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20 July, 2011

Bethlehem University Officials, Graduates, Faculty and Students Attend “Christians in the Holy Land Conference” at Lambeth Palace, UK

Lambeth PalacePhotos taken from Catholic Westminster at Flickr

London, UK - On July 18th-19th, representatives from Bethlehem University had the honor of attending and participating in the “Christians in the Holy Land Conference,” jointly hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, and the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, held at Lambeth Palace.

The Conference examined the difficult living situation that Holy Land Christians face and explored ways to alleviate the hardships there. Attending from Bethlehem were Brother Jack Curran, Vice President for Development of Bethlehem University, Mr. Zoughby Zoughby ’85, Director of Wi’am Conflict Resolution Center, Ms. Raphaela Fischer – Mourra '07, English Instructor, student Lubna Alzaroo ’12, and graduate Jacob Sleibi ’11.

The welcoming statement was given by Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Williams, who stressed that

Lambeth Palace"The rate of emigration from Christian populations in the Holy Land has been growing steadily for a long time," a fact bemoaned by many Holy Land clergy and residents. I want to say to Christians in the Holy Land that we treasure enormously their presence and witness. A witness which has gone on throughout Christian history...often in conditions of great trial and stress...Christians in the West...need to be aware that the Christians of the Holy Land are an intrinsic part of our Christian family.”

Lambeth PalaceResearch conducted in 2006 by Zogby International in cooperation with the Bethlehem 2000 project, found that only 3% of North Americans surveyed are aware that a majority Christian population exists in Bethlehem. For a copy of the research, click here. Brother Jack Curran clearly knows how much work needs to be done and went to the conference, along with other representatives of the University, prepared to make an impact. Br. Jack is very active in promoting the cause of the people of Palestine, having devoted copious amounts of time and effort in raising awareness of Westerners to the situation of Palestinians, from matching local students with Western institutions for cultural exchanges to hosting numerous pilgrimage fact finding groups, such as the HCEF Living Stones tour groups, which frequently include visits to Bethlehem University as part of their itineraries.

Lambeth PalaceAfter an introduction by Archbishop Vincent Nichols, His Beatitude Patriach Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and former President of Bethlehem University, expressed his appreciation for the focus of the conference while emphasizing that

“The International Community does not simply have a role to play but a responsibility and self-interest, based on: the way in which this conflict is used and perpetuated by a variety of outside powers and interests, the universal nature of Jerusalem as a sacred city to billions of Jews, Christians and Muslims from around the world, and the way in which this conflict reverberates throughout the region and beyond.”

The Reverend Suheil S. Dawani, Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East, whose own daughter, Tala Diwani ’11*, is a recent graduate of Bethlehem University’s MICAD (Master’s of International Cooperation and Development) program, stated

“The time is long overdue to rid ourselves of the negative agendas of exclusivity and self-righteousness. The time has come for the people of Jerusalem and the Holy Land to embrace a new future built on the solid foundation of faith that pilgrims, throughout the centuries, have come to discover. It is time for all of us to embrace this faith once again and dream such dreams for ourselves.”

Student Lubna Alzaroo ’12, born during the first Intifada (the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation, which began in 1987), in Bethlehem, was invited to give a talk to the many distinguished guests. She spoke about her native city, Hebron, which contains virtually no Christians and how she only became aware of their presence in Palestine at the age of 8, when she began to ask herself many questions about her fellow Palestinians, who are Christian.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran (Representative of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, President, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue), captured the thought of many Holy Land Christians when he said

"Those communities have been built on the faith of the apostles. They are apostolic communities in the deepest sense of the word. Their practice comes through the faith of the apostles; this is their identity.... Arab Christians are a gift to the societies because they bring cultural openness, a sense of the dignity of the human person and particularly of women; a conception of freedom which harmonizes rights and privileges and a conception of political society which can lead to democracy."

* Permission to include name granted

  • For full coverage from the Diocese of Westminster, click here. For short bio's of the listed speakers, along with transcripts and audio, click here.
  • To listen to and read a Vatican Radio interview with French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, click here.
  • To read an article on the event from America magazine, click here.
  • For an article written for the National Catholic Reporter, click here.
  • For a video Jacob Sleibi's '11 speech, click here. For a transcript, 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