The Bethlehem Institute of Peace and Justice is a program of Bethlehem Bible College which has been serving the Palestinian community for more than forty years. In 1979 Bishara Awad, who had recently returned to Bethlehem from the United States, saw that many young Christian Palestinians were moving abroad to continue their theological education. To respond to this need, with little more resources than faith, and with leaders from different Christian traditions including Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, and Evangelical, Bethlehem Bible College was founded with nine students in its evening programs.
Throughout its forty-year history, Bethlehem Bible College has served the local community, both Christian and Muslim, in its various programs. This has been in spite of the restrictions on travel by military checkpoints in Bethlehem and the West Bank and the upheaval of the two Intifadas, or Uprisings. Today, the infamous wall — in view from the college — is a constant reminder of the conflict in the context of which people must carry on with their daily lives.
In the midst of this conflict, BBC has been a voice calling for peace and justice for all the people in the Holy Land. It has brought to its campus Muslim and Jewish scholars to help build bridges for peace. It has been the dream of Bethlehem Bible College to found a peace and justice studies program that will serve not just the Palestinian community but peoples from all nations. As Bishara Awad says, “It is only right that from the city of the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, we sow seeds of peace throughout all the world. During its over forty-year history, Bethlehem Bible College has been dedicated to advancing the reasonableness of peace, and the security that is found in reconciliation. Having worked on the frontlines of conflict as peacemakers, it is our conviction that when it seems that peace is most beyond reach, it is time to redouble efforts in working for peace and justice for all in the Holy Land. This is such a time, as peace seems more beyond reach than ever, and the ensuing despair is gripping Palestinian society ever more intensely.”
Accordingly, Bethlehem Bible College is launching the Bethlehem Institute of Peace and Justice which will promote interdisciplinary research and the study of peace and justice in the context of the Palestinian experience, as well as training in practical skills of conflict resolution, interfaith dialogue, and trauma recovery. These efforts will be based on Christian and biblical principles and informed by the Fatherhood of God and God’s love for all peoples.
The goal of the Bethlehem Institute of Peace and Justice (BIPJ) is to equip local and international peacemakers to be a part of preventing, mitigating, and transforming conflict and establishing sustainable peace and justice in Palestine, Israel, and throughout the world. The Institute will provide an opportunity for Palestinian Christian scholars to share more widely the insights they have gained from decades of living with intense conflict, as well as bring to the Palestinian community the insights of international scholars and peacemakers. Further, through its local programs in leadership development, the arts for youth, lecture series, and training workshops, the Institute actively supports the Palestinian community.