Persistent Hope Speakers

Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish
Keynote Speaker
Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish is a Palestinian Canadian physician and an internationally recognized human rights and inspirational peace activist devoted to advancing health and education opportunities for women and girls in the Middle East, through both his research and his charitable organization The Daughters for Life Foundation. He has dedicated his life to using health as a vehicle for peace, and, despite all odds, succeeded, aided by a great determination of spirit, strong faith, and a stalwart belief in hope and family. He is a man who walks the walk and who leads by example.

Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish was born and raised in Jabalia Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip. He is the first Palestinian doctor to receive an appointment in Medicine at an Israeli hospital. Through his work, he has experienced firsthand the impacts of conflict in countries like Palestine, Egypt, Israel, Uganda, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia. His experience working as both an insider and outsider to conflict has led him to believe that doctors are particularly well-poised to serve as peace-makers, based on the moral doctrine of their profession. His work as both a healthcare practitioner and a peace advocate builds on this philosophy and mobilizes health as a tool for peace. Dr Abuelaish believes that medicine and health can be an engine for the human peace. Health and medicine are human equalizer, socializer, harmonizer and stabilizer. He continues to advocate for justice, health, peace and human rights worldwide.
Dr. Abuelaish has overcome many personal hardships, including poverty, violence, and the horrific tragedy of his three daughters’ and niece’s deaths in the 2009 Gaza War. He continues to live up to the description bestowed upon him by an Israeli colleague, as a “magical, secret bridge between Israelis and Palestinians”. He is now one of the most outspoken, prominent, and beloved researchers, educators and public speakers on peace and development in the Middle East. Dr. Abuelaish has been nominated five times for Nobel peace Prize, and he is fondly known as Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi and the “Martin Luther King of the Middle East”, having dedicated his life to using health as a vehicle for peace. Despite all odds, he has succeeded remarkably; aided by a great determination of spirit, strong faith, and a stalwart belief in hope and family. As a Palestinian physician and internationally recognized human rights and inspirational peace activist, Dr. Abuelaish is devoted to advancing health and education opportunities for women and girls in the Middle East, through both his research and his charitable organization The Daughters for Life Foundation. The Belgian Parliament named him the “Martin Luther King of the Middle East”. Again in 2016, Mr. Jean Marc Delizee from the Belgian Parliament nominated Dr. Abuelaish for the 2016 Noble Peace Prize and remarked that “Our world has more than ever need peace ambassadors such as him, of men and women capable of building bridges and links between people and between peoples.” Many influential figures within the diplomatic community have spoken exaltingly of Dr. Abuelaish’s work. In his nomination for the Sakharov Prize, Dr. David Naylor, then President of the University of Toronto, called Dr. Abuelaish a remarkable ambassador for peace and an exemplar of forgiveness and reconciliation. The President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pottering spoke of him in his speech in Strasbourg, Germany at the opening of the exhibition “From Hebron to Gaza”. President Barak Obama referred to him as an example of strength and reconciliation in his address on May 19th, 2011. when he discussed the possibility of peace within the Middle East. And the Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to cited Dr Abuelaish in his speech Walk for Solidarity: Kindness and forgiveness are not signs of weakness but strength. It needs more courage to be nice and make peace than to be angry and want revenge. Dr. Abuelaish’s impact on peace-seeking communities is exceptional. He is an internationally-renowned speaker, having spoken at the Canadian House of Commons, the American Congress, the Chilean Senate and Parliament, the European Parliament at Place Du Luxembourg in Brussels, the State Department, Forum 2000 in Prague, and many more. Dr. Abuelaish has also spoken at academic institutions and organizations in Canada, the United States, Europe, Africa, and Australia and Asia. In addition to speaking to live audiences, Dr. Abuelaish has been interviewed extensively by leading journalists and prominent personalities, including Christiane Amanpour, Anderson Cooper, Sir David Frost and Zeinab Badawi, and has appeared on prominent media outlets such as BBC News Hard Talk, Fox News Channel (FOX), CNN, Al Arabiya News, London’s The Telegraph, ABC, TVO, The Globe and Mail, The Economist, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, the Boston Globe, People Magazine. Dr. Abuelaish’s book, I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity, an autobiography of his loss and transformation, has achieved worldwide critical acclaim. Published in 2010, (currently in 23 different languages), and inspired by the loss of his three daughters – Bessan, Mayar, and Aya – and their cousin Noor to Israeli shelling on January 16th, 2009, the book has become an international bestseller. It has also become a testament to his commitment to forgiveness as the solution to conflict and the catalyst towards peace. His book I Shall Not Hate which was published into 23 languages and national and international best seller. Elis Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize Laureat said about the book I Shall Not Hate: This story is a necessary lesson against hatred and revenge President Jimmy Carter said: in his book, Dr Abuelaish has expressed a remarkable commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation that describes the foundation for a permanent peace in the Holy Land. The daily telegraph: A great work of insight and compassion that tries to point the way towards peace and reconciliation… If there is to be peace in the Middle East, it will come through men and women of the giant stature and epic capacity for forgiveness. Sunday times: A remarkable study of compassion, and of daily life in the Gaza Strip Dr Abuelaish believes that hatred is a chronic, contagious and destructive disease. He focuses his research to promote awareness about the impact of hatred on health and wellbeing, and how to prevent spread of this destructive disease through positive resilience, tolerance, compassion and reconciliation. Dr. Abuelaish’s extensive list of awards and honors include countless national and international awards including 14 honorary doctorate degrees, The order of Ontario, The Meritorious Service Cross, and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, The Governor General’s Medallion, the World Citizenship in Action Award, presented by the Canadian Branch of the Registry; the Mahatma Gandhi Peace Award of Canada; the Foundation P&V Citizenship Award; the Calgary Peace Prize; the Lombardy Region Peace Prize, the Stavros Niarchos Prize for Survivorship; Dr. Abueliash has been named one of the Top 25 Canadian Immigrants; one of the 500 Most Powerful Arabs; and one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims by the Royal Islamic Strategies Centre in Jordan for five consecutive years. He was one of three finalists for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Dr. Abuelaish has also been named one of the Top 25 Canadian Immigrants; one of the 500 Most Powerful Arabs; and one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims by the Royal Islamic Strategies Centre in Jordan for five consecutive years. Dr. Abuelaish has founded Daughters for Life a Canadian charity, in memory of his daughters and to honor his commitment to women’s empowerment. Daughters for Life that provides young women in high school and university the opportunity to pursue higher education so that they can become strong agents of change and advocates of peace; functions of women’s vital role in improving the quality of life throughout the Middle East and the world at large. Currently, Dr. Abuelaish lives in Toronto where he is an associate professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. He remains deeply committed to his humanitarian activism in addition to his roles as a charity leader and inspirational educator.
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Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb

