President and CEO of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation Sir Rateb Rabie has returned from his trip to Chile – home to the largest population of Palestinians outside the Middle East – where he formed partnerships with the major Arab and Palestinian organizations in Chile. Sir Rateb met with these organizations and together they developed plans to support Palestinians in the Holy Land.
The Palestinian community of Chile is vibrant and growing, numbering over 350,000 individuals. The majority have roots in Bait Jala, Bethlehem, and Bait Sahour, cities of the greater Bethlehem governorate. This report will present the highlights of this journey.
Sir Rateb Rabie had the honor of addressing a Palestinian Day celebration in Santiago, Chile, attended by many esteemed guests including dignitaries and diplomats of Palestine, Chile and other countries. In his address, Sir Rateb began with an update on the current situation in Palestine. He continued to discuss the need to establish a new state of Palestine and the important role which the Palestinians in diaspora can play in the achievement of a lasting peace, which, he stressed, is very urgently needed. Sir Rateb thanks the Ambassador, His Excellency Imad Nabil Jadaa for his warm welcome and for inviting him to speak. He also thanks Mauricio Khamis, President of the Palestinian Club for hosting such an important event.
Later in his visit, Sir Rateb Rabie was honored to meet with Eugenio Tuma Zedan, Vice President of the National Senate of Chile and a member of the Partido por la Democracia PPD (Party for Democracy) The two men spent the morning in a deep discussion of Palestine and Israel. Senator Tuma, who is of Palestinian descent with roots in Beit Jala, expressed his full support for HCEF and the work they do on behalf of the Palestinians. At the conclusion of the meeting Senator Eugenio Tuma Zedan presented Sir Rateb Rabie with a gift on behalf of the National Congressional Senate in recognition of his dedication to the Palestinian Christians of the Holy Land.
The board of Belén 2000 – Fundación Palestina (Bethlehem 2000 – Palestinian Foundation) had several meetings with Sir Rateb during his trip. Belén 2000 – Fundación Palestina is an organization which raises funds in Chile in order to improve the quality of life of the Palestinian people through aid-oriented solidarity with the disadvantaged families. Their vision is to achieve the growth of Palestine and its people to a healthy, educated, and prosperous nation. In these meetings both parties decided to renew their commitment to the partnership begun in 2013. HCEF and Belén 2000 will be working on two major projects: The Know Thy Heritage Leadership Program, and promoting tourism to the Holy Land. Both organizations will be working together to connect the Palestinian diaspora globally in order to encourage support of one another and build up Palestine, socially and economically.
Club Palestino (Palestinian Club) an organization dedicated to the social, cultural and physical well-being of its members, providing a center for reunions and recreation which allows them to preserve, develop and disseminate Palestinian Arab values in order to keep this heritage alive. Club Palestino will partner with HCEF to create more activities encouraging Club members to begin visiting the homeland, since many of them have never been. They also spoke of uniting their efforts to advocate for peace and justice in Palestine. Club Palestino will also host KTH activities and other Palestinian Awareness meetings or events.
Centro de Estudios Árabes is a program under the Department of Philosophy and Humanities at the University of Chile. The center was institutedin 1966 with the goal of providing a space for reflection, training, creation, and dissemination of knowledge in the field of Arabic and Islamic studies . It has since then set thebenchmark of discipline in the national and Latin American context, creating interdisciplinary teams expressing coherence between action and academic practice. At the suggestion of Sir Rateb, he Center for Arab Studies is excited to expand its network of research on issues of Palestinians in the Diaspora, connect with other researchers around the world and become a hub for knowledge-sharing and development.
Sir Rateb Rabie met with the Federación Palestina de Chile (Palestinian Federation of Chile), an advocacy group in Chile which works with the Palestinian Diaspora across Latin America. HCEF and the Palestinian Federation of Chile will coordinate to support activism and advocacy for Palestine in Chile. Through this partnership both parties will be able to conduct more activities that connect the people of Palestine with the Palestinians in the Diaspora.
