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November 12, 2010

Bethlehem University Receives Solidarity Award

(adapted from the original article by Elizabeth Moors Jodice, Christian Brothers Conference, Communications Specialist:
November 12, 2010

SolidarityRight: Father Drew Christiansen (left), Editor-in-Chief of America magazine and HCEF Co-Founder, and HCEF President Rateb Rabie, KCHS (right) presented the Living Stones Solidarity Award to Brother Peter Bray (center), Vice Chancellor of Bethlehem University. Photo: Hussam Hammoud, Otion Creative

In the presence of members of the Board of Directors of the Bethlehem University Foundation, Elias and Annette Aburdene and Dr. Samir Abu-Ghazaleh, the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, Inc. (HCEF) presented Bethlehem University with the 2010 Living Stones Solidarity Award on November 5 at the Bethesda Marriott in Maryland, USA.

The award honors Bethlehem University for its commitment to improving the lives of Christians in the Holy Land through education, advocacy and solidarity, particularly its emphasis on excellence in academic programs and the development of students. The award also commends Bethlehem University for its commitment to preparing students to assume leadership positions in society.

Bethlehem University Vice Chancellor Brother Peter Bray called the award a recognition of how the
University has loved, supported, and stood in solidarity with Christians in Palestine for 37 years. "I think if you take a look at the present situation in a country where less than two percent are Christian, Bethlehem University has 30 percent of its student population as Christian," he said.

SolidarityRight: Bertlanty Azzam
Graduate of the Class of 2010
Bethlehem University

The award also highlights Bethlehem University's leadership in speaking out for the rights of others. HCEF cited the case involving Berlanty Azzam, a student who was detained, handcuffed, and blindfolded by the Israeli military in 2009. It happened as she tried to return to Bethlehem from Ramallah because the address on her ID was listed in Gaza. Although she was not permitted to return to Bethlehem University for her final two months of studies needed to graduate, Bethlehem University helped her complete her degree from Gaza.

Berlanty shared her story as she participated in a panel as part of HCEF's 12th International Conference at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. in conjunction with the awards banquet. It focused on promoting peace and security in the Holy Land and featured several presentations with Bethlehem University involvement. The panel that included Berlanty focused on ending violence. After she shared her story, Berlanty challenged audience members to ask themselves what they would do if their daughter was blindfolded and handcuffed and they didn't know where she was.

SolidarityRight: Brother Jack Curran
Vice President for Development
Bethlehem University

Brother Jack Curran, Bethlehem University Vice President of Development, called Berlanty a typical student whose experience with injustice changed her life dramatically. "She puts a very human face on a complex political issue that says, it's not all about politics, it's about real human beings," he said.

Brother Jack moderated a panel on interfaith dialogue by Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders, which promoted religions working together and encouraged attendees to respect the beliefs of others. Fr. Drew Christiansen, S.J. of America Magazine, Rabbi Gerald Serotta of Clergy Beyond Borders and Imam Yahya Hendi of Georgetown University discussed ways in which religious leaders can play a significant role in fostering peace in the Middle East. Brother Jack hopes the discussion will encourage people to think beyond their natural comfort zones.

SolidarityRight: Rev. Jamal Daibes
Dean of Arts
Bethlehem University

Father Jamal Diabes, Bethlehem University’s Dean of Arts, was keynote speaker on a panel to speak about the recently published Palestinian Christian Kairos document entitled: “A Moment of Truth: A Word of Faith, Hope, and Love from the Heart of Palestinian Suffering.”  

Father Jamal is one of the authors of this prophetic call to end violence in the Holy Land. He spoke about its primary focus being a call to Palestinian Christians and also an invitation to Christians worldwide, with a particular focus on a call to end injustice and occupation and to advance nonviolence. The document challenges people of good will everywhere to a new moral purpose concerning the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

SolidarityRight: Hashim Hani Shawa
Board of Trustees
Bethlehem University

An Investment Forum for business leaders interested in exploring new business opportunities in Palestine for improving the lives of the people was also held during the conference. Among the participants were: Hashim Hani Shawa, Chairman of the Bank of Palestine and member of the Bethlehem University

Board of Trustees, Faris Hadad-Zervos of the World Bank, Youssef Habesch of the International Finance Corporation, Dr. Samir Hazboun, Chairman of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Howard Sumka, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Middle East, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Mr. Ammar Acker, CEO of the Paltel Group, Mr. Ziad Anabtawi, CEO of the Anabtawi Group, and Eng.  Muneif Treish, General Manager, Al Reehan Real Estate Investment Company.


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