Interfaith peace-building perseveres
February 1, 2021
From October 2019 through the beginning of 2021 and for the foreseeable future, Lebanon continues to navigate its way through four simultaneous crises that compound the challenges faced by all who live here: political corruption; economic collapse; COVID-19 and the resulting health-care crisis; and recovering from the Beirut Port blast of Aug. 4, 2020. These crises have left young adults in Lebanon without hope for their future. No employment possibilities mean no capacity to marry and start a family. In this context, it has been easy to withdraw into one’s own community and to blame others, whoever they may be.
Into this chaotic mix, Michele Daccache, on staff with PC(USA) partner Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue (FDCD), experienced a spark of hope. He and fellow colleagues from FDCD had invited 19 young women and men from the religiously conservative Christian and Muslim rural communities in northeast Lebanon to participate in a social cohesion workshop during November 2020. Many of these young adults between the ages of 18–22 had never been outside of the Bekaa Valley before, and some not even out of their towns. Their understanding of others different from themselves had been developed based on their parents’ and grandparents’ biases — compounded by current events. When the workshop started, he said, many of these young adults were barely able to be in the same room with each other — that is how deep their prejudices ran.
Over the course of a week, participants were invited to consider their identity, beliefs and values as citizens of Lebanon. They listened to each other share their stories and discovered common ground and a recognition of their common humanity. They explored the different perspectives each brought to the workshop. And then they traveled to the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli to hear from two ex-fighters — each of whom led local militias engaged in bitter, violent battles for several years in the city. As they heard the testimony of how these fighters ended up pursuing peace between their respective constituencies, they were inspired to pursue similar peace-building work in their own communities. Teams made up of members from communities once opposed to each other are developing those projects now — focused on economic development projects — to spark hope for a sustainable future.
Rev. Elmarie E.R. Parker, PC(USA) Regional Liaison to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon
Today’s Focus: World Interfaith Harmony week
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Holy God who calls us to love kindness, do justice and walk humbly with you, please fill these young people with your own courage to build just-peace in their communities. Inspire our imaginations to pursue such work in our own communities. Amen.