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January 4, 2010

NILI Members Discuss Hope and Interreligious Harmony with BU Students and Faculty

NILI Members of the US National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI) visited Bethlehem University on Tuesday, 22 December 2009. They came to talk about hope – the hope students and faculty have for a better future and the things they do to make that hope a reality.

 “Since its founding in 1973, the faculty, staff and administrators of the Vatican-sponsored Bethlehem University have worked to promote dialogue, justice and peace,” said Brother Robert Smith, Vice President for Academic Affairs. For example, the required Religious Studies course that is co-taught by Christian and Muslim instructors and addresses the three monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, is one of the way by which the academic curriculum engages issues of interreligious dialogue and enhances understanding among our students.

Also, the curriculum addresses a number of issues concerning justice and peace.  For example, there is a required course in human rights and democratization that was initiated some years ago through a curriculum review process and is being taught by Mr. Walid Atallah and Mr. Elias Hazin.

Additionally, Father Jamal Khader, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, is leading an effort to establish an interdisciplinary summer academic program that is designed to explore themes of human rights and religious doctrine.

NILIIn the past, said Dr. Sayyid Syeed, delegation member and National Director of the Islamic Society of North America, many Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together here in peace and according to their own faith traditions. NILI’s hope is to make that vision a reality once again.

The NILI group, which includes representatives from three Abrahamic faiths, has been working to find common ground among political leaders in the United States concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and to support these political leaders in the United States who are willing to move forward in realizing justice and peace in the Holy Land, explained delegation leader Ronald Young.

Acknowledging that optimism is hard to maintain, Rabbi Paul Menitoff Executive Vice President Emeritus , Central Conference of American Rabbis still believes that peace will come. What worries him, though, is “how many Israelis and Palestinians are going to die before peace comes to this land?” So NILI tries to harness the persuasive powers of religion to find peace with the least loss.

Despite the gravity of their mission, the group’s dedication to building interfaith harmony can lead to amusing places. An Indian newspaper article once said that “Jesus and Moses were born in a Muslim family.” It was talking about the names Dr. Sayyid gave his identical twins.

Following their trip, the delegation issued a statement describing the opinions they heard on the ground and asserting “the urgency of US leadership in 2010” for Middle East peace negotiations.

For more pictures click here


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