Bright Stars of Bethlehem presents



Featuring Rev. Jim Winkler, President of National Council of Churches, Rev. Dr. Mae Cannon of Churches for Middle East Peace, Sojourners’ Founder and President Jim Wallis, and Bright Stars of Bethlehem President, Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb.

As part of the Room for Hope festival, The Jerusalem Conference is a one-day conference on Thursday, October 11 that brings together scholars, ecumenical theologians, and peace-doers around the topic

Jerusalem: What makes for Peace?

The recent move of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has changed the conversation. Historic commitments to Jerusalem as a city for two people of three faiths are being threatened, along with the hope for peace. While the importance of the city for Jews is not questioned, its significance for Christians and Muslims, and particularly Christians is overlooked. For people of faith and for those concerned with peace in the Middle East, an inclusive Jerusalem is a must. So, what do we need to understand about the current political realities in Jerusalem, the implications of theological frameworks of the city, and current US and foreign policy?

Finally, what steps can we, as faith leaders take together and in our own networks to advance peace in this region?

In addition to responding to this urgent moment, The Jerusalem Conference is, in part, a follow up from the 2016 Atlanta Summit at the Carter Center hosted by President Carter, which brought together key representatives from 26 denominations as well as numerous faith-based organizations working towards a just peace in Israel/Palestine. This one day conference offers a timely exploration of Jerusalem as key to peace in the Middle East. Together, we will identify concrete steps and goals towards advancing the vision of an inclusive, diverse, and equitable Jerusalem.

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8:30-9:30A REGISTRATION: Hilton Ballroom, University of Houston

9:30A WELCOME: Fr. Don Nesti and Bishop Dr. Michael Rinehart, with Beth Nelson Chase and Jim Hooker of Bright Stars of Bethlehem

10-11:15A PANEL 1-  The Realities of Jerusalem Today

Including Dr. Majed Bamya, Tarek Abuata, Usama Qawasmeh. Moderated by John Lindner

— 11:15A Break —

11:30-12:45P PANEL 2- Jerusalem: Towards an inclusive Religious Discourse: Jewish, Muslim and Christian perspectives

Including Dr. Santiago Slabodsky, Fr. Elias Mallon, Dr. Amir Hussain. Moderated by Dr. David Grafton

— 12:45-2P LUNCH —

2-3:15P PANEL 3- Towards a balanced US policy on Jerusalem: What is possible under the Trump Administration?

Including Jim Wallis, Dr. James Zogby, Rev. Dr. James Forbes, and Dr. Bob Roberts

3:15-4:30P PANEL 4- Jerusalem: The Demand for Urgent Action

Featuring, Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, Jim Winkler, Rev. Dr. Mae Cannon, and  Dr. Iva Caruthers


Fr. Don Nesti

Fr. Donald S. Nesti, CSSp, a native of Pennsylvania, was ordained to the priesthood in 1963. He earned a licentiate and a doctorate in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He served his missionary order, the Congregation of the Holy Spirit in many capacities. Fr. Nesti’s teaching assignments include Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA; the Pontifical College Josephinum, Columbus, OH; and the University of St. Thomas. In the administrative field, he served as Director of the Immaculate Heart Seminary, Bethel Park, PA: Director of Planning, Research and Renewal, Congregation of the Holy Ghost USA – Eastern Province; President, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA; and Provincial Superior, Congregation of the Holy Ghost USA – Western Province. Currently, he teaches at the University of St. Thomas in the Masters in Faith and Culture program. Fr. Nesti is the founding director of the Donald S. Nesti, CSSp Center for Faith & Culture at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas. He founded the Center in 1994 in response to Pope John Paul II’s 1982 creation of the Pontifical Council for Culture. The Nesti Center for Faith and Culture seeks to understand and affect the relationship between the worldview of Catholic faith and culture. “Fr. Nesti’s leadership enables the center to instill in those it touches- through both degree programs and ecumenical outreach- a desire to understand and respect people of all faiths and cultures.”

Bishop Michael Rinehart

Michael Rinehart is Bishop of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a community of over one hundred congregations, campus ministries, retreat centers, and other agencies. At Valparaiso University, a Lutheran university in Valparaiso, Indiana he studied music, focusing on organ performance and singing in the VU Schola Cantorum, Chorale, Concert Choir. He received his Master of Divinity at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. He lives in Montgomery, Texas with his wife and children.

