Catalyst Live 2016 speaker Shadia Qubti
Being a peacemaker in Israel-Palestine is a daily personal battle for Catalyst Live 2016 speaker Shadia Qubti.
In a month’s time Shadia Qubti will be in the UK speaking at Catalyst Live, but she is in her hometown of Nazareth when I talk to her. At sunset it will be Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar, a time when the security forces are on high alert. “Things are very tense during Jewish holiday season,” Shadia says.
But the tension in Israel-Palestine rarely subsides. “The general atmosphere is that things are at a boiling point and it could overspill at any moment,” Shadia says. “Sadly this has been the case for the last year. Palestinians see there is no progress and no sign that the situation is going to change.”
It is against this backdrop that Shadia has dedicated herself to working for peace, to finding a way for reconciliation and encouraging hope. But how do you keep hope alive when people are so pessimistic?
“It’s a tough question,” Shadia admits. “I have to choose to believe that there is hope and that eventually the walls will not continue and the discrimination will reduce. It is a daily battle between me and myself to believe in it, but I have to believe in it. Otherwise, what choice do I have?”
Being a Christian Palestinian in Israel makes Shadia a “minority within a minority”. She didn’t really appreciate this growing up in Nazareth until she went to study at a technical school in Haifa, where out of 300 students there were only 15 Palestinians and she was one of two Christians.
“It overwhelmed me to the point where I just wanted to get along with everyone, integrate with the majority, and just hope to be on their good side,” she says. “Whether it was reducing my accent when I spoke Hebrew or changing my clothing more to fit into Israeli-Jewish society. But it hit me that whatever I tried to do, I would always be on the sidelines for being a Palestinian.”
Shadia felt helpless. But a trip to the Balkans to learn lessons from the conflict there changed her perception of what she could do and showed her that she could make a difference. “It really helped me transform from seeing myself as part of the problem to being part of the solution. I saw that the ability to speak both Hebrew and Arabic is an advantage, not a minus. The ability to fit in and blend in with other cultures is an advantage that can be used for peace and bring people together.”
For the last ten years, Shadia has been working with a BMS partner that is creating dialogue between Christian Palestinians and Messianic Jews. She has been co-ordinating youth programmes and has seen the impact as young people aged 14 to 18 from different sides of the conflict have formed friendships by spending time in the desert together. Shadia has also got involved in other peace making and justice initiatives like the Christ at the Checkpoint
conference held in Bethlehem biannually as well as working with women’s groups, including the blog anothervoice
You can hear Shadia at Catalyst Live, BMS’ conference for Christian thought-leaders, next month (16 and 17 November).
I ask her what Catalyst Live audiences can expect from her talk. “I hope they can relate to my story, to my life experience as a woman who is trying to find her place and to find her calling,” Shadia says. “But also they will be motivated to take action, whether it’s by promoting me and other women who are involved in peace making or seeking to be peacemakers themselves. You don’t need to do a lot, you don’t need to change your life completely. You can use the advantages in your life to make one person’s life different and better.”
Chris Hall was talking to Shadia Qubti
See Shadia Qubti and other excellent Christian speakers at Catalyst Live
this November. Book your tickets now