Despite being raised during a time of war and oppression, Sahar Qumsiyeh, a Palestinian Arab woman, was able to find joy and peace
Qumsiyeh, a member of the Rexburg Idaho North Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was born in Jerusalem and raised in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem.
In her new book, “Peace for a Palestinian” (Deseret Book, $15.99, 168 pages), Qumsiyeh shares her experience growing up in a country “torn apart by political upheaval.” She writes about her feelings of hopelessness as she witnessed the persecution of her people. She dives deep into her search for peace, concluding that true faith “can only come from within.”
“As we love and look at everyone as a child of God, that’s when we start to be able to establish peace with one another,” Qumsiyeh said.
When she graduated from Bethlehem University as a young adult, Qumsiyeh received a full scholarship to the American University in Washington, D.C. Additionally she was offered a scholarship to Brigham Young University, which she ended up taking, surprising her entire family and herself.
While at BYU, Qumsiyeh learned more about the gospel of Jesus Christ and quickly became friends with her classmates. Although she was not a member of the church, she remembers attending a Relief Society activity about writing personal histories.
“They gave us a list of 150 questions that they suggested we start with, such as: describe your childhood, describe your house, etc. I thought it was an interesting idea, so I started writing things down,” she remembered.
Not long after attending this activity, Qumsiyeh decided to join the church and be baptized before returning home to Palestine.
“This decision completely changed my life,” Qumsiyeh wrote in her mormon.org profile. “My life now has meaning and purpose. I am happy despite the trials I face. I know that Heavenly Father has a plan for us and that His plan will bring us happiness. I know that I am a daughter of God and that He loves me and answers my prayers.“
After Qumsiyeh finished at BYU and returned to Palestine, she began to struggle to maintain her newfound faith. However, with spiritual guidance and support she was able to withstand her doubts. While emailing her friends back in Utah (and continuing to record her life history) one of Qumsiyeh’s friends suggested she put her writings together and publish her story.
“I thought, ‘who would be interested in my stories?’” Qumsiyeh said. “A lot of people didn’t think it would actually happen, but it did. The most rewarding thing has been receiving notes from people saying that this book opened their eyes and that they didn’t even know the Palestine side of the story.”
The other comment she loves to hear: that “Peace for a Palestinian” has made a difference in the lives of those who read it.
“Those comments from people make it all worthwhile,” Qumsiyeh said. “My book is about peace, and I think the world struggles with treating others equally. We often judge too fast, when peace is possible with anyone. As we obtain that personal peace that comes from the Savior, even if you live in a state of war, having that relationship with your Heavenly Father and your Savior is the first step to have physical peace with others.”