Founder and President of Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture in Bethlehem. The most widely published Palestinian theologian to date, Dr. Raheb is the author of 18 books including: The Cross in Contexts: Suffering and Redemption in Palestine; I am a Palestinian Christian; Bethlehem Besieged, Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible through Palestinian Eyes. His books and numerous articles have been translated so far into eleven languages. Rev. Raheb served as the senior pastor of the Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem from June 1987 to May 2017 and as the President of the Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land from 2011-2016. A social entrepreneur, Rev. Raheb has founded several NGO‟s including Dar annadwa Cultural and Conference Center, Dar al Kalima University College of Arts and Culture, and the Christian Academic Forum for Citizenship in the Arab World (CAFCAW). He serves as an advisor to the Higher Presidential Palestinian Committee on Church Affairs.

Rev. Dr. Raheb received in 2017 the Tolerance Award from the European Academy of Science and Arts, in 2015 the Olof Palme Prize for his courageous and indefatigable fight against occupation and violence, and for a future Middle East characterized by peaceful coexistence and equality for all. In 2012 the German Media Prize was awarded to Dr. Raheb for his “tireless work in creating room for hope for his people, who are living under Israeli Occupation, through founding and building institutions of excellence in education, culture and health.” Launched in 1992, this award was mainly granted to Heads of States, including President Obama (2016) the German Chancellor Angela Merkel (2009), Bill Clinton (1999), Nelson Mandela (1998), King Hussein of Jordan (1997), Boris Yeltsin (1996), President Arafat (1995), Yitshak Rabin (1995), in addition to few and selected personalities such as Rudolph Giuliani (2002). For launching the “Authentic Tourism Program” at Dar Annadwa, Rev. Raheb received at the ITB the ToDo 1996 Award for socially responsible tourism. Rev. Raheb received for his distinguished service to church and society‟ the prestigious Wittenberg Award from the Luther Center in DC (2003). He also received for his outstanding contribution to Christian education through research and publication‟ an honorary doctorate from Concordia University in Chicago (2003) and for his interfaith work toward peacemaking in Israel and Palestine‟ the “International Mohammad Nafi Tschelebi Peace Award” of the Central Islam Archive in Germany (2006) and in 2007 the well-known German Peace Award of Aachen. The work of Dr. Raheb has received wide media attention from major international media outlets and networks including CNN, ABC, CBS, 60 Minutes, BBC, ARD, ZDF, DW, BR, Premiere, Raiuno, Stern, The Economist, Newsweek, Al-Jazeera, al-Mayadin, Vanity Fair, and others. Dr. Raheb holds a Doctorate in Theology from the Philipps University at Marburg, Germany. He is married to Najwa Khoury and has two daughters, Dana & Tala.
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Corinne Whitlatch
Founding Director of CMEP

