‘Replace Despair with Hope, Fear with Security, and Humiliation with Human Dignity.’

The 2010 HCEF Leadership Institute Working Retreat was held at The Pope John Paul II Cultural Center on March 20, 2010 attended by 38 participants from across the U.S. The retreat explored new opportunities opened up by HCEF’s partnership with the Cultural Center, and new initiatives were described for enhancing the effectiveness of existing programs.

After opening prayers offered by Rev. Dr. Roy Enquist, member of the HCEF Advisory Board and the Lutheran Outreach Committee, the participants were welcomed by HCEF President/CEO Rateb Y. Rabie, KCHS and Dr. Saliba Sarsar, Secretary of the HCEF Board of Directors. The morning sessions were devoted to three topics: the ‘servant/leadership’ model, new partnerships and new initiatives for growth.

Dr. Sarsar developed the servant/leadership topic building on his own extensive research at Monmouth University and the writings of Parker J. Palmer and Robert K. Greenleaf. He showed that, in the long run, the power of value far exceeds the value of power in the context of community building and relationships. Obviously, Jesus is the best example of servant/ leadership (Matt. 5:38-43). Dr. Sarsar expanded the topic to Christian servant/leadership in the 21st century and its role in the HCEF mission to the Christians in the Holy Land.

Dr. Hugh Dempsey, COO of The Pope John Paul II Cultural Center and newly elected V.P. of the HCEF Board of Directors, outlined the Center’s mission, which was affirmed by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the Center last year. The Center promotes the late Pope John Paul II’s dream of inter-religious dialogue, understanding and reconciliation among peoples. The Center does this through a wide range of partnerships. Dr. Dempsey expressed particular satisfaction that the partnership between JPII and HCEF complements both organizations with regard to inter-religious dialogue and HCEF’s commitment to the presence and well being of Arab Christians in the Holy Land and to developing bonds of solidarity between them and Christians elsewhere.

Rateb Rabie spoke of new initiatives at HCEF, including the ‘educating the educators’, training and development initiatives, the Holy Land health initiative with Catholic University and new collaborations with tourism organizations in the Holy Land to promote pilgrimages. He introduced Dr. Victor Billeh, President of the newly founded University of Madaba, a Catholic institution in Jordan. (Pope Benedict laid its foundation stone during his visit to Jordan in May 2009.) Dr. Billeh provided updates on the school and solicited HCEF’s good offices for contacts with U.S. institutions and organizations.

In the afternoon, Dr. Sarsar led a discussion on HCEF core goals. Questions posed: Who are we serving? What impels us as volunteers? As one participant succinctly put it, “HCEF attempts to respond to evident needs of our time, as Jesus responded in his time.” The consensus was that HCEF’s principal mission is to sustain the Christian presence in the land where Jesus lived. The strong belief was expressed that a living, vibrant Christian community in the Holy Land can be a bridge to peace and reconciliation.

Ryan Eades, Online Brand Communications Manager for the Special Olympics Organization provided a highly informative and stimulating presentation on the strengths and pitfalls of using new social networking media by non-profit organizations. He encouraged HCEF to explore its potential to enhance the reach of HCEF’s message.

Bill Peecher, Director, HCEF Holy Land Christian Support Network and Treasurer, HCEF Board of Directors and Julie James, Director, HCEF Development and Communications, discussed the importance of the current HCEF programs, their implementation and effectiveness. Bill and Julie inspired the participants to ‘each one, reach one’ with regard to increasing awareness about the Holy Land Christians and how we can volunteer in support of them.

The Leadership Retreat concluded with an invigorating discussion regarding the theme, speakers, workshop titles and sessions of the much anticipated 12th International Conference, which will be held November 6, 2010 at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center. In developing the conference, the participants are looking forward to focusing on youth development, implementing social media methods in spreading the message and developing topics of discussion that will compel one to action for good.

The retreat participants ended the day reenergized and excited about rededicating themselves to the promotion of peace and justice in the Holy Land, and to replacing despair with hope, fear with security, and humiliation with human dignity.