“Let us work together to replace despair with HOPE, fear with human SECURITY and humiliation with DIGNITY”

Speaker Bios

Speaker Bios 2018-10-09T07:38:26+00:00



Most Reverend Barry C. Knestout, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington

Bishop Barry C. Knestout was born and raised in Maryland. One of nine children, he lived with his family in Ankara, Turkey for four years as a child, but grew up in Bowie, Maryland, where he attended both Catholic and public schools. He received a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Maryland in December of 1984. He began his seminary studies at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland in 1985 and was ordained a priest in June of 1989.

After ordination, Bishop Knestout served as a parochial vicar at two parishes, St. Bartholomew in Bethesda (1989-1993) and St. Peter in Waldorf (1993-1994), prior to being named priest-secretary to Cardinal James A. Hickey in 1994. He continued in that role until the cardinal’s death in 2004, also serving as priest-secretary to Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick in 2001 as well as from 2003 to 2004.

Named a Monsignor by Saint John Paul II in 1999, Bishop Knestout was the executive director of the Office of Youth Ministry/CYO from 2001-2003 and became pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Silver Spring in 2004. In October of 2006, he returned to the central administration of the archdiocese to serve as Secretary for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns. Less than two years later, in April 2007, he was named moderator of the curia and vicar for administration. In this role as the “chief of staff” for the archdiocese’s central offices, he assists Archbishop, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, in managing and overseeing all administrative affairs.

He is a Fourth Degree member of the Knights of Columbus, a member of the Order of Malta and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. He serves on the Archdiocesan Presbyteral Council, the Archdiocesan Finance Council and the College of Consultors. In addition, he has been a member of the Archdiocesan Building Commission since 1991 and the Archdiocesan Sacred Arts Commission since 1994. He is a member of the Administrative Board of the Maryland Catholic Conference and the Episcopal Moderator of the American Catholic Correctional Chaplains Association.


Sir Rateb Y. Rabie, President/CEO of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation

Sir Rateb Y. Rabie, KCHS is co-founder, president and CEO of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation. Sir Rabie was born in Amman, Jordan to Palestinian parents.  He came to the United States in 1976, promptly becoming a citizen and obtaining a degree in business management.  From 1981 to 1986, Sir Rabie served as Director of Operations for Saudi Support Services, Ltd.  In 1988, he moved to Washington, DC, where he managed and owned several businesses.  He is currently president of Image Printing and Publishing, Inc. and is an international consultant for business development.  Sir Rabie is a past national president and current board member of the Birzeit Society as well as the vice president, treasurer and co-founder of the Institute for Health, Development, and Research in Palestine.  Sir Rabie is committed to ameliorating the living conditions of Holy Land Christians so that they might continue to dwell in the land of Christ’s birth and preserve its Christian heritage. He is a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre.

s3 Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, National Director of the Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances, Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)

Dr. Sayyid Syeed is the national director of the Office of Interfaith & Community Alliances for the Islamic Society of North America, the continent’s largest Muslim organization. His leadership has been crucial to increasing public awareness and understanding of Islam and Muslim-Americans. He has built strong coalitions with interfaith partners to advocate for a range of justice issues, such as ending torture and protecting religious minorities in Arab countries. A naturalized American citizen, Dr. Syeed gives a public face to his organization’s vision “to be an exemplary and unifying Islamic organization in North America that contributes to the betterment of the Muslim community and society at large.” Dr. Syeed’s visibility, particularly his work in interfaith dialogue and multi-faith movements for peace, is needed now more than ever in order to safeguard religious liberty, tolerance and acceptance for all Americans.


Dr. James Zogby, Co-founder and President of the Arab American Institute (AAI)

Dr. James J. Zogby is the author of Arab Voices (Palgrave Macmillan, October 2010) and the founder and president of the Arab American Institute (AAI), a Washington, DC-based organization that serves as the political and policy research arm of the Arab-American community. Since 1985, Dr. Zogby and AAI have led Arab-American efforts to secure political empowerment in the United States. Through voter registration, education and mobilization, AAI has moved Arab-Americans into the political mainstream.

