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Bethlehem University Receives Solidarity Award

HCEF award
Photo: Hussam Hammoud, Otion Creative
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 Bro. Peter Bray (center).

The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, Inc. (HCEF) presented Bethlehem University (BU) with the 2010 Living Stones Solidarity Award on November 5 at the Bethesda Marriott in MD. The award honors BU 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 BU for its commitment to preparing students to assume leadership positions in society.

BU Vice Chancellor Bro. 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.

The award also highlights BU’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 BU for her final two months of studies needed to graduate, Bethlehem University helped her complete her degree from Gaza.

BerlantyBerlanty 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 BU 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.

Bro. Jack Curran, BU 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.

Bro Jack
Bro. Jack Curran

Bro. 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. Bro. Jack hopes the discussion will encourage people to think beyond their natural comfort zones.
jamalOthers associated with BU also participated in presentations, including Bro. Peter; Rev. Jamal Daibes, BU Dean of Arts; and BU board of trustees member Hashim Hani Shawa, General Manager and Board Chair of the Bank of Palestine.

Rev. Jamal Daibes


Read more of Berlanty’s story and about life in Gaza in the next issue of De La Salle Today.