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Presbyterian/Reformed Protestant university presidents congregate in Beirut

November 2, 2005—

The heads of five institutions founded by Presbyterian/Reformed Protestant missionaries, met in Beirut to break bread, promote higher education and establish bonds of friendship that could lead to closer cooperation.

“It’s a great opportunity to have the five presidents of institutions whose histories converge in the Protestant reform tradition,” said Rev. Paul Haidostian, the president of Haigazian University, about the gathering on October 17, 2005.

The presidents of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary in the United States visited Lebanon in October 2005 to attend a gathering of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and Eastern Orthodox Churches. The conference included the heads of the Beirut-based Near East School of Theology and Haigazian University, founded by non-Presbyterian reformed or congregational missionaries.

“This is a rare occasion to have the presidents of Pittsburgh and Princeton Seminaries in Beirut,” said Dr. Mary Mikhael, NEST’s president, adding that a number of her institution’s faculty members were Princeton alumni.

She hoped NEST and Princeton Seminary would cooperate on various activities, notably since NEST students have been known to pursue post-graduate studies at Princeton. Princeton Theological Seminary’s president, Dr. Iain R. Torrance, is a member of the international dialogue between the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Orthodox Church.

Dr. Mikhael also pointed to the close ties between her school and the Lebanese American University, since both were founded by missionaries from the same church.

“While we began as a small liberal arts college, we’re proud of our history and links to the Presbyterian Church, USA,” said Dr. Joseph G. Jabbra of LAU.

LAU’s roots go back to the American School for Girls, founded in Beirut in 1835. It became the American Junior College for Women in 1924; Beirut College for Women in 1948; the coeducational Beirut University College in 1973; and finally, the Lebanese American University in 1994.

“I arranged for a lunch gathering to further the fellowship among the five presidents,” Rev. Haidostian said of the event.

Rev. Haidostian and Haigazian’s first president were both Princeton Seminary graduates and Pittsburgh Seminary’s current president, Rev. Carnegie Samuel Calian, serves on Haigazian’s board of trustees.

Dr. Calian, who lectured on “Marketplace Ethics from an Interfaith Perspective” at LAU’s new Business School on October 17, said nobody was immune from temptation.

He urged his audience to be guided by generosity, moderation, honesty, attainable priorities, charity, to be well informed and to be productive without losing oneself in the process.

“To sort out what is and what is not negotiable for us in a market-driven society with its tempting and questionable trade-offs is not easy,” he admitted, arguing that people were as ethical as the last time they were tempted.


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