Over 300 persons representing 19 states and five foreign countries attended HCEF's 7th International Conference on October 21-22, 2005 in Silver Spring, MD.
Over 300 persons representing 19 states and five foreign countries attended HCEF's 7th International Conference on October 21-22, 2005 in Silver Spring, MD. Conference attendees were able to hear the experiences of many Christians who live and work in the midst of the Holy Land and the hardships they face as a result of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Immediately preceding the conference, HCEF convened an Inaugural Partners Summit of Christian organizations working in the Holy Land to identify both immediate and long-term opportunities for working together to expand their support of the Holy Land Christian community. The Holy Land Christian College Communities (HCCC) also held a Leadership Institute which was attended by representatives from nearly a dozen colleges and universities.
This year's conference theme "United by Faith for Action," was reflected in the ecumenical gathering of participants and the riveting testimony from speakers, including: internationally recognized spiritual leaders, scholars, authors, and ambassadors. In addition to unifying efforts being made by the Western faithful on behalf of their Holy Land brethren, presentations also included discussions of those forces that divide us, including Christian Zionism, conflicting perspectives presented through various secular media and the spiritual isolation of the Holy Land Christian communities in Israel and Jordan.
The closing session provided the most hopeful exchange with three women from Jerusalem, Sherene Abdulhadi, a Muslim Palestinian, Roni Hammerman, a Jewish Israeli, and Amira Hillal, a Palestinian Christian, expressing their hope for peace in the Holy Land. It was inspiring for all conference attendees to see this microcosm of peace among the women on the stage together.
St Luke.s Lutheran Church HCEF partner-host for the conference, offered a beautiful, spiritual setting for the many sessions, featuring education, cultural sharing, emotional connection, and sober consideration of the challenges facing Holy Land Christians. Their former pastor and now Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Metropolitan Washington D.C. Synod, Reverend Theodore Schneider, gave a moving keynote on the importance of both building a solidarity with our Holy Land Christian brethren and remaining steadfast and united in our quest for peace in the region.
Most Reverend Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land, was the keynote speaker at the HCEF Awards Banquet and all the banquet attendees celebrated the impressive works of the award recipients. Reverend Pizzaballa expressed his concern for the state of the Holy Land and stated his support for the efforts of HCEF and its works to build peace and solidarity in the Holy Land.
Sir Rateb Rabie, President and Chairman of HCEF, echoed this assessment adding, "The situation today is more critical and desperate than ever before, but with the joint commitment of Arab and Western Christians, we are stronger than ever."
While the conference provided a hopeful exchange of information, most participants noted that it also difficult to hear of the suffering that their Holy Land Christian brothers and sisters must endure.
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The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation is a tax-exempt, non-profit 501(c)3 organization, committed to improving the lives of Christians in the Holy Land through building bonds of solidarity with between Christians in the United States and Christians in the Holy Land. We have two goals: inform Americans about the Christians in the Holy Land and provide humanitarian assistance for the needy in the land where Jesus Christ was born, preached, died and rose again. www.hcef.org