EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — The war in the Middle East is stretching into its sixth week. It’s a topic being discussed around the globe and in college classrooms in our region.

New developments are unfolding every day with the Israel-Hamas war. Amid the unrest, the University of Scranton canceled its annual study abroad course to Israel and the West Bank in January.

“We had plans, I had deposits in. And then I, like everyone else, woke up to the news of October 7 and quickly realized. It wasn’t clear how long this was going to go on,” said University of Scranton Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies Father Michael Azar.

For nearly a decade, Father Azar led the 11-day study abroad course based in Jerusalem on Christianity in the Middle East.

He teaches students about the history and current situations Christians in the Middle East are facing, focusing on Israel and Palestine.

“My concern was the military closures, really. The freedom of movement, that we wouldn’t be able to access the places that I would normally access because they’re in Palestinian communities,” Father Azar explained.

Father Azar’s family immigrated from the Middle East before he was born. He lived in Israel for a while, too.

“While there are other conflicts in the world, this is the one I focus on or try to get students to understand the best because it’s where I have most of my expertise and personal connection,” Father Azar added.

Here at home, Father Azar teaches bible courses. His students are curious to learn about the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“It’s a very complex situation, and so I just try to focus specifically on the civilian tolls of the war, the effect on civilian populations, which is catastrophic,” said Father Azar.

When he’s not teaching students, Father Azar is a deacon at Saint George Orthodox Church in Taylor.