Oct. 9, 2007
Naim Ateek, director of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, is Hardin-Simmons University Distinguished Alumni
The Rev. Naim Ateek of Jerusalem, a 1963 graduate, will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award at Hardin-Simmons University, Abilene, Texas, on Oct. 18. Ateek directs the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem.
Since 1992 Ateek has worked to advance the work of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center [http://www.sabeel.org], to deepen the faith of Palestinian Christians, to promote unity among them toward social action.
The Distinguished Alumni Award, given since 1970, is presented to Hardin-Simmons - www.hsutx.edu/main.php - alumni whose personal and professional accomplishments exemplify the ideals and aims of the university and bring honor to its name. Honorees are selected by a committee of campus leaders. The Alumni Awards Dinner on Thursday, Oct. 18., will celebrate the recipients.
As a boy in 1948, Palestinian Christian Ateek and his family became refugees when they were forced from their hometown of Beisan, south of the Sea of Galilee, by Jewish forces. The family settled in Nazareth. After completing primary and high school education, Ateek received a scholarship to attend Hardin-Simmons University.
In 1958, Ateek left his mother, ailing father, and nine brothers and sisters in Israel to travel to an unknown land—Texas. Not only did he have to adjust to American English, he had to learn the Texas dialect as well. His homesickness for his close-knit family was eased by the “wonderful atmosphere of friendliness” on the Hardin-Simmons campus, he said. He spent holidays and summers at his friends' homes in Abilene and the surrounding area while studying at Hardin-Simmons.
As a student Ateek was active in the International Student Association and was on the dean’s list. He was named to Who’s Who Among American Colleges and Universities. He was president of the Science Club and won the E.P. Mead Speech Contest.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry, Ateek earned a Master of Divinity degree in 1966 from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley. He was ordained in the Episcopal Church and returned to his home in Nazareth, where he served as parish priest from 1966 to 1985.
Ateek returned to the United States to complete a Doctor of Ministry degree at San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1985. He then served as parish priest for the Palestinian congregation in Jerusalem and as canon of St. George’s Cathedral there from 1985 to 1997.
Sabeel strives to develop a spirituality based on love, justice, peace, nonviolence, liberation, and reconciliation for the different national and faith communities. Its work is to promote a more accurate international awareness regarding the identity, presence, and witness of Palestinian Christians as well as their contemporary concerns. Sabeel encourages individuals and groups from around the world to work for a just, comprehensive, and enduring peace informed by truth and empowered by prayer and action.
International Friends of Sabeel chapters in Australia, Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, and the United States support the work of the Sabeel Center in Jerusalem.
The Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley, and the Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Mass have given Ateek Honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees. He was honored by the San Francisco Theological Seminary with its Distinguished Alumni Award.
Ateek lectures widely in Palestine and Israel as well as internationally. In addition to his book, Justice, and Only Justice, a Palestinian Theology of Liberation, he has published many articles for books and periodicals and a forthcoming book that details the current situations in the Palestinian territories.
Naim and Maha Ateek live in Jerusalem where they have devoted their lives to being peacemakers. They are the parents of Stefan and Sari Ateek and Nevart Willborn.
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