Within the scope of encouraging and supporting private education in Lebanon, a delegation of officials from the Evangelical Baptist community around the world, chaired by Dr. Elijah Brown, General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) visited Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU). The delegation included Vice-President of the Baptist Alliance in the Middle East, Dr. Lina Raad, Vice-President of the Evangelical Baptist Churches Congregation, Rev. Joseph Al- Kazzi, and the General Secretary of the Association of Evangelical Schools in Lebanon and CEO of Lebanese Society for Education and Social Development (LSESD), Dr. Nabil Costa.
Attending the meeting from NDU were the President, Fr. Bechara Khoury, Vice-President for Academic Affairs (VPAA), Dr. Michel El Hayek, Vice President for Administration and Finance (VPAF), Abbot Semaan Bou Abdo, Assistant Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies (AVPGRS), Dr. Ghazi Asmar, Assistant Vice-President for Academic Support (AVAS), Dr. Simon Abou Jaoude, Director of Public Affairs and Protocol (PAP), Mr. Majed Bou Hadir, Director of Development and Alumni Affairs (ODAA), Ms. Nesrine Sfeir, Director of Admissions, Ms. Joyce Menassa, and Director of the IDEAL Program and Learning Accommodation Officer, Ms. Lama Badawi.
Fr. Khoury welcomed Dr. Brown and described how Higher Education institutions have been severely impacted by the ongoing crises in the country. He also revealed the community’s daunting task in taking proper steps to give NDUers the future they deserve.
The delegation then headed with Fr. Khoury to the patriarchal edifice in Bkerke, where they met His Beatitude Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi.
The BWA affirmed their support for the education sector in Lebanon during this difficult period, their support for the Patriarch’s national stance, particularly regarding Lebanon's neutralism and distance from regional conflicts, and the importance of having balance in order to build a strong state capable of serving all Lebanese citizens.
The delegation also emphasized the need to move forward with the unity and cooperation between Christian minorities in the Middle East away from the policy of isolation, to serve the Arab world at the educational, cultural, and social levels. The discussion also touched on the humanitarian aid, and on social, educational, and other services provided by churches and Baptist institutions in Lebanon and in the world to all Lebanese groups without any sectarian distinction. This has led to effective cooperation and concerted efforts between evangelical and Catholic educational institutions in Lebanon with the purpose of serving the students in this country, especially those with special needs.
His Beatitude was informed by the BWA’s Secretary General, Dr. Elijah Brown, of the path of the global Catholic-Baptist dialogue, which is being carried out under the auspices and cooperation of the Vatican City. Both parties emphasized the importance of maintaining this dialogue and cooperation between the two sects, in order for them to remain a shining light in the midst of a dark world.
Finally, Dr. Elijah Brown extended an invitation to His Beatitude the Patriarch to visit the BWA headquarters in Washington, DC.
It is noteworthy to recall that Evangelicals and Catholics together were the first to establish the most prestigious universities and secondary schools since the nineteenth century, making Lebanon the face of the Middle East educationally and culturally. Today, this joint action is yielding remarkable results as circumstances and educational needs change.