Washington, DC — On Wednesday, October 12th, the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) and the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of the State of Palestine (MoTA) launched their Tourism for Peace campaign, meeting with prominent U.S. Christian leaders throughout Washington, DC. The meetings, which have centered on how to encourage Christian pilgrimage to Palestine, serve as a lead up to HCEF’s 18th International Conference, a two-day event supported by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) during which the Christian community will discuss a resolution to make Palestine a priority destination for all Christians.
The campaign encourages Christians to base their pilgrimages in Palestine so as to support the now dwindling numbers of Christians living in the Holy Land. The high unemployment rate coupled with the high cost of living—due in large part to the occupation, have forced many to emigrate from their ancestral homes to seek a more secure life for their families. This trend has led to an astronomical decline in the Christian population, which now hovers around 1.5%. Because Christians in the Holy Land largely depend on Christian pilgrimage to support their livelihoods, HCEF and MoTA believe that an increase in Palestine-based pilgrimage is an important step for bolstering the local economy and for developing new advocates for the Living Stones.
In order to further their cause, HCEF and MoTA have formed a partnership with the UNWTO and local stakeholders to expand pilgrimages to Palestine. Over the last two days, HCEF President/CEO, Mr. Rateb Rabie, and Minister of MoTA, Her Excellency, Ms. Rula Ma’ayah have met with His Excellency, Bishop Barry Knestout, the Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Washington, DC; with Reverend Dr. David Renwick, Senior Pastor for the National Presbyterian Church; with The Very Reverend Richard Graham, Bishop of the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and with Msgr. Bransfield, General Secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Dr. Stephen Colecchi, Director of the Office of International Justice and Peace, also of the USCCB. The meetings offered U.S. Christian leaders an important opportunity to discuss with Palestinian leadership about the challenges that Holy Land Christians face.
At the conference, which kicks off Friday, October 14th, H.E. Rula Ma’ayah will receive the HCEF Heritage Award, which honors individuals who advocate for the preservation of the cultural, historic and national resources of Palestine. Regarding the honor, Mr. Rabie commented, “The Minister is an excellent advocate for Palestinians, and we deeply appreciate all she does to preserve the Christian presence in the land of our faith’s birth. Now is the time for us to unite as Christians, to put aside our denominational differences in order to protect our common heritage and to support the future of our common faith. Her Excellency fundamentally understands this and we are proud to be able to recognize her commitment to Palestine.”
For more information about HCEF, please go to hcef.org
To learn about opportunities for Christian pilgrimage, please go to: holylandtours.ps