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University of Balamand > Administration > Presidency > President Salem > Speech25-11-96

At the Dorchester Hotel in London on November 25, 1996 at the Occasion of the visit of His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV

It is a pleasure to be with you this evening.  I thank George and Lisa Zakhem for this banquet.   May all your life be a banquet of joy and a march for a great cause.

People make all types of claim to aggrandize themselves.  I take pride on being at the side of Patriarch Ignatius IV.  The patriarch founded a University, the first such project by the Antiochian Orthodox Church.

Of all the positions I ever held, the greatest to me is to serve as President of the University of Balamand .  The University was conceived in 1988 at the height of the Lebanese war.

Lebanon then faced isolationism, we opted for openness;  Lebanon experienced partition, we opted for unity;  People were fighting each other in ignorance ,we chose learning, dialogue and tolerance.

All universities seek knowledge.  At  Balamand, knowledge is under an overwhelming moral imperative.  We are a Greek Orthodox University , but we are not for the Orthodox. We are for Lebanon , for the Arab East, and for our unequalled emigrant community overseas.

We do not know how our students and Faculty are divided in terms of religion, or political opinion. We do not know because we will be ashamed to ask.

Our center for Christian-Muslim Studies, inspite of its limited means, is doing a superb job and is already leaving an impact.  We now have seven Faculties:  Theology, Academie Libanaise des Beaux Arts, Arts, Sciences, Business, Engineering, and   Health Sciences.  We teach in English, French, and Arabic.  We have 1620 students, mostly in the professional schools and in the sciences, with less than seventy students in the Faculty of Theology which is an independent Faculty committed to preparing leaders for the Greek Orthodox Church.

We now attract students from all of Lebanon and from Syria , Jordan , Palestine , and some Gulf states , and from our far-flung emigrant community.

We are a University by the historic Balamand Abbey, but we are a fully modern, futuristic university. At the Abbey, learning is by faith.   At the university, learning is by questioning. We are private, independent, non-profit, and we are fully licensed by the Lebanese Government.

Our distinction lies, in part, in our orthodox legacy.   We not only recognize the other in our pluralistic system, but we accept him as he is, and love him for what he stands for.

A deeper Christian is a better friend to a deeper Muslim. If we convert, it is from superficiality to depth, from ignorance to knowledge, from fiery emotionalism to the coolness of reason and dialogue.

Our support is exclusively Lebanese and Arab.   All our fourteen buildings carry the names of Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian, and emigrant benefactors.   One third of our students receive financial aid from university and its friends.

Our standards are high, although our infrastructure is far from being complete.  We have a plan to complete it by the year 2010.   Lebanon needs more universities, not less, but it needs them at highest level possible.   For this reason we have affiliated with universities in the U.K. , in France , in the United States , and Canada .

The future challenge between us and Israel is in the realm of education.   We may lose the political battle and survive, but we cannot lose the educational battle and hope to survive. We are in higher education for the long haul.   We know there are no short cuts.

We are planning for the future as the brochures now distributed to you show.   We need in the coming decade some 25 millions for an endowment fund to undergird the academic program, and some $25 millions to complete urgently needed buildings and facilities.

The University is a great project.   I am sure that once you know more about it, you would want your name associated with it.

Of all the investments one makes none is greater than investing in the future of our youth. His Beatitude the patriarch and I came specially for this banquet to introduce our university.

We greatly appreciate your attendance, and we thank you again for your interest and your care.

With your permission I will now show you a six-minute film on the University prepared by our students.

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University of Balamand,
Balamand Al Kurah,

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