Sir Rateb Rabie had a fruitful meeting with the Club Deportivo Palestino (Palestinian Sport Club) – a professional soccer team originally formed in 1920 by Palestinian immigrants who wished to participate in a soccer league amongst Chilean colonies. Club Deportivo Palestino enthusiastically welcomed the suggestion to connect Palestinians players with KTH alumni as a source of mentorship and inspiration for the younger generation. HCEF and Club Deportivo Palestino will work together to gain a deeper understanding of Palestine and Chile. The club is in full support of Palestinians in the Diaspora and in the homeland.
Colegio Árabe (Arab School) was founded in 1978 by a group of Palestinian visionaries and pioneers looking for a way to contribute to the great country of Chile. It is dedicated to forming upstanding citizens under the principals and values of Chile complimented with the culture and traditions of Palestine. In partnership with HCEF, Colegio Árabe agreed to introduce a student exchange program between Chile and Palestine. They also agreed to introduce the Children’s Peace Project which will bring students from Palestine to Chile to encourage educational exchange and a relationship between the two countries.
Sir Rateb Rabie addressed a group of young men about to affirm their Christian faith from Colegio del Verbo Divino a Catholic School in Santiago, Chile. Sir Rateb reminded them that the roots of their Christian faith lay in the Holy Land and the importance of Palestine for preserving this Christian heritage. He also relayed the need to serve the Mother Church at the place where it all started, the Holy Land. “Be open to the call of the Holy Spirit in your life,” he encouraged the teenage students. “I assure you that if you put your faith into action, it will bring you happiness.” The school has committed to supporting HCEF’s mission in the Holy Land.
Later, Sir Rateb Rabie met with religious leaders His Excellency Monsignor Ivo Scapolo, Apostolic Nuncio to Santiago, Chile and His Eminence Monsignor Sergio Abad, the Antiochian Metropolitan Archbishop of Santiago and allChile, to discuss the living conditions and suffering of Christians in the Holy Land. His Excellency Monsignor Ivo Scapolo agreed to introduce HCEF to different and Catholic institutions orders in Chile, in order to develop catholic support for the church of Jerusalem. His Eminence Monsignor Sergio Abad warmly accepted Sir Rateb’s invitation to join the HCEF advisory board.
Sir Rateb also met with the young entrepreneurs behind “Invest in Palestine”- a project that aims to facilitate the financing of projects and business of Palestinian entrepreneurs in Palestine. This project allows investors to produce products not traditionally found locally in the Palestinian market thereby reducing dependence Israeli products, increasing employment rates, and eventually creating a network of companies and factories to improve the Palestinian economy He discussed ways of involving the Palestinians in Diaspora and non-Palestinian Chileans in this project. Together they hope to launch a program for future business leaders.
The success of this entire journey was made possible through the hospitality of Know Thy Heritage Alumni. They welcomed Sir Rateb and KTH Coordinator Ms. Chiara Cardone with the same hospitality they had experienced at their homecoming to Palestine. KTH Alumni were instrumental in organizing many of the meetings. They went above and beyond to secure appointments with prominent organizations and dignitaries. KTH alumni gave different presentations on HCEF and KTH throughout the trip. Their workshops on KTH were fruitful and they recruited many as potential candidates for the 2015 trip. Sir Rateb commented that the Chilean community at large was warm and welcoming, “Chile is a beautiful country, teeming with a warmth and hospitality that pulls you in.”
Overall, the trip was a moving experience. It was very energizing and encouraging to receive such a warm welcome by the Palestinian community in Chile and the broader Chilean community at large. Sir Rateb is hopeful and knows this is just the beginning for many activities to come between Palestinians in the Diaspora and the Chileans who have been supporting the Palestinian cause for decades. Sir Rateb looks forward to future trips to Chile to continue to nourish what they have begun.