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January 22, 2010

Bethlehem University Visitors Find Signs of Hope

Signs of hopeFather Luke McNamara wanted to see how people live in Bethlehem. Not content with the limited view of a tourist in the streets, he visited Bethlehem University in a group led by Father Paul Nord, he said, to see the “different levels of the community” present at a university. A university, he said, “reflects what people hope for the future.”

An Irish priest studying in Jerusalem, Father Luke was one of the 15 priests from around the world who visited Bethlehem University on Monday, 11 January 2010. The priests are each spending one semester studying in Jerusalem before returning to the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, explained Father Paul. Wanting to also visit a university in the West Bank, Father Paul chose Bethlehem University because it “has a good reputation” and because two of the Jesuits he studies with are teachers at the University.

Father Paul visited Bethlehem University with no preconceived notions, he said. But being at the University helped him learn about the many people and institutions trying to build a future for Palestinians.

Knowing that the University is a Vatican-sponsored institution, Father Luke expected an all-Christian student body as well. The mixed Christian-Muslim campus he witnessed instead was “a positive aspect of the university.”  For him, the visit also helped counter the model of Palestinians he is used to seeing in popular culture. “The image we always have is negative,” said Father Luke. “You, Palestinians, are challenging the circumstances and overcoming them.”

Bethlehem’s problems with poverty and unemployment reminded him of Limerick, his hometown, he said, but the people in Bethlehem seemed happier.  Though he could not understand the language, Father Luke explained, he felt it in the atmosphere, and it gave him hope for Limerick’s future.


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