Corinne Whitlatch began her Middle East peace journey in 1978 in Des Moines, Iowa where she staffed AFSC’s Middle East Peace Education program in their regional headquarters. She was active in Iowa’s peace movement and Democratic politics. In 1985, she moved to Washington and worked for the American affiliate of an Israeli peace group. In 1987, Corinne was hired to be coordinator of the NCC’s Middle East Task Force and the founding Director of Churches for Middle East Peace until December 2007.  She continues to live in Washington and does glass art inspired by her Middle East experiences.  

Dave Zirin

Dave Zirin is the sports editor at the Nation Magazine. He is the author of ten books on the politics of sports. Zirin also is a columnist for The Progressive. He also hosts the popular podcast, Edge of Sports.

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Phyllis Bennis

Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, and is also a fellow of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. She was a co-founder of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and currently serves on the national board of Jewish Voice for Peace. She has served as an adviser to several top UN officials on Palestine issues, and was short-listed in 2014 and again in 2016 to become the next UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Phyllis writes and speaks widely on Middle East issues and is interviewed frequently in U.S. and global media. Her books include Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror, as well as the best-selling Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer.

Janeen Rashmawi

Janeen Rashmawi is currently the communications manager at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) in Washington D.C. At ADC, Ms. Rashmawi develops communication and public affairs strategies to advance the protection of civil and human rights. In particular, Ms. Rashmawi focuses on U.S. policies in relation to the protection of Palestinian human rights. Prior to P.L.O. General Delegation closing in October 2018, Ms. Rashmawi served as head of the Public Affairs at the P.L.O. General Delegation to the United States.

Prior to joining the P.L.O. General Delegation, Ms. Rashmawi led human rights advocacy programs with the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) in Switzerland, Tunisia, and Washington D.C. Her experience includes establishing initiatives for the protection of human rights in the Arab World with the United Nations, U.S. Government, and various international human rights mechanisms. Ms. Rashmawi holds a B.A. in socio-cultural Anthropology from Sonoma State University, and a M.A. in Ethnic Studies from San Francisco State University of California. Ms. Rashmawi conducted her graduate research on a comparative analysis of socio-political trends in Palestine.
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Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon
Executive Director, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP)

Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon is the executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace and 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).
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Mike Abel
Regional Coordinator for DCMEP

Rosita Michael Abel “Mike” is a Palestinian-American who worked in healthcare for most of her professional career. Her family originated in Palestine and the Latin America Diaspora. She has traveled to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza on peace and medical missions. In 2009, she was part of a diplomatic delegation with the Council of National Interest, visiting five Middle Eastern countries and Israel. In 2011, she spent three months doing a work/study in Palestine/Israel. Currently she serves on the board of Delaware Churches for Middle East Peace and is the co-founder of DelPHR (Delawareans for Palestinian Human Rights). She is the recipient of the 2014 Peacemakers Among Us Award from Pacem in Terris Delaware. She is part of an annual leadership program in Bethlehem. Through her advocacy and human rights work, she presents to a wide range of audiences including students and churches.

Rev. Douglas Leonard
Director, World Council of Church's United Nations Office

Rev. Douglas Leonard is the director of the World Council of Church's United Nations Office where he serves as the WCC’s representative to the UN. He advises the member churches of the World Council of Churches and regional ecumenical organizations about their domestic and international advocacy strategies and opens space for their voices to be amplified in the UN system. He follows the Sustainable Development Goals, peace building, and current international legal processes on behalf of the ecumenical movement. Rev. Leonard serves as the WCC liaison to the World Bank and IMF and oversees WCC engagement in Latin America and the Caribbean. Rev. Leonard has served as the director of global mission for the Reformed Church in America and as the executive director of Al Amana Centre, a center for the study of global Muslim-Christian relations and diplomacy based in the Sultanate of Oman. At Al Amana Centre he developed graduate and undergraduate academic programs in peace building, religion and diplomacy, and Christian and Muslim relations. His scholarly work has appeared in numerous academic journals and books and he serves as a special editor of The Muslim World. Rev. Leonard is an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America and received his MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary. 


