Washington, D.C. | June 17 – 19, 2018
CMEP Congressional Award: Churches For Middle East Peace’s Congressional Award is presented annually to a member of Congress who best exemplifies CMEP’s commitment to work for just and lasting resolutions to conflicts in the Middle East with special attention to Israel Palestine.
2018: Presented to Representative Betty McCollum (MN) for her courageous leadership on behalf of the rights of Palestinian children and commitment to working on behalf of a just and lasting resolution to the conflict in Israel-Palestine. Learn more about Representative Betty McCollum’s (MN) career.
Feda Abdelhady-Nasser. Ambassador, Deputy Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine To the United Nations. Ms. Feda Abdelhady-Nasser has been the Deputy Permanent Observer from January 2013 to the present. She received the rank of Ambassador shortly thereafter in May 2013. Prior to that, she served as First Counsellor at the Mission as of April 2006. That posting was preceded by appointment as Special Adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Palestine from March 2005 to April 2006. She also served as Counsellor to the Mission in New York from December 2002 to February 2005, as First Secretary from September 1993 to November 2002, and as Special Assistant to the Ambassador from July 1992 to August 1993.
Ambassador Abdelhady-Nasser represents the State of Palestine at the Security Council and at the General Assembly and its Main Committees, particularly the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (4th Committee), with specific focus on the issue of UNRWA and the Palestine refugees, a portfolio she has followed for many years. She is a speech-writer for the Mission and is responsible for the drafting and negotiation of Palestine’s annual package of General Assembly resolutions. She often represents Palestine at meetings of the Arab Group, Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Group of 77 and China, and the Asia-Pacific Group.
Among other responsibilities and initiatives during her tenure at the Mission, she was a member of Palestine’s legal team to the International Court of Justice on the case of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (December 2003 – July 2004).
Ambassador Abdelhady-Nasser holds a Masters Degree in Educational Administration (2000) from Rutgers University and Bachelors Degree in Political Science/International Relations from New York University (1992). She is fluent in English and Arabic and conversational in Spanish. She is married and the mother of two sons.
Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon is the Executive Director of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP). She is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC). Cannon formerly served as the senior director of Advocacy and Outreach for World Vision U.S. on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC; as consultant to the Middle East for child advocacy issues for Compassion International in Jerusalem; as the executive pastor of Hillside Covenant Church located in Walnut Creek, California; and as director of development and transformation for extension ministries at Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, Illinois. Mae is the editor of A Land Full of God: Christian Perspective on the Holy Land (Wipf & Stock, 2017) and the author of Social Justice Handbook: Small Steps for a Better World (IVP, 2009), Just Spirituality: How Faith Practices Fuel Social Action (IVP, 2013), and Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith (co-authored, Zondervan, 2014).
Lara Friedman is the President of Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP). She formerly served as the Director of Policy and Government Relations for Americans for Peace Now. As a former U.S. Foreign Service Officer, Lara Friedman served in Jerusalem, Washington, Tunis, and Beirut (and briefly in Khartoum).
Widely recognized as an authority on U.S. policy in the Middle East, Congress and the Middle East, Israeli settlements, and Jerusalem, Lara meets frequently with Members of Congress and congressional staff, Administration officials, foreign diplomats, and other members of the foreign policy community. She is a trusted resource for journalists and policymakers, and regularly publishes opinion and analysis pieces in the U.S. and Israeli press, including at the Times of Israel, Huffington Post, Newsweek/the Daily Beast, The Forward, Haaretz, and LobeLog. She also works closely with the Jerusalem expert Danny Seidemann and has participated in Track II peace efforts, including the Jerusalem Old City Initiative. Lara has a BA from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. She speaks French, Spanish, Arabic, and rather poor Italian.
Rev. Najla Kassab is President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) and Director of the Christian Education Department for the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL). She obtained her B.A. in Christian education from the Near East School of Theology (NEST) in 1987 and her Masters of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1990. In 1993 Rev. Kassab received the first preaching license offered to a woman by NESSL. In March 2017, she became the second woman to be ordained as a minister in NESSL. For the past two-and-a-half decades Rev. Kassab has worked with NESSL’s women and children’s ministries, including as Director of Christian Education. She was elected to the WCRC Executive Committee at the 2010 Uniting General Council. She lives with her husband, Joseph Kassab, and three children in Beirut, but her work takes her frequently to Syria.
Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil is a dynamic speaker, author, professor, and thought-leader with over 30 years of experience in the ministry of reconciliation. Her mission is to inspire, equip and empower emerging Christian leaders to be practitioners of reconciliation in their various spheres of influence around the world.
Dr. Brenda earned a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary, a Doctorate of Ministry from Palmer Theological Seminary, and was awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters from both North Park University and Eastern University. She is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church and serves as a member of the pastoral staff of Quest Church in Seattle, WA.
Presently, Dr. Brenda is an Associate Professor of Reconciliation Studies at Seattle Pacific University, where she also directs the Reconciliation Studies program. For 14 years, she was on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship as a Multiethnic Ministries Specialist. Currently she serves on the board of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA, and was previously on the Board of Directors for Wycliffe USA and Christians for Biblical Equality.
Dr. Brenda is known as an international trailblazer, leading individuals, communities, and organizations to biblical reconciliation. She was featured as one of the 50 most influential women to watch by Christianity Today in 2012. She is the author of Roadmap to Reconciliation (2016), A Credible Witness: Reflections on Power, Evangelism and Race (2008), and The Heart of Racial Justice: How Soul Change Leads to Social Change (2005), coauthored with Rick Richardson.
Dr. Brenda resides in Seattle with her husband, Dr. J. Derek McNeil. They are the proud parents of two young adult children.
Sandra Van Opstal, a second-generation Latina, is the Executive Pastor at Grace and Peace Community on the west-side of Chicago. She is a liturgist and activist who is passionate about re-imagining worship that mobilizes for reconciliation and justice. In her fifteen years with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Sandra mobilized thousands of college students for God’s mission of reconciliation and justice in the world. Sandra served as Director of Worship for the Urbana Missions Conference, Chicago Urban Program Director, Latino National Leadership Team (LaFe), and Northwestern University Team leader (Multiethnic fellowship). Sandra’s influence has also reached many others through her leadership and preaching on topics such of justice, poverty, racism, racial identity, reconciliation, and global mission. She has been featured at WheatonCollege, North Park University, The Justice Conference, Evangelical Covenant conferences, Willow Creek Association conferences, and various churches. Sandra serves as a board member for Evangelicals for Justice and the Christian Community Development Association. Sandra was also the Worship Director for the Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering in Jarkarta, Summer 2016. In addition to her ministry experience, Sandra holds a Masters of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois and has been published in
multiple journals. She has authored Small Group Leader’s Handbook, God’s Graffiti Devotional, The Mission of Worship and The Next Worship.
Panelists and Middle East Delegates
Jennifer Atala, a Palestinian American, has a consulting business where she advises entrepreneurs, private businesses, and associations in business development, B2B marketing, and strategy. Most recently, she led private sector competitiveness for the private sector and USAID in Palestine. Prior, Ms. Atala led software development and data analytics projects in the private sector in the U.S., managed a job creation and stabilization program for USAID in Afghanistan, led microfinance impact initiatives in Egypt, and worked with the financial institutions group at the International Finance Corporation in Washington, DC. She graduated from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) with an M.A. in International Economics and Development and with a B.A. from the University of Chicago. Based between Ramallah and Haifa, she is also an active yoga teacher and Truman National Security Project Fellow. She is currently an Ambassador Warren Clark Fellow for CMEP.
Shireen Awwad is a wife, mother of four, and has been an active leader in Musalaha’s reconciliation programming for many years, facilitating and leading women’s groups in the Bethlehem area. She holds two Masters degrees: Educational Administration from Texas A&M University and an MBA from Tel Aviv University. She is also the Dean of Students at Bethlehem Bible College where she teaches educational and leadership course.
