CONFERENCE GENERAL ASSEMBLY**
Saturday, October 15, 2016
9:00 am – 5:30 pm
Palestinian Christians in the Face of Uncertainty
Palestinian Christians are in a constant state of doubt and insecurity as they continue to endure the Israeli occupation and growing despair. Do they remain steadfast in their homeland or do they emigrate as millions in the Diaspora have already done? This session will address the dire conditions affecting Palestinian Christians such as high unemployment, restricted mobility, and limited access to goods and services. Our esteemed speakers will identify signs of hope for the future.
Christians Under Pressure: The Weight of the Current Conditions in the Middle East
Unrest throughout the Middle East, in the form of extremism and civil unrest, has placed the lives of ordinary people in extraordinary danger. Arab Christians and other religious minorities are indigenous to the Middle East and are essential elements of the region’s cultural, religious, historical, and national fabric. Without this indigenous presence there, the Middle East and the future will be terribly impoverished. Panelists will discuss the past and current status of Middle Eastern Christians and other religious minorities, specifically in Syria and Iraq, and ways that we can help to alleviate the weight of their duress through the support and participation in different initiatives, such as the Muslim Christian Coalition.
HCEF Audiovisual Presentation
Keynote Speaker: His Eminence The Most Reverend Metropolitan Joseph, Archbishop of New York and all of North America of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, embodying strong spiritual, ascetical, cultural, and intellectual traits, is an ardent advocate for human rights, social justice, and peace throughout the Middle East. The Antiochian Church of North America is home to a majority of Arab Christians- Syrian, Lebanese, and Palestinian. In his keynote address, His Eminence will share the important steps needed and tremendous advances being made for improving the climate for Christians in the Middle East.
Tourism for Peace : Support for the Holy Land through Pilgrimages
Throughout the centuries, the Holy Land has hosted droves of pilgrims of different faiths—Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Partaking in these sacred pilgrimages fulfills significant spiritual and personal needs. To this end, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and HCEF have joined efforts to encourage pilgrims and tourists of all backgrounds to visit the Holy Land by way of regional tourism. A regional approach utilizes Jordan as the traditional entry point to the Holy Land, used by religious leaders across the ages, and emphasizes the importance of visiting the Palestinian territories (Bethlehem in particular) in addition to Israel. The high-profile leaders comprising this panel will explore the challenges and unique opportunities of religious tourism to the Holy Land and the support it gives to the Palestinian economy.
Diaspora Palestinians: The Untapped Global Resource and Palestinian Development
There are around seven million Palestinians living in the global diaspora, each of with a vital role to play in building the State of Palestine. Men, women, and youth have valuable skills to contribute, which can make a tremendous impact in nation- and state-building. There are new opportunities for promoting practical ways in which we can, individually and collectively, strengthen the bonds of solidarity with Palestine. This session will examine key economic strategies such as crowdfunding and initiatives like the Future Business Leaders program, which brings together bright, young diaspora Palestinians from around the world to build the Palestinian economy and promote prosperity and equality.
U.S. Presidential Election Results: Implications for Christians and Other Communities in the Middle East
The United States has goals to promote, and interests to protect in the Middle East. Historically, U.S. presidents have had the largest impact on the formulation of foreign policy. The presidential election results on November 8 will be significant as they indicate possible shifts in American policies. This panel will explore the implications and prospects for equality, prosperity, and peace given a Democratic, Republican, or Independent win.
** Open to the Public
TOURISM FOR EQUALITY, PROSPERITY, AND PEACE*
Friday, October 14, 2016
9:30 am – 4:00 pm
Facts and Figures: Exploring Palestine as a Travel Destination in the Holy Land
The Palestinian tourism industry is developing and promoting pilgrimages/ religious tourism to Bethlehem and other sites in the Palestinian territories. This session will present facts and figures of the industry: people to visit, places to stay, sites of historic significance, and the holy sites in cities like Bethlehem, Jericho, Hebron, Nablus, Ramallah, Nazareth, and East Jerusalem. Learn about the different activities you can participate in and enjoy in the Holy Land.
Roundtable Discussion on Promoting Tourism in Palestine and the Holy Land: the Role of the Industry, Pilgrimage Organizers, Christians, and International Organizations
Tourism is essential for economic growth, inclusive development, and environmental sustainability, as is advocated by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). These goals are essential national goals for Palestine and at the heart of the tourism industry in the Holy Land. This session will promote pilgrimage to Palestine and the region by examining the role of the tourism industry, pilgrimage organizers, Christians, and international organizations.
Living Testimonies: Pilgrims and Local Communities as Peacemakers
Pilgrimage to the Holy Land helps followers of the faith and Christians of the Holy Land alike fulfill important personal and spiritual needs. Pilgrimage strengthens the faith and creates bonds of solidarity between the pilgrims and the local Christian communities. It fosters appreciation of pluralism and respect for the different historical and cultural identities that Christianity encompasses. This exchange paves the way for peace and equality. In this session, individuals will share firsthand accounts of how these pilgrimages have changed their lives.
Forging a New Bond of Solidarity for Equality, Prosperity, and Peace
Several international actors play key roles in advancing the religious tourism industry in the Holy Land and the region. Such players include international organizations, churches, travel agencies, cultural institutions, pilgrims, and the local communities. This session gives each of these players the platform to speak and share their views on why pilgrimage is essential to promoting equality, prosperity, and peace.
Where Do We Go From Here? Concrete Steps of Action
After learning about the effects pilgrimage has on the Holy Land in general and on local Christians in particular, we take an opportunity to reflect on the possibilities and challenges of fostering meaningful and ethical pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This interactive session is an opportunity for participants to consider what each can do to follow-up on the contents of this conference and keep the momentum going. What concrete steps can each of us take? How do we live out what we have learned and lend a helping hand to our Christian brothers and sisters in the Holy Land by promoting religious tourism?
*Closed event, by invitation only