The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) held its 8th International Conference on Oct. 20 and 21 at the National Presbyterian Church to raise awareness about Arab Christians.
The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) held its 8th International Conference on Oct. 20 and 21 at the National Presbyterian Church to raise awareness about Arab Christians. The conference weekend, themed ‘Opening Doors of Hope in Faith’, drew more than 500 participants from all over the United States and the world. Participants enjoyed several discussions, moderated panels, and multimedia presentations on the theme of Arab Christianity and hope for the Holy Land.
The conference helped HCEF advance its goal to promote awareness and sponsor humanitarian aid projects for Arab Christians in the Holy Land. Clergy from several major denominations were present as well as lay people from many Christian faith traditions. A number of churches decided to implement HCEF programs to support the dwindling Christian population in the Holy Land and build ecumenical bridges of solidarity.
HCEF President Sir Rateb Rabie presented a synopsis of HCEF’s mission, goals, and successes during the last year. He said,
“This year, the situation in the Holy Land has been so critical that many have been tempted to despair, or to condone violence. But while good news rarely makes the headlines, I am grateful to tell you that at HCEF we have been blessed with continued success in our support and encouragement of the Palestinian Christian community.”
The first ‘Opening Doors’ panel featured a statement about “Searching for Hope” by Coadjutor Bishop Suheil Dawani of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem. Archbishop Metropolitain Elias Chacour, Archbishop of Galilee of the Melkite Catholic Church, presented a moving call to action in the next ‘Opening Doors’ panel, with the theme ‘Finding Hope’.
Two prominent Christian Evangelicals discussed the topic, “Are Christians Obligated to Support Israel? Two Different Theological Perspectives”. Rev. Dr. Gary Burge of Wheaton College and Ms. Jo Ann Magnuson of Bridges for Peace represented mainstream Evangelical and Christian Zionist theological positions respectively, and discussed the practical implications of the their positions for peace-building and justice in the Middle East.
Rev. Dr. Craig Barnes and Fr. Drew Christiansen discussed the importance of supporting the Mother Church now and in the future. Fr. Emil Salayta moderated the panel, which also introduced HCEF’s new Ambassadors of the Mother Church program. Participation in the Ambassadors of the Mother Church program allows HCEF to support Christians in the Holy Land in their struggle to carry on traditions, keep the faith, and use their unique position to advance the cause of peace.
Coadjutor Archbishop Fouad Twal of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem presented this year’s Keynote Address, and made a number of comments about the political, economic, and spiritual conditions of the church in Jerusalem.
Coadjutor Archbishop Fouad Twal, Archbishop Metropolitain Elias Chacour, and Coadjutor Bishop Suheil Dawani united their voices to call for peace and solidarity for their churches in the Holy Land.
His Excellency Karim Kawar, Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and His Excellency Afif Safieh, Head of the PLO Mission to the United States, addressed the topic, ‘Palestinian Christians: Past, Present, and Future’. These Arab Christians told the audience about their pride in the good relationships fostered between Muslims and Christians under difficult circumstances in the Holy Land.
The final ‘Opening Doors’ panel featured prominent academics from each of the three major faiths of the Holy Land: Mohammed Abu-Nimer, Ph.D., from American University representing an Muslim perspective, Bernard Sabella, Ph.D. from Bethlehem University representing a Christian perspective, and Sara Roy, Ph.D. from Harvard University representing a Jewish perspective. Conference participants found the panel interesting and hopeful, as speakers addressed the theme, “The Future of the Holy Land: Reality and Aspiration”.
Christian children from the United States and Palestine presented a performance on the conference theme of ‘Opening Doors of Hope in Faith’ as the final event in the HCEF 8th International Conference. The children participated in the Children’s Conference in conjunction with the Children’s Peace Project, in which American families host Palestinian children to build solidarity for peace.
HCEF hosted its 8th International Awards Banquet to honor people and organizations who have demonstrated extraordinary dedication to Arab Christians living in the Holy Land. This year’s banquet Keynote Speaker was Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, re-elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and founder of MIFTAH.
The Holy Land Arab Christians: Faith and Culture exhibit opened on Wednesday evening, Oct. 18, 2006, at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, DC. This exhibit aims to improve awareness about the rich cultural traditions of the Mother Church, and a joint venture of HCEF and the Cultural Center.
The HCEF 8th International Conference promoted awareness, built solidarity, and advanced the cause of peace on behalf of Arab Christians and all the inhabitants of the Holy Land. HCEF presses forward with its goal of replacing despair with hope, fear with security, and humiliation with human dignity.
For the text of our speakers’ remarks, or to learn more about HCEF, visit www.hcef.org. Keep visiting – new information is being added every day!