Two Bethlehem University faculty were detained for questioning on their way to participate in an interfaith conference with Pope Benedict XVI Tuesday, university officials said.
According to BU the two men were held and then denied entry to Jerusalem by Israeli authorities. The delegates were faculty members at the university, university alumni and Bethlehem-area natives. The reasons for their denial were not explained.
“Unfortunately” the university commented, “this experience is common for our students, faculty and staff, many of whom navigate a maze of checkpoints, soldiers and other structures of military occupation simply to be present on campus.”
Despite its diminished delegation at the conference Bethlehem University got special mention by the pope. Praising local efforts at interfaith dialogue, Benedict noted BU’s “outstanding achievements” as examples of the “belief that our duty before God is expressed not only in our worship but also in our love and concern for society…and for all who live in this land.”
In a statement recording the pope’s special mention, BU noted its efforts at maintaining its “unique blend of Catholic identity and religious inclusivity” is the product of the administration’s “special focus on inter-religious initiatives.”
Highlighting its interreligious spirit, BU staff noted that the pope will receive an Arabic calligraphy piece containing the Gospel of Luke by local Muslim calligrapher Yasser Abu Saymeh, a teacher at BU.
Earlier in the day two Palestinian Authority officials were detained by Israeli forces on their way to the Al-Aqsa Mosque where they were to greet the pope during his historic visit to the holy site.