Farah Bayadsi is a Palestinian lawyer for Defense for Children International in Palestine, specializing in Child Arrest cases in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Farah grew up both in Baqa El-Garbia city and Haifa city, and is currently based in Jerusalem. She completed her first degree of law (LL.B) from Shaari Mishpat college in Hod Hasharoon. During her one year of practice, she noticed that there is a gap between the practices of law and the theoretical aspects of it, especially in criminal law and political arrests where she discovered it later in Israeli court halls in Jerusalem. Then, and after gaining her bar license in 2013, she decided to shift away from practicing law in court halls and moved to Jerusalem to pursue an English program of LL.M degree in International Law and Human Rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. During that, Farah translated from Hebrew to Arabic for the Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli courts in Jerusalem, where she decided merge the academical perspectives within the practical. In 2014, she worked as an advocate/lawyer for Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, where she tackled different cases of political arrests of Palestinians (minors/adults) by Israeli forces, administrative detentions, hunger strikes of Palestinian prisoners, among others in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Chelsey Berlin is the director of B’Tselem USA, a nonprofit that builds support in the United States for the protection of human rights in the Occupied Territories. Chelsey previously spent three years in the northern West Bank city of Nablus directing a service-learning program at Tomorrow’s Youth Organization and a year in Tel Aviv as the recipient of a Dorot Fellowship in Israel. Chelsey is the vice chair of HEKDESH, a national giving circle. She earned her BA in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies from Brandeis University.
Jennifer Bing directs the Palestine-Israel program for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Chicago. Jennifer began her advocacy for Palestinian children after working as a teacher in a Quaker school in Ramallah during the first Palestinian uprising (1986-1989). During those years she also worked as a field worker and researcher for Swedish Save the Children, documenting the impact of the first popular uprising on Palestinian children under the age of 16.
Jennifer has worked with AFSC since 1989, organizing dozens of speaking tours, conferences, educational workshops, protests, delegations, and public events. She has produced two documentary films about the Palestinian American community in Chicago (“Benaat Chicago: Growing Up Female and Arab in Chicago” and “Collecting Stories from Exile: Chicago Palestinians Remember 1948”) and serves as a resource to people interested in activism and advocacy for human rights. Jennifer currently works with Defense for Children International-Palestine on their joint campaign, “Israeli Military Detention: No Way to Treat a Child.” She also co-leads the educational project “Gaza Unlocked” with her AFSC colleagues in the US and Gaza.
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) works for policies that reflect a cooperative search for solutions to protect our planet, reduce violent conflict, advance social justice, and meet global needs. Since 1948 AFSC has worked with Palestinians, Israelis, and the international community to realize a just and lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis.
In the United States AFSC works to educate audiences about Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory and supports activist efforts to change government policies and corporate/institutional practices that support inequality and the ongoing Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory. AFSC also supports the implementation of international humanitarian and human rights law in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, promotes implementation of Palestinian refugees’ right of return, and calls for full equality between Palestinians and Israelis.
Rima Essa is a camera project coordinator at B’Tselem בצלם بتسيلم, where she has contributed expertise in film since 2016. She is an activist and filmmaker focused on the Palestinian-Israeli context. Her award-winning films include Under the Blue Sky (2005), The Garbage Cage (2006), My Name Is Ahlam (2010), Ashes (2011), and Train Rails (2012). Rima’s work has been screened at the Jerusalem Film Festival, the DocAviv Film Festival, and others. From Kufir Bir’im, Rima graduated from the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School in Jerusalem in 2003.
Nicole Derieux is president and co-founder of ‘Parfums de Vie’ in Grasse, France. Founded in 2008 by Nicole and her husband Vincent, Parfums de Vie seeks to bring reconciliation and healing to the deep divides that pervade French society between French nationals and the Arab Muslim community. Particularly focused on educational work with children and youth through Homework Clubs, Youth Groups and Camps, Parfums de Vie is addressing the poverty, injustice and exclusion faced by many Muslim immigrants and providing opportunities for both local French and Arab immigrants to move towards dialogue, understanding and compassion for one another. While Parfums de Vie is centered around Jesus’ life and teachings, we have practicing Muslims and Christians serving together on our staff team. Our volunteer team is also comprised of Muslims, Jews, Christians and Atheists! Nicole believes that the Body of Christ must lead the way in helping people imagine a better, transformed, reconciled world where understanding, forgiveness and generosity characterize our communities. Rather than being divided by our differences, we choose (and risk) to trust one another and work together for peace and reconciliation. Originally from Scotland, Nicole earned a Masters degree in French and English from the University of Glasgow and became a French teacher before moving to Grasse with her French husband in 2007. Nicole and Vincent have a 10-year- old son, Etienne, and are foster parents to three teens from refugee backgrounds. They have been staff members with ‘Communitas International’ since 2000.
