bachelor degree in Religious Studies, but to be qualified teacher of Christian religious education, to work in the different churches and community institutions that are related to the students’ studies, and to continue their higher education. During four years of study the faculty works on the formation of the knowledge, skills, personality, and spirituality of the students, so that when they graduate they will be able to enter the community and start their professional life. In order to do so the RELS department has set the goals that will achieve the desired outcomes of the RELS graduates. The Religious Studies Department at Bethlehem University is the only department in Palestine that offers this degree.
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