Jonathan Kuttab
Director, World Council of Church's United Nations Office

Jonathan Kuttab is a Palestinian attorney, and human rights activist. He grew up in Jerusalem, studied in the US, graduating from University of Virginia law School . He is a member of the Bar Associations of New York, Palestine and Israel.
Mr. Kuttab founded a number of human rights organizations including Al Haq, the Premier Palestinian Human Rights organization, and the Mandela Institute for Palestinian Prisoners and is the Chairman of the Board Holy Land Trust. He is also a Board member of the Bethlehem Bible College Board of Trustees, and is active in many other civil society organizations in Palestine and internationally. He is a recognized authority on international law, human rights and Palestinian and Israeli affairs.

Rev. John L. Vaswig

The Rev. John L. Vaswig is Senior Pastor at Mountain View Lutheran Church in Edgewood, Washington. He has served for 34 years in varying Lutheran churches. He is a graduate of Pacific Lutheran University and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. Pastor Vaswig has served in various leadership capacities in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as well as with the Lutheran Alliance for Affordable Housing, China Partners Network, the Fund for Theological Education, and PLU Board of Regents. Under his leadership, Mountain View Lutheran established a food bank that serves 5,400 clients each month and a community center responding to seniors and youth alike. Ten years ago, on his first journey to Palestine, Pastor Vaswig became convicted regarding the plight of the Palestinian people. Since that time, having returned on multiple occasions, he has sought to advocate for the Palestinian people by educating his and other congregations on the layered complexities of life in Palestine.

Khaled Elgindy

Khaled Elgindy is a nonresident fellow in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution, where he was also a resident scholar from 2010 through 2018. He is the author of the newly released book, Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians, from Balfour to Trump, published by Brookings Institution Press in April 2019. Khaled previously served as an adviser to the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah on permanent status negotiations with Israel from 2004 to 2009, and was a key participant in the Annapolis negotiations of 2007-08. Khaled has held a number of political and policy-related positions in Washington, DC, both inside and outside of government, including with the U.S. House of Representatives’ International Relations Committee and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Khaled holds an M.A. degree in Arab Studies from Georgetown University (1994) and a B.A. in Political Science from Indiana University-Bloomington (1991).

Joyce Ajlouny

Joyce Ajlouny joined AFSC as general secretary on Sept. 1, 2017. A transformative Quaker leader, Joyce brings to AFSC a depth of experience in strategic planning, financial and personnel management, fundraising, and communication spanning 27 years. Prior to joining to AFSC, Joyce served as the director of the Ramallah Friends School in Palestine, where she has led a diverse staff of over 170 educators and administrators for the past 13 years. She spent the prior 14 years working in international development focusing on minority and refugee rights, gender equality, economic development, and humanitarian support. She served as the country director for Palestine and Israel with Oxfam-Great Britain, chaired the Association of International Development Agencies there, and worked as a program officer and project manager at various United Nations agencies. Joyce holds a master’s degree in Organizational Management and Development from Fielding Graduate University in California.

Marc Gopin
Marc is the James H. Laue Professor at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, Arlington, Virginia, and also Founder and Director of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution (CRDC). Marc has trained thousands of people worldwide in conflict resolution strategies for complex conflicts, and has consulted on conflicts inside major companies, as well as between adversaries in destructive conflicts domestically and globally. He has published seven books, and has appeared on global media outlets, such as CNN and the Jim Lehrer News Hour, and has published in the International Herald Tribune among others. His Healing the Heart of Conflict: Eight Crucial Steps to Making Peace with Yourself and with Others, has become the basis of conflict resolution training in several countries, and forms the core of the Gopin Associates methodology.
Marc holds an endowed chair at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, Arlington, Virginia, and is also Founder and Director of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution (CRDC). Marc has spoken throughout the world in major universities and influential institutions, from Harvard University and Princeton University to the World Economic Forum. He was the recipient of the 2008 Andrew Thomas Peacebuilder Award from the New York State Dispute Resolution Association (NYSDRA), and his book, Holy War, Holy Peace, was cited as one of four noteworthy books of 2002 chosen by the Christian Science Monitor. Marc received his Ph.D. in ethics from Brandeis University in 1993, and rabbinic ordination in 1983.
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