Kate Gould is FCNL’s Legislative Director for Middle East Policy for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker lobby in the public interest, and represents FCNL on CMEP’s board. Kate has spent nearly a decade as one of only a handful of registered lobbyists in Washington D.C. working to advance human rights objectives and support diplomatic solutions in U.S. policy toward the Middle East. Kate has lived, worked and volunteered in the West Bank, and traveled throughout Gaza and Israel, partnering with Palestinians and Israelis working for peace, justice, and an end to the occupation. Kate’s analysis has been cited by the New York Times, the Washington Post and other national outlets.
Dr. Mimi Haddad is president of CBE International. She is a graduate of the University of Colorado and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (Summa Cum Laude). She holds a PhD in historical theology from the University of Durham, England. Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University awarded Mimi an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity in 2013.
Haddad is an adjunct assistant professor of historical theology at Fuller Theological Seminary and Olivet University Zinzendorf School of Doctoral Studies. Mimi has taught for colleges and seminaries around the world. She currently serves as a gender consultant for World Relief, World Vision International and Beyond Borders.
Haddad is an award-winning author and has written more than one hundred academic and popular articles and blogs. She is author of Is Gender Equality a Biblical Ideal? with Sean Callaghan. She has contributed to twelve books, most recently: “Examples of Women’s Leadership in the Old Testament and Church History” in Women in Pentecostal and Charismatic Ministry, part of the Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies Series 21 (Brill NV, 2016) and “The Invisible Power of Culture to Oppress: What Every Christian Needs to Know about Gender and Justice” in The Campbellsville Review 8 (2015-2017). Mimi and her husband, Dale, live in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota.
Hedva Haymov was born in New York City to a secular Jewish family and grew up in the Tri-State area keeping traditional holidays, but with no mention of God. She served in the US Army and received the Army Commendation Medal and Medal of Honor. Following her service, she returned to the Tri-State area and realized that there was “something missing” in her life. She was given a tract on the streets of DC, she became a believer and began attending a Messianic Jewish congregation. In 1992, she made Aliyah, immigrating to Israel. Hedva has studied at the University of Maryland and is certified in Israel in Accounting. She has taken various courses of study in Program Management and Reconciliation and Trauma Training. In 2002 Hedva joined Musalaha looking for answers as to why society was so segregated. She became Musalaha’s Women’s Programs Manager in 2011 and has been supervising the meeting of hundreds of Israeli and Palestinian women and coordinating their training in Reconciliation, Trauma Resilience and Conflict Transformation. Hedva now serves as the Programs Director for all of Musalaha’s reconciliation and bridge building work. Hedva is married and has two daughters.
Mara Lee first joined the OneVoice Movement as International Organizing Director, based in the Middle East. In that position she focused on professionalizing and expanding OneVoice’s grassroots work, incorporating best practices and focusing on training and empowering local staff. She previously served as the Deputy Director of Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration and as Congresswoman Doris Matsui’s Deputy Chief of Staff & Communications Director. A campaign veteran, Mara was Jeanne Shaheen’s and the New Hampshire Coordinated Campaign’s Field Director in 2008; and the Nevada Caucus Director, New Mexico State Director, and Indiana Get Out The Vote (GOTV) Director for Hillary Clinton in 2007-08. She also has experience from several other state and local races.
Mara majored in politics and history at the University of California, San Diego and earned her Master’s degree in political science from the University of London, graduating with distinction. She also served as an Associate Professor at George Washington University where she taught undergraduate and graduate courses on global politics and campaign management. Mara is now based in OneVoice’s New York office.
Sarah Arnd Linder grew up in Denmark, Switzerland, France and Belgium. After a year spent studying History, Sociology and Writing at the New School in New York, she moved to Israel in 2006. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Government, Diplomacy and Strategy Cum Laude at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC) with majors in Conflict Resolution and International Affairs in 2010 and her Master’s degree Magna Cum Laude in Middle Eastern history at Tel Aviv University in 2014. She swiftly developed an interest for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a gender perspective leading her to establish a Feminist Forum at the IDC in 2009 and Political is Personal in 2015.
Learn what “And Still We Rise”, Churches for Middle East Peace’s June Advocacy Summit means to Sarah Arnd Linder, founder of Political is Personal, here.