For the past three decades, Dr. Zogby has been involved in a full range of Arab-American issues. A co-founder and chairman of the Palestine Human Rights Campaign in the late 1970s, he later co-founded and served as the executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. In 1982, he co-founded Save Lebanon, Inc., a private nonprofit, humanitarian and nonsectarian relief organization that funds healthcare for Palestinian and Lebanese war victims, as well as other social welfare projects in Lebanon. In 1985, he founded AAI. He currently serves on the national advisory board of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Watch Board of Directors for the Middle East and North Africa and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Additionally, he is a senior advisor for the polling firm Zogby International, where he is responsible for the firm’s groundbreaking polling across the Middle East. Dr. Zogby was recently appointed by President Obama as a member of the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).


Father Drew Christiansen, S.J., Member of the HCEF Board of Directors, Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Global Human Development,  Georgetown University

Fr. Drew Christiansen, S.J., a co-founder of HCEF, is Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Global Human Development at Georgetown University and a senior research fellow at Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. He has also taught at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkley and the University of Notre Dame. He was editor-in-chief of America, the U.S. Jesuit weekly (2005-12). He is the former director of the Office of International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Catholic Conference (1991-1998), and he served as advisor to the U.S. bishops on Middle East policy from 1991 to 2004. He also served as the first coordinator of an episcopal conferences working group on the Holy Land (1998-2002). For his work on behalf of the church in the Holy Land, Patriarch Michael Sabbah invested Fr. Christiansen as canon of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.


Shadia Sbait, General Coordinator of Iqrit Community Center

Shadia Sbait hails from Kufur Yaseef, upper Galilee and obtained a BA in Economics and Management from Bar Ilan University and an MA in Information Management from Haifa University. For the last 20 years, Mrs. Sbait has been an activist focused on bringing justice and awareness to the struggles of the displaced villages and communities in Iqrit.

She started her activism within the annual summer camps of Iqrit and, together with a group of activists from the village of Iqrit, founded the Iqrit Community Association. She has participated in local and international human rights’ workshops and studies.

In 2012-2013, she lead wide lobbying campaign in the Israeli Knesset and has created key partnerships with human rights organizations like Baladna, HRA, ADRID, Zochrot, New Profile, YWCA and HCEF. She had the honor to meet his Holiness Pope Francis during his last visit to the Holy Land and discussed with his Holiness the situation of the Palestinian Christians in the 1948 territories. Mrs. Sbait is married and has two children.


Fr. Michael McDonagh, International Advisor to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem

Born in 1950 in Sligo, Ireland, Fr. McDonagh was ordained to the priesthood in 1974 at All Hallows Seminary, Dublin for the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida. He completed his graduate studies in Canon Law at the Catholic University of America in 1978. He has worked in the Diocesan Marriage Tribunal as  a judge and served as pastor of St. Michael’s Parish, Clearwater from 1983-87. When he moved to EWTN, he presented a weekly Bible program and co-hosted Mother Angelica Live for five years. From 1992 until the present, he has helped found a new religious community, the Marian Servants of the Holy Spirit, geared to a restoration of a more robust and frequent celebration the Sacrament of Penance and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament through retreats and parish missions. Hearing the call of the Lord to live and work in Jerusalem, he moved in 1999 and was incardinated into the Latin Patriarchate in 2012.  

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Adv. Raffoul Rofa, LL. M., Director of the Society of St. Yves

Raffoul Rofa received a Master’s Degree from University of London in the United Kingdom in 1996. He has been the director of the Society of St. Yves in the Holy Land since 2008, spreading his legal advice to those suffering from the hardships of the Holy Land, specializing in Jerusalem residency, family reunification, child registration, freedom of movement, house and structure demolitions or even land confiscations. Simultaneously in 2008, he joined the World Vision Jerusalem in the West Bank Gaza office, which he has also chaired since 2009. He was said to have joined the board of directors because he wanted to improve the lives of children. 


