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Dar al-Kalima University opens its 26th International Conference Land, people and Culture

Dar al-Kalima University, in the city of Bethlehem, with the participation of scholars, specialists, academics, and those with artistic and creative expertise, opened the 26th international conference, “Land, People and Culture,” in the Dar al-Kalima University Theatre.

At the beginning of the opening ceremony, Mrs. Rana Khoury, Dar al-Kalima’s Vice President of Development, welcomed the attendees. She presented an overview of the conference, its scientific, cultural and artistic importance at this time for Palestine, and its importance for Dar al-Kalima University.

The conference was then opened by Rev. Prof. Dr. Mitri Raheb, Founder and President of Dar al-Kalima University, with a speech, during which he said: “Dar al-Kalima University’s 26th  international conference, “Land, People, and Culture,” coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Nakba. This year our conference has a special and distinctive character. First, the theme relates to the identity of Dar al-Kalima University, which has made culture, art, and design its specialty. But also, this conference is distinguished by its size. We are hosting about 200 visitors from 5 continents, 25 countries, and 60 universities around the world. In addition to papers, with 60 field visits organized with our guests.”

He added: "What also distinguishes the conference this year is that the participants are some of the most prominent figures in their universities. Some of them have written more than 50 books on issues related to the topics we are discussing. What matters most to us in this conference is the reunification of our Palestinian people, as there are speakers from the West Bank, Jerusalem, Gaza, the Arab citizens of 1948, and from the Palestinian diaspora. In conclusion, I thank our partners who gave us the opportunity to hold such a conference of this size, especially the Supreme Presidential Committee for Follow-up of Church Affairs in Palestine and our partners from Europe. I also want to thank everyone who contributed to the success of this important conference.”

Then, Mrs. Manar Idrissi, Dean of Student Affairs and Curator of the Ismail Shammout Award for Fine Arts, gave a speech in which she emphasized: “The Ismail Shammout Award for Fine Arts was established in Palestine in 2015 to honor the legacy of Ismail Shammout, encourage young Palestinian artists, and highlight the role of art in society. Ismail Shammout, a prominent Palestinian artist, used his creativity to express the impact of the Nakba and to be a source of hope in the face of oppression. The award is launched annually by Dar al-Kalima University and comes under the title “Barrier 75” for the year 2023, in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Nakba. It aims to continue Shammout’s vision by confronting the barriers imposed by settler colonialism and promoting freedom, hope, and artistic awareness in Palestinian society.”

She added: “30 young, male and female artists under the age of 35 applied for this award, 10 of whom were chosen to participate in the award exhibition entitled “Barrier 75,” which opened Sunday, October 2, at Dar al-Kalima University. The three award winners will be announced on Wednesday, October 4, at the conference’s closing ceremony. Public voting will determine the three-winning works. The voting runs from Sunday evening, October 1, to Tuesday evening, October 3.”

Next, Dr. Muammar Shteiwi, Chairman of the National Commission for Accreditation and Quality of Palestinian Higher Education Institutions, conveyed to the attendees the greetings of the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Prof. Mahmoud Abu Mwais, praising Dar al-Kalima University for its efforts in organizing this conference, which includes important topics and wishing it success and fruitful results.

Shteiwi added: “If this day is truly the day of the land, the people, and the culture, then I couldn’t be prouder of the administration, staff, and students of Dar al-Kalima University, pioneers of art and culture in Palestine. They have my respect and appreciation. When culture dances between the corridors of wisdom and art accelerates in the footsteps of inspiration, drawing life in the colors of art and culture, such an important conference is in our hands. We have the task of preserving and developing this heritage and to build a future characterized by prosperity and positive interaction. Let us work together to be children of the earth and guardians of culture, not only for today, but for future generations. We are proud of Dar al-Kalima University, the first specialized university in Palestine. We affirm their complementary role with the government’s directions in promoting our national narrative, and we extend our sincere thanks and appreciation to Dar al-Kalima University for its wonderful efforts in organizing this important conference, which enhances communication and mutual understanding between individuals and society. Their contributions play a great role in building bridges of understanding and promoting the values of cooperation. So, thank you, Dar al-Kalima Univeristy, for your dedication and uniqueness in organizing events to enhance communication and enrich the cultural and social scene of Palestine.”

The opening ceremony continued with a speech by Dr. Khouloud Daibes on behalf of Dr. Ramzi Khoury, member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and Chairman of the Supreme Presidential Committee for Follow-up of Church Affairs, in which she said: “On behalf of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and Chairman of the Supreme Presidential Committee for Follow-up of Church Affairs in Palestine, I convey to you my Excellency’s greetings, Mr. President Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine, and my brothers, members of the Presidential Committee. We welcome you to this holy land, which conveyed the message of peace to the world with the birth of Jesus Christ, glory be to Him. 75 years of suffering have been experienced by the Palestinian people since the Nakba of 1948 as a result of a brutal and hateful occupation during which the land was violated, human beings were violated, our Islamic and Christian sanctities were violated, and the blood of our people was shed. 75 years and the Palestinian people are still suffering from historical injustice in the eyes of a world that does not lift a finger to implement justice and grant the Palestinian people their legitimate rights stipulated in all international conventions and United Nations resolutions. The leaders of the world are following a policy of double standards and have not held Israel accountable for a single crime it has committed and still commits against the Palestinian people today.”

She added: "The city of Bethlehem, the city of peace, the cradle of Jesus Christ, has today become a prisoner of the apartheid wall separating it from its twin city, Jerusalem. Israel has also seized vast areas of its lands and the property of its churches for the benefit of the apartheid wall, and this is what is happening in Cremisan, Bir Onah, and Al-Makhrour. Other areas are also threatened with confiscation, so holding this conference in Bethlehem has a great impact on the hearts of its people and puts a ray of hope in their hearts that the world still attaches importance to the Palestinian people and their just cause.”

After the speech, Dr. Rami Nashashibi presented an overview of the Nashashibi family and its roots; the Nashashibi family existed during the time of Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi. Dr. Rami also explained the connection between man and the heavenly things, and that this connection from within makes us steadfast. He touched on the famous scholar and literary critic Edward Said. He also touched on how Western thought controls the world and our need to free ourselves from western indoctrination. 

The opening ceremony also included a musical performance presented by African-American artist, Drea D,Nur, and a Body Watani Dance solo performance by the American artist of Palestinian origins, Leila Awadallah, entitled ““Let’s walk a little, my love,” which embodies images of a Palestinian woman traveling through time and experiencing flashes of different Palestinian experiences. The ceremony also included the opening of the 2023 Ismail Shamout Award for Fine Arts exhibition.

Kindly note that Dar al-Kalima University’s 26th international conference “Land, People and Culture” will continue until Wednesday, October 4, 2023.