Mexico’s Anahuac University of the Legionaries of Christ awarded an honorary doctorate to Israeli President Shimon Peres in a ceremony over the weekend in Jerusalem that noted his “noble contribution to world peace.”
During the solemn event held Sunday at a hotel in the city, the president of the institution, Jesus Quirce, presented Peres with the degree followed by the honorary biretta to “crown his studies and merits,” a doctoral medal and a pair of white gloves, “a symbol of the purity his hands must preserve and a sign of his eminence.”
All that symbolized the university’s “recognition of his distinguished merits and his noble contribution to world peace and to the universal friendship of all peoples,” according to the statement read by the vice president emeritus, Carlos Lepe.
The president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, 88, expressed his gratitude for the award in an address during which he slipped up in calling Mexican writer Octavio Paz, winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize for Literature, “Octavia Paz.”
“You’re a great university. One hundred thousand students who can make a difference to the future of Mexico and to an even more widespread public,” Peres said.
“Mexico has a strong Jewish community and at your university there are many Jewish students, the Jewish holidays are observed, so your trip to Jerusalem is very moving for all of us,” he said.
Quirce had previously lauded Peres’ virtues, defining him as a “statesman, chief executive, strategist and moral leader” with a “vital career worthy of praise and emulation.”
The university president singled out the Israeli’s “ironclad social conscience” and his “incessant, tireless search for peace among peoples” as Peres’ “two most inspiring and honorable aspects among the almost innumerable positive aspects of his genius.”
The event, also attended by the chief justice of the Israeli Supreme Court, Dorit Beinisch, did not take place at Anahuac University in Mexico as was always done previously because Peres’ “responsibilities” as head of state prevented him from making the trip, the center’s director of institutional development, German Campos, said before the ceremony began.
The seeds of this honorary doctorate were sown back in 1999, when Peres gave a masterful lecture at the university before 2,000 students in a first contact that left an “excellent mutual impression,” he said.
Anahuac, founded in 1964 and which today has 1,200 students enrolled at its principal campus in Mexico City, established three years after his visit a “Shimon Peres Peace Lecture” aimed at disseminating “a culture of peace,” he said.
The nation’s Public Education Secretariat recently ruled that books of the lectures, which deal with human rights, tolerance and the resolving of conflicts, be made available in all public libraries, Campos said.
Anahuac has 15 campuses, of which nine are in Mexico, one is the Finis Terrae in Santiago, Chile, another is Spain’s Francisco de Vitoria in Madrid, while there are two each in Italy and the United States.
The university has granted 20 honorary doctorates, the first of them to Mikhail Gorbachev.
Despite the bitter feelings prevalent in the Middle East conflict, the center isn’t worried that this honor will spark controversy in Mexico because Peres is “a very respected statesman,” Campos said.
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