Lisa Loden is a Messianic Jew living in Israel since 1974. She co-founded Messianic congregation Beit Asaph in Netanya, Israel. She served on the faculty of the Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary from 2008-2012 and created their Leadership Development Program. Lisa is engaged in several international ecumenical theological dialogues. She is co-chair of the Lausanne Initiative for Reconciliation in Israel-Palestine and is a member of Musalaha Reconciliation Ministries Advisory Board. With Salim Munayer, she co-authored Through My Enemy’s Eyes: Envisioning Reconciliation in Israel-Palestine. She is a founding member and co-leader of In His Image – Women for Change and has written for Another Voice.
Shadia Qubti is a Christian Palestinian Israeli born and raised in Nazareth. She finished her undergraduate degree at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in International Relations and English Language, and her postgraduate degree in Conflict Resolution and Nonviolent action at Trinity College University in Dublin, Ireland. She is involved in initiatives advocating for peace such as In His Image – Women for Change, and Another Voice.
Dr. Debra Shushan is responsible for policy formulation at Americans for Peace Now (APN) and directs APN’s relations with Congress. She writes regularly for Haaretz. Formerly, Dr. Shushan was an Assistant Professor of Government at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA, where she specialized in the politics of the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Gulf states as a member of the interdisciplinary faculties in International Relations and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. Dr. Shushan also served as a research fellow at the Center for International and Regional Studies at Georgetown University’s Qatar campus. Her research and language studies have taken her to much of the Middle East: Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Syria, Turkey, and UAE, in addition to Israel and Palestine. Dr. Shushan is a former Marshall Scholar, Truman Scholar, and Yale World Fellow, and served on the advisory board of the Yale World Fellows Program. She is a graduate of Harvard University (BA), Oxford University (MPhil) and Yale University (PhD).
Sahar Vardi is an Israeli peace activist who works for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Jerusalem and is a board member for the Human Rights Defenders Fund (HRDF). As a secular Jew, she works alongside Israelis, Palestinians, and Internationals to focus on equal rights and demilitarization. Sahar served three prison sentences for her refusal to be conscripted into Israel’s military service. She serves as Coordinator of AFSC’s Israel program in east Jerusalem. Since age 14, she has worked for a number of Israeli peace organizations that try to break down barriers between Israelis and Palestinians.
Eilda Zaghmout was born and raised in Amman, Jordan to a Palestinian Refugee family from Beit Jala, and moved to live in Palestine in 1999. She earned her BA degree in Business Administration and Marketing from Bethlehem University. Eilda worked in the business and non-profit sectors for 10 years before she was certified in 2013 as a Yoga Teacher (200-hour) in Power Yoga with the Olive Tree Yoga Foundation. She is a Yoga Alliance Affiliate, a 95-hour certified Kids Yoga teacher with the Baptiste Institute – USA, and completed her Level One Baptiste Training in the USA in 2016. Eilda is a mother of two boys, Jude & Jilan. She aspires to take people on a journey of self discovery through yoga to see a new way of being and making a change in this Holy Land.
Spiritual Leaders for Closing Prayer Service
Rev. Julia Brown Karimu is the President of the Division of Overseas Ministries (DOM) of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, based in Indianapolis, Indiana. Rev. Karimu provides leadership for the Disciples’ overseas ministries, and is accountable for DOM’s program development, planning and evaluation, as well as for its organizational, financial and personnel managements. As President of DOM, she is also the Co-Executive of Global Ministries, a common witness with the Wider Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ, which administers the common program of the Division of Overseas Ministries and the Wider Church Ministries. She was ordained November 18, 1990, by the Christian Church in Indiana at Geist Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She is a member of Light of the World Christian Church in Indianapolis.
Donita Keister is an ordained minister serving in denominational leadership as 2018-2019 Moderator of the Church of the Brethren. She is a full-time pastor at Buffalo Valley Church of the Brethren near Mifflinburg, PA. She and her husband, Brian, are the parents of five grown daughters and grandparents of 3 grandsons. They live at Mifflinburg where they operate a family farm. A peace pilgrimage to Israel-Palestine in 2015 has sparked a desire in her heart for the Church of the Brethren to be an active voice for Middle East peace.