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Religion, Race, Politics Intersect in Little Town of Bethlehem

Georgian Court University Hosts Documentary Screening, Panel Discussion

Lakewood, N.J., Feb. 21, 2011—Issues of race, religion, freedom struggles, and political unrest converge in a story about the power of nonviolent action, as seen through the eyes of the three men at the center of Little Town of Bethlehem. The thought-provoking documentary about the nonviolent peace movement in the Middle East will be shown at Georgian Court University on Thursday, February 24, at 7:00 p.m. in the Little Theatre on GCU’s Lakewood campus.

The film focuses on the lives of Sami, who grew up living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank; Yonatan, who once lived on an Israeli military base; and Ahmad, who has lived in a Palestinian refugee camp. The documentary examines the struggle to promote equality through nonviolent engagement in the midst of incredible violence that has dehumanized all sides.

“It is very timely to be thinking about the power of nonviolent movements for political change in light of the recent events in Tunisia and Egypt,” said Johann Vento, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the GCU Department of Religious Studies & Theology.

Dr. Vento is one of several GCU faculty members who will talk about the 75-minute film and its themes in a panel discussion immediately after the screening.

The tightly woven stories in Little Town of Bethlehem examine major events of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, starting with the 1972 massacre at the Munich Olympics and following through the first Intifada, suicide bombings in Israel, the Oslo Accords, the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin, and the second Intifada. Sami, Yonatan, and Ahmad each describe the events from their unique perspective, interjecting personal reflections and explaining how these events led them to become involved in the nonviolence movement.

All three men remain committed to effecting change through nonviolence, and have had their lives threatened by members of their own communities. While the film explores three very different perspectives on history, race, politics, and religion, audiences may come understand just how similar we all are, according to one GCU faculty member.

“It leads us to talk about cultural bridges,” said Araceli Hernandez-Laroche, Ph.D., an assistant professor of world languages. “Cultural bridges are about learning from another person’s culture and being open to how they view life—as humans, not just by religious definition.”

General admission for “Little Town of Bethlehem” is $5; the event is free to GCU students with ID. Reservations are required and can be made by contacting the GCU Office of Conferences and Special Events at specialevents@georgian.edu or 732.987.2263.

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is a comprehensive university with a strong liberal arts core and a special concern for women. A forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, Georgian Court serves nearly 3,000 students of all faiths and backgrounds in a residential Women's College and a coeducational University College with undergraduate and graduate programs. Georgian Court's main campus is located at 900 Lakewood Avenue, Lakewood, N.J., on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, now named a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court also offers classes at its site at One Woodbridge Center in Woodbridge, at Coastal Communiversity in Wall, and at Cumberland County College in Vineland.

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