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25 February, 2011

UN Under Secretary General - Wilfried Lemke Visits Bethlehem University

Wilfried LemkeOn Friday, February 11th, Mr. Wilfried Lemke – Under Secretary General and Special Advisor to the Secretary General on Sport for Development and Peace and Mr. Antoine Tardy – Programme Officer for Advocacy and Communications paid a visit to Bethlehem University, where they were welcomed by Ms. Samar Al Araj – Athletic Director and founder of the Palestinian Women’s Football team and Honey Thaljieh - Bethlehem University graduate and current Captain of the Palestinian Women’s Football team. They represent the United Nations Office of Sport for Development and Peace with a mandate to represent the UN in the world of sport and advocating for governments to encourage more sports activities as well as assisting in project development and funding.

Mr. Lemke feels that it is natural for the UN to be involved in sport because it can be a forum for establishing and furthering relationships. He says that no matter what the nationalities or religions of players, the ball and game become a unifying factor and those differences become forgotten. “Sport has been recognized as a viable and practical tool to assist in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals,” according to the UN website and can help to play a role in addressing each of the 8 goals. One of those goals, reducing child mortality, is enhanced by sport because the department addresses people with disabilities and their right to practice sport and thus helps to increase society’s acceptance of children born with disabilities.

Other priority areas, according to Mr. Lemke, in Palestine are addressing gender. Honey Thaljieh, who had the opportunity to travel with her team to Germany for training, is involved with the program because Palestinian sportswomen are working hard towards full acceptance as athletes in Palestine. Recently undergoing a knee operation, with which Mr. Lemke helped arrange, she is appreciative of Mr. Lemke’s efforts to support her team. She notes how he supplied new Puma soccer shoes for her entire team, no small matter to women who run long distances. Prior to visiting Bethlehem University, the special enjoy also watched the inaugural match of the Palestinian Women’s Football League at the Faisal Al-Husseini Stadium in Al-Ram, West Bank, where the two teams, Sareiat YMCA Ramallah and Deyara Bethlehem, played in front of a huge audience, the UN envoy, the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and other officials. Mr. Lemke also met with President Abbas during the five day special mission to the area.


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