“Tell the Truth,” University of Bethlehem Students Exclaim

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The Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land, who sponsors numerous students at Bethlehem University through their University Sponsorship Program responds to students' cries.

FFHL Universtiy Scholarship Recipients

We are... struggling to live in our land where even freedom of movement is denied us.

Students attending Bethlehem University in the Holy Land hope that pilgrims from the United States and Europe will go home and “tell the truth” about conditions there. When a member of a group of Catholic bishops visiting the university recently asked, what the truth was, one of the students bravely spoke out.

"The truth,” he said, “is we are under occupation, struggling to live in our land where even freedom of movement is denied us.”

“The Israelis,” another student added, “paint us as terrorists, but we are Christians,” she added, referring to the fact that the Israeli government classifies all Palestinians the same whether Christian or Muslim.

Fr. Peter Vasko, President of the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land agrees that Palestinian rights are being denied. He said “Restrictions in travel, education and work have resulted in an accelerated exodus from the region. Christians, who made up 70 percent of Bethlehem’s population 50 years ago, now account for less than 8 percent.” The mission of the FFHL is to provide education to the young people in the area so that they can get good jobs and then they will stay.

Bethlehem University of the Holy Land is a co-educational Catholic institution founded in 1973 in the West Bank that the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land supports through their scholarships awarded to need based students that meet their criteria.

The university is the only Catholic university in the West Bank and was developed after Pope Paul VI visited the Holy Land in 1964. During that visit, Palestinian Christians expressed their desire for a university in their homeland. Approval for the institution came in 1972 despite the area falling under Israeli military occupation following the 1967 war.

Bethlehem itself, a city of 25,000, is literally hemmed in by Israeli settlements which continue to increase in number throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinian students are severely limited in their movement making it difficult and sometimes impossible for them to get to their classes and as Israeli occupation expands, more and more Christian businesses are shut down and more Palestinian Christian families leave the region.

Still, students and faculty alike at the university are optimistic about the future of Christians in the Holy Land. Fr. Vasko reinforces that the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land, through the generosity of their donors, will continue to provide educational opportunities that are the catalyst for these young people to get decent jobs. The Foundation also aids in subsidized housing and many other humanitarian programs that help make life more tolerable.

And thousands of pilgrims journeying to the Holy Land will carry the truth home with them and will hopefully share the truth about what is happening to their fellow Christians in the Holy Land and perhaps the freedoms of these Bethlehem students and their families will be restored.

To learn more visit us online at http://www.ffhl.org.

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