Eminent religious leaders challenged the attendees at the 12th International Conference to put their respective faith traditions into “promoting peace and human security in the Holy Land.” They challenged people of good will everywhere to a new moral purpose “to end violence in the name of God” and for Christians in the Holy Land  “to be a bridge for reconciliation and beacon of hope in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Over 500 attendees participated in the conference venues over 3 days, including the private meetings and discussions which took place on Sunday, November 7, 2010. The Conference was held at the Pope John Paul Cultural Center in Washington, DC. and broadcast live on the world wide web, providing for even more exposure and virtual attendance.

Cardinal-designate Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, was the keynote speaker at the Conference Awards Banquet which was held Friday evening, November 5, 2010. In his inspiring address, His Eminence reminded us that ‘with kindness, compassion, and understanding, we are all capable of opening the gate to a new and transformed world. He further stated ‘when something really has meaning to us we have the ability to make it better.  The Holy Land is of the utmost importance to us and we have the ability to make the change and make it better.’  His inspirational address stirred the overflow banquet audience to recommit to living out one’s faith.

This year’s awardees were: Bethlehem University receiving the Living Stones Solidarity Award, George Salem, Esq. an internationally distinguished attorney and peace diplomat, receiving the Path of Peace Award, and Osama and Rula Kishek eminent HCEF supporters and volunteers, receiving the HCEF Award.  Sister Anne Guinan, MHSH and Sister Caritas Kennedy, RSM, renowned producers of documentaries on the Holy Land, received the HCEF President’s Award.

The Conference General Assembly hosted sessions on interfaith dialogue by Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious leaders exploring the potential of such dialogue in the service of reconciliation, peace, and human security in the Holy Land. Prominent among the speakers were: Most Rev. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM, Custos the Holy Land, Fr. Emil Salayta of the Latin Patriarchate, Fr. Drew Christiansen, S.J. of America Magazine, Br. Jack Curran, FSC of Bethlehem University, Rabbi Gerald Serotta of Clergy Beyond Borders and Imam Yahya Hendi of Georgetown University.

All together over 30 speakers, experts in their fields, addressed the conference on such timely topics as: do recent political changes in the Middle East improve the prospects for reconciliation and how can the respective Abrahamic faith traditions be harnessed for understanding and peace? The issue of human security was explored by international business leaders and NGOs including Dr. Juan José Daboub, former Managing Director of the World Bank and Chief Executive Officer, The Global Adaptation Institute. Dr. Judith Mendelsohn Rood of Biola University hosted a panel of women from Jerusalem relating their deeply moving personal stories of the conflict in the Holy Land.

His Excellency Ambassador Maen Areikat, Chief of Mission, Palestinian Delegation to the US, addressed the Peace Process from a Palestinian Perspective.

HCEF President Rateb Rabie made this statement, “This conference was exciting and unique and the first to be held in this capacity, as we effectively connected the ecumenical, religious community with the business sector to promote peace and human security in the Holy Land.

We are pleased with the good results produced on all levels!

The prospect of peace or continued conflict was further explored and addressed to a packed audience by American, Israeli, and Arab panelists. They included: Amira Hass of Haaretz, Dr. Hussein Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) and Ori Nir, international journalist and news analyst at Americans for Peace Now (APN) and Ambassador Philip Wilcox, President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP).

An Investment Forum for business leaders interested in exploring new business opportunities in Palestine for improving the lives of the people was also held during the conference. Among the participants were: Hashim Hani Shawa, Chairman of the Bank of Palestine, Faris Hadad-Zervos of the World Bank, Youssef Habesch of the International Finance Corporation, Dr. Samir Hazboun, Chairman of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Howard Sumka, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Middle East, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Mr. Ammar Acker, CEO of the Paltel Group, Mr. Ziad Anabtawi, CEO of the Anabtawi Group, and Eng.  Muneif Treish, General Manager, Al Reehan Real Estate Investment Company.

The forum focused on a wide range of initiatives in job creation, housing and infrastructure needed for a rebirth of hope of the Palestinian people.

To hear the sessions of the 12th International Conference and the Investment Forum held in the Context of the Conference, or to learn more about HCEF and its programs please visit us at www.hcef.org.