Sir Rateb Rabie, KCHS, President/CEO of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) recently returned from a successful trip to Honduras, where he was able to encourage and enlighten the Palestinian and Honduran community about the Palestinians in the Holy Land. While there, Sir Rateb met with Mr. Porfirio Lobo Sosa, the President of Honduras. The Palestinian community held a luncheon with President Lobo Sosa in appreciation of his recognition of the state of Palestine and for opening diplomatic relations with Palestine. There were approximately 300 people in attendance for this luncheon, all representing different generations of Palestinian descent.



During the luncheon, Sir Rateb presented President Lobo Sosa with the symbolic Palestinian "Key of Return," and emphasized to him the extent to which Palestinian Hondurans are committed to Honduras and have been a powerful part of building their country over the years. Sir Rateb also informed the president that Honduras currently has a larger population of Palestinian Christians (70,000 people) than Palestine itself (50,000 people). Additionally, Sir Rateb reiterated how the Palestinians are the ones who have preserved the Christian faith in the Holy Land for over 2,000 years.


Mr. Juan Bendak, one of the coordinators of the luncheon, cited that the Palestinian community in Honduras is extremely influential and equally as passionate about Palestine. Mr. Bendak left Bethlehem at a young age due to the 1967 War and immigrated to Honduras. He is now one of Honduras' top Palestinian leaders, and owns a major TV station as well as several other businesses. He promises to be known throughout society as on of Honduras' political and economic leaders.
Another key figure Sir Rateb met on his trip was Mr. Antonio Saybe, a second-generation Palestinian who was born and lived all his life in Honduras. He is a well-recognized and well-respected leader in both the Honduran and the Palestinian community there. Both Mr. Bendak and Mr. Saybe have expressed and demonstrated an outstanding passion and support forPalestine and the Palestinians.
During his visit, Sir Rateb also met with the auxiliary bishop of San Pedro Sula, HIs Excellency Romulo Emiliani, and told him about HCEF's work. His Excellency gave his blessing to work with and receive support of the church there in Honduras. Bishop Emiliani will be introducing HCEF's efforts to the Cardinal of Honduras. He will also be introducing to his churches the  Living Stones Pilgrimage Program (LSP)–which allows for pilgrims to experience the Holy Land through Palestinian tourism–as well as the Holy Land Gifts Program (HLGP), which will be marketing traditional olive wood crafts, ceramics, and Palestinian olive oil, as a way of sustaining a livelihood for Christian families in Palestine. 
Sir Rateb met with Ambassador Mohamed Saadat, Palestinian Ambassador to Honduras and to Nicaragua, where he is stationed. This meeting provided a fruitful discussion of ways to coordinate efforts with the Diaspora and work together for Palestine
Finally, Sir Rateb concluded his trip with a meeting with the Palestinian community of Honduras. The community formed a committee in order to establish an HCEF presence in Honduras and cooperate with HCEF in implementing their goals and vision in Honduras. This committe will be chaired by Ms. Androlla Canavati de Mitri, International Representative Baptist Health International to Honduras. The committee will also include Mr. Juan Bendak; Mr. Antonio Saybe; Mr. Ramez Khoury, International Director of Commercialization, SENECA; Mr. Jaar Atallah; and Mr. Elias Kharoufeh. HCEF now has a presence and committees established in three countries in Central America: El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Ms. Salwa Massis, HCEF representative in Guatemala, accompanied Sir Rateb to Honduras. She assisted in conducting presentations for the Palestinian Honduran youth about the Know Thy Heritage (KTH) Leadership Program and how KTH can connect, unite, and empower Palestinian within the Diaspora.

For more information about HCEF in Central America, please contact Salwa Massis at smassis@hcef.orgor Androlla Canavati de Mitri at