Where Dialogue Is on the Curriculum

text by Brooke Anderson
photographs by Dalia Khamissy

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“As a Catholic university, we believe it’s high time to reach a reconciliation. Education plays a role,” says Dr. Assaad Eid, vice president of sponsored research and development at Notre Dame University–Louaize (N.D.U.). Located in the ancient village of Zouk Mosbeh, eight miles north of Beirut, the lush main campus offers students and faculty an oasis of calm away from the city’s hustle and bustle.

“We want to help graduates understand the values that need to be applied. There’s a lot in common between Muslims and Christians. How do we get students to engage in dialogue?

“It starts here at a university like ours, having dialogue internalized in the minds of learners,” Dr. Eid continues.

“Some people think maybe this is a dream. We want to cultivate peacemakers. Lebanon is a confessional state, unfortunately caused by hate and bloodshed. We should be teaching love, reconciliation and forgiveness.

“How do we help learners adhere to values? When we get students to do service, what should a university be doing? Most important, how do we help? What added lessons should students carry to live out their values and lead a better society one day?”

This year marks Notre Dame’s 25th anniversary. However, it traces its origins back to the Maronite Synod of 1736. Considered the most significant single event in the history of the Maronite Church, the synod mandated, among other resolutions, that the church provide universal education.

The monks of the Maronite Order of the Holy Virgin Mary hosted the synod at its motherhouse, the 17th–century monastery of Our Lady of Louaize in Zouk Mosbeh. Pursuant to the synod’s decree, the order established the church’s first coeducational Catholics — fled the sectarian violence that engulfed their ancestral homeland in the Shouf Mountains during the civil war. He eventually left the country to study in the United Kingdom, where he earned his doctorate. In 1986, he returned to Lebanon and joined the faculty at the center for higher education in Zouk Mosbeh.

“We risked our lives at the time,” he says. “This hill used to be a combat zone. This campus was hit twice and caught fire. But in the end, it proved to be a sustainable project.”

In 1990, N.D.U. established an off–campus program in the coastal town of Chekaa, 40 miles north of Beirut. In 1999, it moved further north to a campus in the village of Barsa. Referred to as the North Lebanon Campus, it offers area students courses leading to most of Notre Dame’s undergraduate degrees, as well as graduate degrees in business administration and education.

Two years later, N.D.U. opened the Shouf Campus in the village of Deir el Kamar, 22 miles southeast of the capital. Located on the premises of the 19th–century St. Abda Monastery, it offers courses leading to a variety of undergraduate degrees and a graduate degree in business administration.

For the past 25 years, Notre Dame has evolved and grown tremendously. The university now enrolls more than 7,000 students, and some 10,000 alumni live and work around the world.

Last year, administrators increased general education requirements. But regardless of the evolution of the university, the basic mission remains the same.

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