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

More Than 400 People Attend HCEF Symposium in Detroit: The Future of the Holy Land Christians: Chris

The Detroit committee of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) hosted more than 400 people at their first Symposium and Banquet on March 31, 2001. The events were held in the St. George Cultural Center with the blessing of Fr. Joseph Antypas, Pastor, St. George Antiochian Christian Orthodox Church. George Khoury, the symposium chairperson, and Rateb Rabie, HCEF’s president, were pleased with the large turnout. Mr. Rabie remarked, “The Detroit Committee of the Holy Land Christian Support Network (HCSN) did an excellent job of gathering support for the Christians in the Holy Land. This event affirms their hard work and provides encouragement as they continue to grow and plan for another Symposium next year.” The Detroit committee of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) hosted more than 400 people at their first Symposium and Banquet on March 31, 2001. The events were held in the St. George Cultural Center with the blessing of Fr. Joseph Antypas, Pastor, St. George Antiochian Christian Orthodox Church. George Khoury, the symposium chairperson, and Rateb Rabie, HCEF’s president, were pleased with the large turnout. Mr. Rabie remarked, “The Detroit Committee of the Holy Land Christian Support Network (HCSN) did an excellent job of gathering support for the Christians in the Holy Land. This event affirms their hard work and provides encouragement as they continue to grow and plan for another Symposium next year.” In the opening talk at the HCSN Symposium: The Future of the Holy Land Christians, Father Emil Salayta, Director of Schools for the Latin Patriarchate, Jerusalem, explained that it is in the Acts of the Apostles that we find the roots of Palestinian Christians. When the day of Pentecost came it found them gathered in one place. Suddenly from up in the sky there came a noise like a strong, driving wind, which was heard, all through the house where they were seated. Tongues as of fire appeared, which parted and came to rest on each of them. All were filled with the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:1-4 “Among the people present on the day of Pentecost 2000 years ago were Arabs, and it is these Arabs who are the ancestors of today’s Palestinian Christians,” said Father Emil. “It was these Christians who kept the Christian faith alive during the spread of Islam, throughout the Crusades, through the Ottoman Empire, and into the present era of Israeli occupation.” Father Majdi Siryani, Legal Counsel to the Latin Patriarchate, Jerusalem, focused on Jerusalem, a city which is home to 13 Christian denominations, each with its own unique and vibrant traditions. He reminded his audience that the population of Palestinian Christians in the city of Jerusalem shrunk to just 3% from 51% in 1922. Father Majdi reiterated the international community’s continued condemnation of Israel’s brutal military occupation of East Jerusalem since 1967. Terry Ahwal, a member of the HCSN Detroit Committee, was born in Ramallah, Palestine and came to the United States when she was 15 years old. She told the story of her family’s persecution – the story of watching her father beaten by Israeli soldiers and of learning that every family in her village had suffered the same abuse. She showed tear gas canisters found in her cousin’s dental office and in another family member’s home. The canisters were made in Pennsylvania and are clearly marked “May cause death or serious injury.” The canisters are obscene symbols of the continued support that the United States gives to Israel and Israel’s suppression of legitimate Palestinian human rights. Palestinian Christians wonder whether the Christians in the West know the extent of their torment, and if they know, how can they remain silent? Nimer Haddad left Albasseh in 1948 with a clear picture of the heterogeneity of his community – mosques, churches and temples all in one place. There was no animosity among the indigenous people or the settlers. They knew that one “couldn’t speak of the Jewishness of Christ without speaking of his Palestinian roots. They understood that all the people in his village were connected to one another.” All of this changed, of course, with the creation of Israel. He was forced to emigrate in 1948. Mr. Haddad reminded listeners of Pope John Paul II’s words, “Your torment is before the eyes of the world, and it has gone on too long. No one should perceive the departure of the Christians from the Holy Land as inevitable.” A series of speakers invited attendees to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Fr. Alex Kratz, OFM, and Rev. William Gepford, Consultant for Interfaith Ministries, The Presbytery of Detroit, spoke of the life-changing effect of living in the Holy Land and experiencing the agonies of daily life of the Palestinian Christians. Msgr. William Easton, Pastor, The Shrine of the Little Flower, Royal Oak, MI, told the story of going on a pilgrimage guided by local Christians at the same time that his parents went on a pilgrimage guided by an Israeli tour guide. When they returned home, Msgr. Easton recounted the places where he celebrated mass with the Living stones, and his parents remarked, “Our tour guide told us that those places didn’t exist anymore!” Don Kruse, former United States Consul in Jerusalem, coordinates pilgrimage opportunities for HCEF and affirmed Christians in the West need to witness the real lives of the Living Stones of the Holy Land. He noted that many Christians in the West, unfortunately, remain uninformed by our media and echo the opinion of Jerry Falwell in his recently published letter, which urges, “Christians must continue their undying support for Israel.” People who know the truth about the human rights abuses in the Holy Land, argued Don Wagner, are “stuck with justice.” He saw this phrase posted in the Sabeel office in Palestine and told listeners that since they now heard the truth, they are indeed stuck with justice. “As weak and as incapable as I am, I must do something,” he remarked. Dr. Wagner, the Director of the Center for Middle East Understanding at North Park University in Chicago, recounted the teaching of St. Paul: “The body is one and has many members, but all the members, many though they are, are one body.” I Cor 12:12 Dr. Wagner suggested education, advocacy, prayer, ecumenical dialogue, political action, and economic action as concrete means by which one can support the living Body of Christ in the Holy Land. During the evening Banquet Duane Berchik and a group of HCSN members provided a presentation with overhead transparencies about the continued Israeli Bombardment of Christian homes in the area of Bethlehem. Children’s statements during the presentation revealed their distraught feelings about the horror that they see in their world. The audience was deeply moved by the utter bewilderment the children expressed as they tried to cope with the immense impact that the daily violence had on their young lives. In his keynote address at the evening banquet, His Eminence Adam Cardinal Maida greeted guests saying, “I accepted this invitation as a sign of solidarity and support for the plight of the Palestinian Christians, our brothers and sisters in the Lord who often have been neglected by the rest of the Christian community throughout the world.” Cardinal Maida affirmed the need for reconciliation and forgiveness among all the people who live in the Holy Land and for nonviolent action on the part of the local communities. He also noted that, “Realizing the very small number of Palestinian Christians – about two percent of the total population – it is clear that political pressure for their cause will have to come from the Christian community around the world.” 30 ( The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation is a tax exempt, non-profit organization committed to improving the lives of Christians in the Holy Land by developing bonds of solidarity with Christians in the United States. HCEF, PO Box 6687, Silver Spring, MD 20906. (301) 871-9222, Fax (301) 871-2277. www.hcef.org. email: rabie@hcef.org, Toll Free (866) 871-4233

2016-10-24T07:35:56+00:00 March 31st, 2001|Categories: News|