Representatives from several faiths including Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, Orthodox and Lutheran emphasized their common interest in aiding Holy Land Christians.

A campaign enlisting American Christian Churches to support Holy Land Christians and the right to exist in the land of Christ was launched with a conference sponsored by the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF)on Oct. 2. The conference, “Endangered People: Christians in the Holy Land. Can They Survive the Millennium?” was held at the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, MD.
Representatives from several faiths including Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, Orthodox and Lutheran emphasized their common interest in aiding Holy Land Christians.

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah; Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan Right Rev. Munib A. Younan; and Jordan’s Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Marwan Muasher, presented, each urging American Christians to support the indigenous Christian presence in the Holy Land.

The morning session featured Bishop Younan’s presentation of a comprehensive history of Christians in the Holy Land. Four witnesses then related the gruesome circumstances resulting from the Israeli military occupation, which have caused an exodus of Palestinian Christians: closures of the occupied territories, the bulldozing of Palestinian homes, frequent and extended curfews.

“The goal of the conference was to put out a call to all American Christian Churches,” said Rateb Y. Rabie, HCEF President, to join the Holy Land Christian Support Network created by HCEF to coordinate a Nationwide effort on behalf of the Christians of all faiths in the Holy Land.
Patriarche Sabbah, under whose auspices the conference was called, Gave the keynote address at the banquet at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC held the same evening. Citing the strong commitment among Christians in the Holy Land to build a new society based on peace, he called upon American Christians to demonstrate their solidarity.

The first annual solidarity award, was presented to the head of missions, Rev. Lynne Faris of the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC, for its support of projects in the Holy Land. One of its major programs is a partnership with the Catholic parish in Birzeit village, whose pastor, Father Emil Salayta is one of HCEF’s founders.

The afternoon session consisted of five workshops:

In the Jerusalem workshop, Jerusalem and the final status talks were addressed. The exodus of Christians was deemed due directly to Israeli military occupation. A shared Jerusalem, with two nationalities each with self-determination, was viewed as imperative.
The economic development and job creation workshops confirmed that Palestine’s economic situation is deplorable due largely to the Israeli closure, which has cost the Palestinian economy billions since 1993. Efforts were discussed regarding the creation of jobs in the information technology market and micro-financing lending projects.

In the education workshop, the funding of scholarships, elementary through college school years, with special emphasis on industrial arts and technology training for job preparation, was cited as necessary to Stabilize the society.

Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land for Pentecost 2000 were the topic of another workshop which described them as a means to meet the “Living Stones.” Through the HCEF Support Network, the pilgrims can convert their experiences and concern into helpful action. Palestinian Christians gain a sense of encouragement and hope from these visits.

The partnership workshop illustrated how First Presbyterian Church in Houston has put together partnerships with Holy Land churches. One started with a five-person study team and ended with a team of 17 people to support a youth summer camp in Jordan. The same group has organized a family-to-family pen-pal program with 28 Christian families in Iraq.

At the final session, a declaration was adopted stating that all Christian Churches are urgently requested to address the plight of Holy Land Christians and to respond with genuine American enthusiasm and resources.

“As efforts such as this conference reveal the true experience of Holy Land Christians over the past 50 years, American Christian support of Holy Land Christians will be seen as a major national concern of the upcoming Holy Year calling all Christian faiths to action, HCEF President,” Rabie said.

Churches wishing to obtain more information should contact HCEF at 301-871-9222, visit the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation website at, or by e-mail at