I have now been back in the U.S. after spending a month in the Middle East… first in Egypt… and then in Israel/Palestine. I wanted to write almost everyday that I was on the ground, but found myself caught up in activities of work, ministry, and life. Nonetheless, I am committed to writing about some of the things I saw and experienced.
It was a great privilege for me to participate in this year’s Christ at the Checkpoint Conference in Bethlehem (March 2012). The first conference was hosted in 2010 by Bethlehem Bible College, an evangelical organization committed to spreading the light of Christ through Biblical education and training. There is a great book available which highlights some of the talks from the first conference called Christ at the Checkpoint: Theology in the Service of Justice and Peace. I wrote one of the chapters.
This year’s event was the second conference and it was amazing to notice many of the differences. It seemed twice as many people attended. The tone of the conference was intentionally focused on empowering and encouraging the Palestinian church, creating a platform for open dialogue and engagement for evangelicals, and motivating participants to become advocates of reconciliation… while also calling attention to the reality of daily life for Palestinians, particularly those in the Christian community. While I don’t agree with everything that was discussed at the conference, I do believe the platform is a critical one from which the Palestinian evangelical community can use their voice and engage in the public sphere. Biblical scholars and Christian leaders from around the world came to talk about the Scriptures, the people of Israel in a theological context, the land, and God’s heart for righteousness and justice. I was one of the “speakers” and led an hour panel discussion of Palestinian women leaders. Here is a video of the panel that I facilitated:
The participants on the panel were Diana Simaan, Grace Al-Zoughbi, Dina Katanacho, and Shadia Qubti. A brief biography of each of these women is provided below. They are amazing leaders who are doing great work on behalf of the kingdom!
Diana Simaan: Diana is the program director of the Palestinian Bible Society. She is currently involved in a project dealing with the building of Palestinian families by developing communication skills within the family. Diana has a M.A. in Health Administration from Tel Aviv University. She oversees other projects that involve empowering youth.
Grace Al-Zoughbi: A Christian Palestinian from Bethlehem, Grace serves as a teacher at Bethlehem Bible College. Grace was an undergraduate student at the college and finished her M.A. in the Theology of Transformation: Church, Scripture and World from the London School of Theology in 2010. Her dissertation entitled: “A Study of Six Influential Women: Evaluating their Personal Impact in Old Testament Times and in Palestine Today,” sought to explore the idea of the dignity of women and ways in which women can seek to defend and promote values that are associated with this idea, specifically within strong patriarchal contexts. In addition to her teaching position, Grace takes part in leading a varity of programmes through her local church in Bethlehem.
Dina Katanacho: Dina Katanacho is a Palestinian Arab Israeli leader. She has earned her B.Ed. at David Yallin College (an Israeli college) and is finishing up her M.A. in Christian Ministry at Bethlehem Bible College (a Palestinian college). Dina works now as the director of the Arab Israeli Bible Society. She has led many projects empowering women to serve God and advocating family oriented ministries in which both men and women are advocating the Kingdom of God. Dina is responsible to make the Bible available for 1.5 million Palestinian Arab Israeli Citizens. She is married and has three boys.
Shadia Qubti: Shadia Qubti is a Christian Palestinian living in the Galilee, Israel. Qubti works with Musalaha, a faith-based organization that promotes reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. She was 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 in Trinity College University in Dublin, Ireland. In her free time, she is a member of Alphateam, a worship team that produces and composes local Palestinian Arabic songs (www.alphateam.org.).