Dr. Rana Balsheh Shouman, Pharmacist, Mercy Hospital 

Dr. Rana Balsheh Shouman earned her Doctor of Pharmacy degree with Honors and Emphasis in Leadership at the University of Minnesota‐College of Pharmacy. She continued her professional development by pursuing a post-graduate hospital residency at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, the largest in the Twin Cities area. Following her residency, she stayed within the Allina Health system, working primarily in Emergency Medicine and Critical Care. She is now the clinical pharmacy coordinator at St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Shakopee, MN.

Throughout her life, Dr. Shouman has always been a strong advocate for Palestinian human and civil rights. She has led many efforts aimed at increasing awareness of Palestine’s struggle to maintain its identity, tradition and culture. During the first year of her undergraduate studies, Dr. Shouman started and led the first Dabkeh group on campus. Whether it’s an interesting section about where to see the next Dabkeh performance at the University of Minnesota or making the MN community aware of her family’s dismissed right of return to their homeland, Dr. Shouman’s connection to Palestine has been featured several times in Minnesota’s most prominent newspapers, such as the Minnesota Daily and Star Tribune.

One of Rana’s biggest dreams came true this summer, when she became the first family member to visit her parents’ birthplaces in the Galilee. Through the Know Thy Heritage (KTH) program, she was able to connect with her ancestral homeland as well as Palestinian youth with whom she maintains communication with to this day. Rana hopes to continue working with both Palestinians in exile and in the homeland to help build a better future for our beautiful Palestine.


Dr. Saliba Sarsar, Secretary, HCEF Board of Directors; Associate Vice President for Global Initiatives, Monmouth University

Dr. Saliba Sarsar, born and raised in Jerusalem, is the associate vice president for Academic Program Initiatives and Professor of Political Science at Monmouth University. He received his elementary and secondary education at Collège de Frères and St. Joseph’s College in the Old City. He completed a BA in political science and history interdisciplinary, with summa cum laude, from Monmouth College in 1978. In 1984, he earned his doctoral degree from Rutgers University in political science, with specialization in international relations and Middle Eastern affairs. Dr. Sarsar is a Middle East scholar and commentator on Middle East affairs and the author of several books and articles on this and other subjects. Dr. Sarsar has received and/or directed several grants, including Fulbright, Kellogg, Dodge and Peace Development Fund. Among his awards are the Global Visionary Award from Monmouth University in 2007, the Stafford Presidential Award of Excellence from Monmouth University in 2006 and the Humanitarian Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice in 2001. In April of 2003, Dr. Sarsar was featured in the New York Times, “His Mission: Finding Why People Fight—A Witness to Mideast Conflict Turns to Dialogue and Peace.”

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Mazin Quimsiyeh, Ph.D, FABMG, Professor and Director of, Cytogenetics Lab, Palestine Museum of Natural History, Bethlehem University

Born in Beit Sahour, the biblical Shepherds’ Field just on the outskirts of Bethlehem, Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh was raised under Israeli occupation. His firsthand experiences as a Palestinian Christian and his educational background at universities both in the Middle East and the U.S. helped shape his evolving worldviews.

Professor Qumsiyeh teaches and conducts research at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities. He is the director of the main clinical cytogenetics laboratory as well as of the Palestine Museum of Natural History and Institute for Biodiversity Research. He has previously served on the faculties of the University of Tennessee, Duke and Yale. He has published over 130 scientific papers on topics ranging from biodiversity to cancer. He was chairman of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People and currently serves on the board of Al-Rowwad Children’s Theater Center in Aida Refugee Camp.

He published hundreds of refereed articles and several books including “Mammals of the Holy Land,” “Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli/Palestinian Struggle” (English, Spanish and German) and “Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment” (Arabic, English, French, forthcoming in Italian). He also has an activism book published electronically on his website (https://qumsiyeh.org). His main interests are media activism and public education. He has given hundreds of talks around the world, published over 250 letters to the editor and 100 op-ed pieces and interviewed extensively on local, national and international TV and radio.

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Khalil Jashan, Executive Director of Arab Center Washington DC, Inc. 

