Episcopal Church Makes Positive Investment in the Palestinian Economy

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PNN

The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation's (HCEF) said in a press release that the main goal of its 14th International Conference and 3rd Business and Investment Conference in Palestine, which was held in November 9-10, 2012, was to promote and identify investment and business opportunities in Palestine. In addition to, encourage the Western Churches and their financial and economic institutions to do positive investment in Palestine for peace.

Mr. N. Kurt Barnes, Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer of the Episcopal Church, attended HCEF's 3rd Business and Investment Conference where he was introduced and met with represantatives of Bank of Palestine. As a result, Mr. Barnes announced the decision of the Episcopal Church Economic Justice Loan Committee (EJLC) of the Executive Council to purchase a three-year certificate of deposit for $500,000.00 in the Bank of Palestine as part of its economic justice portfolio.

Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori said, "I am delighted that The Episcopal Church has now made a positive investment in the Palestinian economy, an action which we have encouraged for some time. This is a tangible evidence of our commitment to a healthy economy in the Palestinian territories as a necessary instrument to building a lasting peace."

HCEF President and CEO, Sir Rateb Rabie, KCHS expressed his appreciation of the decision undertaken by the Economic Justice Committee of the Episcopal Church to invest in the Bank of Palestine, calling this the first as well as a significant step on the road to replacing despair with hope within the Palestinian community. "I commend the Episcopal Church's decision to invest in Palestine for all Palestinians." HCEF is a Christian witness and catalyst as it exposes the role all Christians can play to encourage investment in Palestine.

Mr. Rabie also confirmed the work of the Foundation. Since its inception in 1998, HCEF has resulted in creating jobs and increasing opportunities to benefit the Palestinian economy, increasing job opportunities for the residents of the Holy Land. "Other western and international churches have serious initiatives aimed at supporting the Palestinian economy, and HCEF will share the names of these entities at a later date", said Sir Rateb Rabie, as he continued to express his belief in the important role that Christian churches can and do play in working towards achieving peace and creating better living conditions through their service, investment to those living in Palestine. "This is the Christian message."

In preparation for the purchase, the Episcopal Church Finance Office worked with the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation to identify business opportunities in Palestine. Mr. N. Kurt Barnes, applauded HCEF's role in realizing this initiative. "The Episcopal Church has been working for months to identify possible investments in the Holy Land and I am grateful to HCEF for connecting me with senior management of the Bank of Palestine". Mr. Barnes highlighted these points, "The Bank of Palestine: 1) has well-developed corporate-governance and risk-management structures based on best practices generally seen in North America; 2) makes nearly 20% of its $720 million loan portfolio available to micro and small businesses (SMEs) employing over 10,000 Palestinians; 3) has a green loans program, which encourages water wells, wastewater management and alternative energy sources in order to reduce reliance on often unstable Israeli-sourced energy; and 4) contributes 5% of its net profit each year to Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives."

Bishop Stacey Soles, Chief Executive Officer of the Episcopal Church, stated: "This is one way in which we seek to serve the church on the local and global levels." He also explained that many parishes have come forward to express their willingness to undertake similar investments.

Dr. Lindsey Park, Diocese of Massachusetts and Chair of the EJLC stated, "We are pleased to receive the Bank of Palestine's assurance that the deposit would earmark the Episcopal Church's investments for small business and green loans, and also, in the near future, for micro-loans for women.

Eng. Anthony Habash, Regional Director, HCEF, explained that this step is considered a crowning achievement for the Foundation, which has sought to raise awareness of the investment situation in Palestine in order to stimulate investment by churches to create job opportunities. This will in turn help achieve peace and economic cooperation between the US and Palestine.

The Episcopal Church has a permanent presence in the Holy Land. Its Bishop, His Excellency Bishop Suhail Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem,is permanently based in Jerusalem. Also, the Episcopal Church is one of the mainstream Protestant churches in the United States and the World, specifically with members in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Austria, Belgium, France, German, Italy, Switzerland, Haiti, Honduras, Micronesia, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Venezuela, and other countries.

HCEF continues to build relations between Western Christians and Palestinians, and bridges for peace among Christians, Muslims and Jews. Peace leads to Prosperity. As 'One Humanity with Different Faiths', we are walking together to restore dignity, justice and prosperity in the Holy Land.

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