The vice-chancellor of the only Catholic university in the Holy Land has been awarded an honorary doctorate from Australian Catholic University.
Br Peter Bray, a De La Salle Brother originally from Taranaki, New Zealand, has received the Doctor of the University (Honouris Causa) on Friday for embracing the values and principals of education in the Catholic tradition and for significant contributions to education and educational administration in Australia and overseas.
Br Bray became the eighth vice-chancellor of Bethlehem University in late 2008. During his 15-year tenure as vice-chancellor, he has committed to making the university an “oasis of peace” for young Palestinians.
Established in 1973 as a joint venture between the Vatican and the De La Salle Brothers, Bethlehem University is the first registered university founded in the West Bank, and the only Catholic university in the Holy Land.
Whilst less than 1 per cent of Palestine’s population is Christian, the university is committed to providing quality higher education for the people of Palestine, including the 20 per cent of students who are Christian.
When asked about the personal experiences and challenges his students face, Br Bray speaks of a male student who came to him after his home, located in the West Bank, was demolished for a second time.
“And he said: they can take my house, they can take my land, they can take my freedom, but they can’t take my education,” Br Bray said.
“I’m particularly aware of the suffering that our students are experiencing in just existing, so I really admire the fact that their resistance is expressed in a nonviolent way by just getting on and doing the ordinary things.”
Br Bray accepted the honorary doctorate from ACU on behalf of his inspirational students.
“By ACU recognising Bethlehem University through me is showing the young people of Bethlehem University that they are not forgotten, and that is a really important part of helping to keep hope alive,” Br Bray said.