Khalil Jahshan, born in Nazareth, is a Palestinian-American activist and media commentator. He currently serves as the executive director of Arab Center Washington DC, a nonprofit think tank focusing on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. From 2004-2013, Mr. Jahshan was a lecturer in International Studies and Languages at Pepperdine University and Executive Director of its Seaver College Washington DC Internship Program. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science and French from Harding University in 1972.


Stephen B. Corbin, D.D.S., M.P.H, Former Special Olympics Senior Vice President of Community Impact and Support, Washington, DC, Living Faith Lutheran Church Elder, Rockville, MD.

Stephen B. Corbin is a practicing dentist in Rockville, Maryland and an Elder of Living Faith Lutheran Church. Dr. Corbin previously served as the senior vice president of Constituent Services and Support and Dean of Special Olympics University at the headquarter’s offices in Washington, DC, where he was responsible health, research, evaluation, sports, families, schools and youth, athlete leadership, government relations and policy initiatives.

Dr. Corbin spent 23 years in various federal health agencies in clinical care delivery, program management and policy development, finishing his federal career as both the Chief Dental Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service and Chief of Staff to the Surgeon General of the United States.

He holds a BA from the University of Maryland in College Park and a dental degree from the University of Maryland in Baltimore. He additionally his Masters in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and is Board Certified in Dental Public Health. He has lectured, performed research and published extensively on a wide variety of subjects.


Eng. Anthony Habash, Regional Director of HCEF, Bethlehem, Palestine

Palestinian-born engineer Anthony Habash is the regional director of HCEF. He operates out of HCEF’s regional office in Bethlehem, representing the nonprofit organization throughout the Middle East. Aside from managing the planning and implementation of HCEF programs, Eng. Habash is charged with increasing the foundation’s visibility through community, regional and international involvement.

Through his efforts as regional director, Eng. Habash has made substantial contributions towards peace-building. With strong leadership, management and interpersonal skills, Eng. Habash plays an instrumental role in developing relations, internally and externally, with various religious organizations and foundations. With a focus on Muslim-Christian understanding, Eng. Habash continues to be progressive, effective and positive in his efforts.

Prior to HCEF, Eng. Habash has worked for numerous notable organizations such as Custody of the Holy Land, the Latin Parish of Jerusalem and the John Paul II Foundation in the Middle East.

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Noor Shayeb, Human Resources Associate at Chemonics and Know Thy Heritage Alumni

Noor Shayeb is a Palestinian-American who received her Bachelors of Science in Business Administration, HR Management and Finance from North Carolina State University. In 2012; she studied abroad at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, Turkey. She has previously volunteered with International House as an English & Citizenship Tutor, where she taught U.S. history, government, policy and English with international adults working towards naturalization, increasing language ability and citizenship exam success rate. Ms. Shayeb currently works as a Human Resource Associate at Chemonics International in Washington, DC and is working towards her long-term goal of founding a nonprofit organization for Middle Eastern women to promote freedom of expression and leadership.


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Rev. Dr. David A. Renwick,Senior Pastor, The National Presbyterian Church

Dr. David A. Renwick has been an ordained Presbyterian Minister for over 35 years, serving diverse congregations in Newfoundland, Canada; San Antonio, Texas; Lexington, KY; and Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Dr. Renwick is a graduate of St. Andrew’s University in Scotland, where he studied Applied Mathematics. He received his M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and his Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary in Virginia.

His wife Currie is a media specialist in the DC public school system. They have three adult children and four grandchildren.

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Delinda Curtiss Hanley, Executive Director and News Editor, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Delinda Curtiss Hanley is the news editor and executive director of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, a monthly magazine with the largest circulation of any Middle East-related publication in North America. Each colorful issue is packed with special reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict, the wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, current Middle East issues and grassroots activism in the U.S. and abroad. The magazine is important to every Arab-American organization because it is the only publication that reports on every group’s symposiums, lectures, dialogues and activities. The magazine also focuses on U.S. lobbying groups involved in crafting U.S. policy.

