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22 October, 2012

Friends of Bethlehem University in Ireland examine the struggles in occupied Palestine

Visit includes meeting with the President of Ireland

Fr. Jamal, Br. PeterOn 19 October, more than 2,500 miles away from Bethlehem, people gathered in an auditorium at University College Dublin in Ireland to learn more about the occupation of Palestine and the role of Bethlehem University in the Palestinian society.

Hosted by Friends of Bethlehem University in Ireland, the discussion featured guest speakers Brother Peter Bray, Vice Chancellor of Bethlehem University, and Father Jamal Khader, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Chair of Religious Studies at Bethlehem University. 

Father Jamal focused on the world-renowned Kairos Palestine document (2009), of which he is a co-author. Kairos Palestine serves as the Christian Palestinians’ word to the world about what is happening in Palestine. It declares that the military occupation of Palestine is a sin against God and humanity, and it calls upon the international community to stand by the Palestinian people who have faced oppression, displacement, suffering, and clear apartheid for more than six decades. The discussion in Dublin explored the powerful peace propositions brought forth in Kairos Palestine, and heard the views from Bethlehem University, the first Catholic university in the Holy Land.

Brother Peter and Father Jamal described the struggles experienced by Palestinian students attempting to advance their education in a hostile environment. A Q&A session engaged the Irish audience to discuss ways in which they could show solidarity with their academic counterparts under siege.

Claire Gleeson, a current student in the Masters in International Conflict and Media at UCD, said after the discussion, "We spend a lot of time looking at Israel and Palestine in my course… sometimes we spend so long looking at the conflict and the suffering that we forget the people behind it. I got a (rare enough) glimpse into the extra-ordinariness of Bethlehem University pupils and yet, more importantly, their ordinariness and humanity."

President Higgins
The President of Ireland, Michael Higgins (second from left), meets with
Father Jamal Khader (far left), Brother Peter Bray (second from right),
and Professor John Kelly (far right).

The discussion was coordinated and hosted by Professor John Kelly of University College Dublin, a longtime advocate for Palestine and friend of Bethlehem University. The Irish public has demonstrated a tremendous curiosity and empathy for Palestine, and the text of the Kairos Palestine document presents a powerful statement from which to conceive a broader awareness of and support for students struggling to transcend their battle-scarred, native origins. Perhaps because of their own difficult history of centuries of occupation including formal educational privations, the Irish understand that education is both a basic birthright and also the fundament by which people develop intellectually and prosper.

The Friends of Bethlehem University in Ireland (FBUI) have established this Foundation, which will annually offer a small number of sponsored scholarships to enable academic or administrative staff in Bethlehem University visit an Irish university in order to establish academic links in education, research and/or student exchange.

The FBUI is a Registered Charity in Ireland, (CHY 6868) and is authorized as an "eligible charity" for the purposes of Section 45 of the Finance Act, 2001’s provision of Tax Rebates on donations of €250.00 and over.


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