Dr. Majed Bamya

Majed Bamya is currently assigned to the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the UN in New York where he serves as Political Coordinator and Legal Adviser. He is the Head of the International law and Treaties Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Majed Bamya has previously served in the General Delegation of Palestine to the EU in Brussels and has worked in the European Parliament. He holds a Masters degree in international law from Sorbonne University in Paris and is fluent in Arabic, English and French.

Tarek Abuata

Born into a Palestinian Christian family in Bethlehem, Abuata moved to Texas during the first Palestinian Intifada when he was 12. After graduating from the University of Texas Law School, Tarek started his career working for the Negotiations Support Unit of the Palestinian Authority, researching legal and policy issues. Since, Abuata worked on the ground for 8 years as the coordinator of the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron and served as the representative of Rev. Bernard LaFayette (protégé of Dr. King) training Palestinian youth in nonviolence principles and steps. Abuata serves as the Executive Director of Friends of Sabeel North America .

Dr. Santiago Slabodsky

Santiago Slabodsky is Associate Professor in Jewish Studies and Associate Director of the Center for Race, Culture, and Social Justice at Hofstra University, New York. In addition he is co-chair of the Liberation Theologies unit at the American Academy of Religion and has been concurrent visiting professor in institutions in Europe, Latin America and Africa. Dr. Slabodsky’s area of work is intercultural encounters between Jewish and Global South social theories and political movements. His book Decolonial Judaism: Triumphal Failures of Barbaric Thinking received the 2017 Frantz Fanon Outstanding Book Award from the Caribbean Philosophical Association.

Fr. Elias Mallon,

Fr. Mallon is an ordained member of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement (Graymoor). He obtained a licentiate degree (STL) in Old Testament studies and a PhD in
Middle Eastern languages from the Catholic University of America. After completing his dissertation at Eberhard Karls Universität in Tübingen, Germany, he taught at the Washington Theological Union, American University Washington, DC, and the University of Washington in Seattle. He worked for then Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity as its faculty representative at the Institut Œcuménique of the World Council of Churches in Switzerland. He directed the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute in New York City for 11 years and has been involved in the Roman Catholic/Christian-Muslim dialogue locally, nationally and
internationally since 1985. He has published numerous articles and two books on Islam. Elias is the External Affairs Officer for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and a member of the UN Israel-Palestine Working Group.

Dr. Amir Hussain

Dr. Amir Hussain is Professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University, where he teaches courses on Islam and comparative religion. From 2011 to 2015, Amir was the editor of theJournal of the American Academy of Religion. He is an advisor for the television series The Story of God with Morgan Freeman. In 2008, he was appointed a fellow of the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities. His most recent book is Muslims and the Making of America.  The author or editor of 5 other books, he has also published over 60 book chapters and scholarly articles about religion.

Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis is president and founder of Sojourners in Washington, DC. a non-profit faith-based organization, network, and movement whose mission statement calls for “putting faith into action for social justice.” He is editor-in-chief of Sojourners magazine and website which has a combined readership of over a quarter million people.  Wallis is a bestselling author, public theologian, national preacher, social activist, and international commentator on ethics and public life. His latest book, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America was released in January 2016. Wallis has written eleven previous books, including The (Un)Common Good and the New York Times bestsellers God’s Politics and The Great Awakening. He is a regular contributor to Huffington Post and, and appears frequently on ABC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and NPR. Wallis also teaches at Georgetown University and has taught at Harvard University. He served on President Obama’s first White House Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and as the chair of the Global Agenda Council on Values of the World Economic Forum.

Dr. James Zogby 

James Zogby co-founded the Arab American Institute in 1985 and continues to serve as its president. He is Director of Zogby Research Services, a firm that has conducted groundbreaking surveys across the Middle East. For the past three decades, he has served in leadership roles in the Democratic National Committee as well as in the Presidential campaigns for Jessie Jackson ‘84, ‘88, Al Gore ‘00, Barack Obama ‘08 and Bernie Sanders ‘16. In 2013 and again in 2017, President Obama appointed Zogby to terms on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, where he twice served as Vice Chair. For two decades he was a host of an award-winning
international affairs television. Since 1992, he has written a weekly column published in twelve countries across the Middle East. He is featured frequently on national and international media as an expert on Middle East affairs. In 2010, Zogby published the highly-acclaimed book, Arab Voices. His 2013 e-books, Looking at Iran: The Rise and Fall of Iran in Arab Public Opinion and 20 Years After Oslo, are drawn from his extensive polling across the Middle East with Zogby Research Services.

