In late March, The Episcopal Church purchased a three-year certificate of deposit for $500,000 in the Bank of Palestine. The bank, founded in 1960, has 48 branches in Palestine that employ 1200 employees and serve more than half a million customers.
According to Lindsey Parker of the Diocese of Massachusetts, chair of the Economic Justice Loan Committee of Executive Council, the Episcopal Church’s investment will be directed to the bank’s green loans program and its small and medium enterprise (SME) loans, which help start and sustain small businesses. The bank, which has been recognized for its efforts to hire women and persuade them to open accounts, will soon start an SME loan program for businesses owned by women. The Episcopal Church’s investment will also support that new initiative.
Investing in the Bank of Palestine helps carry out Resolution B019 approved by the 77th General Convention in 2012 and Executive Council’s February 2013 resolution on Middle East peace. That resolution affirmed positive investment in Palestine “as a necessary means to create a sound economy and a sustainable infrastructure in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip because without these measures there can and will be no viable Palestinian state and no enduring peace.”
“The last General Convention, in all of its votes about the conflict in the Holy Land, plainly called for an ethic of conciliation in our advocacy for a just peace in the Holy Land,” said Alex Baumgarten, director of the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations. “Investing the in Bank of Palestine makes tangible the church’s commitment to use constructive engagement as a means to achieve a two-state solution.”
The investment in the Bank of Palestine happened in the wake of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation’s 14th International Conference and its 3rd Business and Investment Conference on Palestine. Episcopal Church treasurer Kurt Barnes attended the conferences, which were held jointly last November. There he met with senior management of the Bank of Palestine. According to a press release from the Episcopal Church’s Office of Public Affairs, Barnes noted that the bank’s governance and risk management meet North American best practices; that the bank has a green loans program; and that it makes nearly 20% of its loan portfolio available to small and medium enterprises.
In a press release, Sir Rateb Rabie, president and CEO of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, called the Episcopal Church’s investment “the first as well as a significant step on the road to replacing despair with hope within the Palestinian community.”
On Wednesday, Presbyterians for Middle East Peace commended the Episcopal Church for making the investment, noting that “’Investment in peace’ transcends the narrow definition of economic investment, and the faith community has a long and deep history of investment in peace though efforts that encourage reconciliation, dialogue, and mutual respect.”
The Episcopal Church’s work to fulfill Resolution B019 will continue in June when Deputy Lelanda Lee, chair of Council’s Advocacy and Networking Committee, will convene the coordinating committee established by the resolution. In addition to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings, members of the committee include Bishop Thomas Breidenthal from the House of Bishops Theology Committee, Bishop Philip Duncan from the Standing Commission on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations, and Baumgarten. The Rev. William (Chip) Stokes had been appointed from the Standing Commission on Anglican and International Peace with Justice Concerns prior to being elected bishop of New Jersey.