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Zuhair Madanat, First Theology Seminarian—Diocese of Peoria, IL, Mount St. Mary’s Seminary Emmitsburg, MD

Zuhair Madanat is a First Theology Seminarian at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD and is set to graduate in 2019. He obtained his Bachelors of Science in Marketing from Bradley University. Prior to joining the seminary, Mr. Madanat held prime marketing positions at various corporations and internship positions for his state representative and congressman in Peoria, IL. Being of Palestinian descent and having grown up in the United States, Mr. Madanat spent a year abroad living in Jordan, Palestine, and Israel to get in touch with his Palestinian roots.

  Anne-Elisabeth Giuliani, Historian Researcher and Chaplain at Georgetown University, Translator and Interpreter

Anne-Elisabeth Giuliani currently serves as a Chaplain-in-Residence in Copley Hall at Georgetown University while working as a research historian and as an interpreter in the field of international affairs. Before coming to the United States in 1990, she studied medicine and linguistics in France. At Georgetown, her past endeavors have included doctoral studies in American History, full-time ministry and teaching posts.

Ms. Giuliani received her formation in theology and spirituality at the Stadium of Notre-Dame de Vie (Our Lady of Life) near Avignon, France. She continues to be involved with this international theological center rooted in the tradition of the great Carmelite saints and mystics that began in the Holy Land. Her ministry focuses on the spiritual formation of the laity in the context of the new evangelization, the spirituality of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the developments of Christian spirituality since Vatican II. Throughout her years in Washington, she has led a variety of pastoral and liturgical programs, prayer groups and retreats, as well as interfaith and intercultural initiatives.

Ms. Giuliani’s commitment to inter-religious dialogue spans nearly three decades in Europe and the United States. She began her involvement with HCEF in 2002, where she rallied students of all faith traditions around the cause of the Holy Land Christians. Many of them went on to be trusted interns and faithful friends, and some even became dedicated professionals to the mission of HCEF. In 2007, she joined HCEF’s fact-finding mission to the Holy Land. She has also generously opened up her international networks to HCEF.


 Chiara J. Cardone, Palestinian Youth Advocate and Consultant of Know Thy Heritage, Glen Mills, PA

Chiara’s Catholic faith has always been at the core of her work on behalf of young people, Palestinians, Arab Christians and inter-religious understanding. She has served HCEF as a volunteer, intern, executive assistant & special programs coordinator. In her position as the latter. she helped develop the Know Thy Heritage (KTH) Youth Leadership Program from its inception in 2011 until 2014, and was honored to accompany many young diaspora Palestinians on journeys to their beautiful homeland, Palestine.

Prior to joining HCEF, Chiara graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Georgetown University. There, she also studied French and Arabic. Throughout college, Chiara pursued a particular interest in Middle East affairs. She attended the Sciences-Po Paris Middle East and Mediterranean College for an academic year, which also encompassed a research tour in Bahrain, Kuwai and Qatar. Ms. Cardone has also served youth as a scout leader and youth minister. She has been instrumental in spearheading inter-religious partnerships, particularly between Muslims and Christians.  In March of 2014, Chiara represented HCEF at the Youth Round-Table Discussion on Palestine/Israel at the White House. Chiara was born and raised in Pennsylvania, the 7th child of Dominic & Elizabeth Cardone. She currently resides in the Philadelphia area.


The Society of St. Yves, Catholic Center for Human Rights

Founded in 1991 by former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Holy Land Michel Sabbah, the Society of St. Ives is a Catholic Center for Human Rights of Latin Patriarch in the Holy Land. This organization is motivated by history’s St. Yves of Brittany, aristocrat and Doctor of Law in the 13th century, whose main focus was service to the poor. While focusing their efforts on free legal aid to the needy as well as human and civil rights to the unfortunate in the Holy Land, the Society of St. Yves also believes that we are all created equally under God. The cases they tackle include Jerusalem residency, family reunification, child registration, freedom of movement, house and structure demolitions or even land confiscations. Their motto, “I am my brother’s keeper”, has kept them continuing to strive for justice and fairness for all; no matter race, gender or religion. Today, St. Yves manages some 1,000 cases per year and assists more than 2,000 people annually.