Donation establishes Foundation for Palestinian Studies Fund

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The Faculty of Arts is pleased to partner on a new fundraising initiative in support of research and learning focused on Palestinian peace-building, conflict avoidance, co-existence and cultural understanding.

The partnership is championed by Mr. Shawky Fahel a Palestinian-Canadian living in Waterloo region who has been involved in several efforts with governments and other organizations to work toward a peaceful and just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As a founding donor to the fund, Fahel has contributed $100,000 toward a public lecture series for which the first event will honour Waterloo’s past-president Feridun Hamdullahpur. Fahel is also committing his time and energy to national and international fundraising in support of future Palestinian studies programming at Waterloo.

City lights with palm trees by the sea
Palestine has long been the site of rich inter-cultural, religious, economic, and political exchange as well as conflicts. Today, it presents the international community with some of the most difficult social and political challenges. Palestinians form a diverse and dynamic diaspora that includes one of the largest refugee populations in the world. While conflict and violence often bring global attention to the Palestinian experience, headlines often miss the crucial activities of Jewish, Israeli, and Palestinian human rights workers, peace and justice organisations, as well as the rich and complex body of scholarly, artistic, literary, creative, and popular works of the diaspora.

For Fahel, the greatest impact of this initiative will be driven by education: “Understanding begins with education and awareness. Changing minds can change the course of history.”

Grounded in the ethos of the University of Waterloo, the goal is to contribute to real change by promoting mutual respect and insight on cultures that are often misunderstood in the West, and by exploring potential solutions for thorny and entrenched problems.

Along with the lecture series, the new fund will facilitate study abroad trips to the Palestine-Israel region, research awards, and post-doctoral fellowships.

“By drawing into conversation scholars, political and community leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, and public intellectuals, we have the potential to offer our students rare opportunities to engage in real-world problem-solving initiatives and transformative scholarship,” says Professor Jasmin Habib from the Department of Political Science, who is an expert in Palestine-Israel.

Sheila Ager, Dean of Arts, looks forward to the collaboration between donors such as Shawky Fahel and university colleagues to promote conversations and understanding. “I’m proud of the multidisciplinary expertise and capacity for social impact that the Faculty of Arts can contribute to this important work toward peace. It is a long game, but a very worthwhile one.”

Photo by Kamel Satel, courtesy of Shawky Fahel.

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