Friday & Saturday, March 23-24, 2012, The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) held its Leadership Institute Working Retreat at the National 4H Conference Center in Chevy Chase, MD!

With the HCEF Board of  Directors, staff and more than thirty leader volunteers in in attendance, there was representation from different faith backgrounds, nationalities, countries and states, including  Africa, France, Italy, Palestine, Arizona, Illinois, Connecticut, District of Columbia, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts and Ohio.

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They came together in support of preserving the presence and well-being of Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land and of developing the bonds of solidarity between them and Christians elsewhere.

Sir Rateb Rabie, KCHS, HCEF President and CEO in his opening remarks, welcomed the retreat participants and expressed his delight that each of us is here because we are committed to the mission.


2The presence of HE Bishop Barry Knestout, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington and HCEF Advisory Board member, was inspiring as His Excellency represents the Archdiocese of Washington’s support of HCEF’s mission.  Sir Rabie further exhorted us to continue to put our faith into action as we seek to help HCEF achieve overall continued growth and success in the expansion of our 16 current programs offered in support of the Holy Land Christians and Palestinians at large, including the upcoming 14th International Conference & Awards Banquet, which will also be held at the National 4H Conference Center, November 2-4, 2012!

Dr. Saliba Sarsar, HCEF Secretary and Vice President for Global Initiatives at Monmouth University, gave a powerful presentation on “Leadership from Within,” in which he explored the need to come out of the shadow and into the light, to work together in service of the common good.  Dr. Sarsar urged all participants to become servant leaders for the Holy Land by becoming Ambassadors of the Mother Church.

3 Sir Rabie, along with Mr. Anthony Habash, HCEF Regional Director, spoke on “Keeping the Vision Alive.” They discussed the critical aspect of managing, between the Bethlehem Office and the Bethesda Office, the multiple programs HCEF leads in the Holy Land and how they work together to “ replace despair with hope, fear with security, and humiliation with human dignity.”  “Working with HCEF,” Mr. Habash explained, “gives us the privilege to fulfill and practice our Christian faith, values and mission, while it enables us to learn and build our professional careers.”

4In a presentation on “Incrementalism vs. Transformation as a way forward” Dr. Stephen Corbin, Senior Vice President of Special Olympics International, discussed the options that HCEF has in selecting and deciding the nature and future of its programs.  He explained how “motivation, vision, risk-reward calculations, and faith-based commitments are the pieces in this most critical puzzle.”

The Leadership Retreat participants then explored how they are ‘leading from within’ in their volunteer support of HCEF and how they are inspiring others to do likewise, as well as how to reach out to potential volunteers and different Christian denominations across the United States.  Participants were exhorted to “Be a friend, bring a friend!” One leader volunteer, a Christian Palestinian American, explained how HCEF has been a gift from God, enabling us to live our faith, our identity, and our nationality, all at the same time.  We are blessed to have committed people seeking peace and justice for Palestinians.

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Inspiring discussions ensued pertaining to strategic planning to work for peace, capacity-building and development in support of  the Holy Land Christians and seeking new ways to share, individually and corporately, the importance of maintaining the Christian presence in the Holy Land through in our respective spheres of influence.

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Dr. Hugh Dempsey, K.M. Ob., KHS, HCEF Vice President, urged the leader volunteers to continue to support their brothers and sisters in Christ, as he stated, “We need your commitment to sustain the needed programs. A small gift in the United States is leveraged in big ways in the Holy Land.”

In closing, Sir Rateb Rabie, HCEF President and CEO, extended his heartfelt thanks to the leader volunteers and staff, as he made this statement, “You are the heart of HCEF and hope for the future as HCEF counts on your much needed and valued support in managing our multifaceted programs.  The Holy Spirit is with us,” he added, “we cannot go wrong.”

To learn about how you can volunteer or to learn more about becoming an Ambassador of the Mother Church, visit us online at www.hcef.org.