Rev. Dr. James Forbes

The Rev. Dr. James Alexander Forbes, Jr., is distinguished Senior Minister Emeritus of The Riverside Church. Before being called to Riverside’s pulpit, Dr. Forbes served from 1976-1985 as the Brown and Sockman Associate Professor of Preaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. From 1985-1989 he was Union’s first Joe R. Engle Professor of Preaching. Union named him the first Harry Emerson Fosdick Adjunct Professor of Preaching in 1989, when he accepted the pastorate at Riverside. Dr. Forbes also serves on the Core Teaching Staff at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York.

Dr. Bob Roberts

Dr. Bob Roberts, Jr. is the founding and Senior Pastor of NorthWood Church, a multiplying church near Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX. He is the author of Transformation,
Glocalization, The Multiplying Church, Real Time Connection: How To Use Your Job To Change The World, Bold as Love and Lessons from the East. 
Roberts’ experience has resulted in his being called upon by a global audience, including, but not limited to the United Nations as well as the US Islamic World Forum,
among others. Bob is a graduate of Baylor University (BA), Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div), and Fuller Seminary (D.Min).

Dr. David Grafton

David D. Grafton is the Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary. He also has served as the Coordinator of Graduate Studies at the Evangelical (Presbyterian) Theological Seminary in Cairo, and Director of the Center for Middle East Christianity at ETSC, Cairo, Egypt. David has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Birmingham, England (2001).  He is the author of The Christians of Lebanon:  Political Rights in Islamic Law(I.B. Tauris, 2004), Lutherans Encountering Islam in the Middle East (2009), Christian-Muslim Relations in the Anglican and Lutheran Communions (2013), The Contested Origins of the 1865 Arabic Bible (2015), and is the ongoing Brill Project Series A Bibliographic History: Christian-Muslim Relations 1500-1900. Dr. Grafton is a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and has served congregations in New Jersey, England, and Cairo, Egypt.

Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb

Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb is President of Bright Stars of Bethlehem and founding President of Dar al-Kalima University of Arts and Culture in Bethlehem. Former Senior Pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem and the most widely published Palestinian theologian to date, Dr. Raheb is the author of 17 books most recently including, The Cross in Contexts: Suffering and Redemption in Palestine, and Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible through Palestinian Eyes. A civic leader and social entrepreneur, Dr. Raheb has founded numerous organizations and serves on many regional and international boards. Dr. Raheb has been widely featured on international media outlets including CBS, CNN, ABC, BBC, PBS, The Economist, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Newsweek, and 60 minutes. Dr. Raheb holds a Doctorate in Theology from Philipps University of Marburg, Germany.

Jim Winkler

Jim Winkler serves as president and general secretary of the National Council of Churches. The NCC is comprised of 38 member churches consisting of 30 million Christians in more than 100,000 local congregations. The NCC carries out interreligious dialogues, Christian unity efforts, and work for justice and peace.

Rev. Dr. Mae Cannon

Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon is the Executive Director of Churches for Middle East Peace and an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church. She is the editor of A Land Full of God: Christian Perspectives on the Holy Land and author of several books including Social Justice Handbook: Small Steps for a Better World. She earned doctorates in History (Ph.D, University of California-Davis) and Spiritual Formation (D. Min, Northern Seminary). Her Ph.D focused on American History with the minor in Middle Eastern studies, focusing her dissertation on the history of the American Protestant church in Israel and Palestine.

Dr. Iva Carruthers 

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Those staying overnight, can reserve their stay at the Hilton Hotel at our conference rate using this link.

Learn more about Room for Hope Festival and Register here

Those who register for both the Jerusalem Conference and Room for Hope Festival will receive a hand-crafted stained glass ornament by a Palestinian artisan.

Sponsored by Bright Stars of Bethlehem, National Council of Churches, Christians for Middle East Peace, and Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference.

Partners include

Alliance of Baptists
American Federation of Ramallah
American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem
Episcopal Palestine Israeli Network
Faith Forum on Middle East Peace Policy
Friends of Sabeel
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ
If Americans Only Knew
Israel Palestine Mission Network
Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace
Pilgrims of Ibillin
Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
Students for Justice in Palestine

Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East
United Church of Christ Palestine Israeli Network
United Methodists for Kairos Response