My Peace Education (Japan)

Academic Virtual presentation about my pedagogical approach and my research in three Lebanese universities from 2007 till 2014.

The 7th Asian Conference on Education,

Art Center of Kobe, Kobe, Japan

Wednesday, October 21 – Sunday, October 25, 2015

http://iafor.org/conferences/ace2015/

This virtual presentation is published here:

Conference Programme – View on issuu via a web browser:

http://issuu.com/iafor/docs/ace-acset-aceurs-2015 (p.90/100)

Summary:

Dr. Pamela Chrabieh presents a paper entitled ‘Peace Education in Lebanon: Case Study in the University Context’ with a focus on the results of a qualitative research she conducted from 2007 till 2014 in three Lebanese Universities. Dr. Chrabieh has closely studied the initiatives of many peace activists in Lebanon from 2001 till 2007 and published a book about the subject ‘Voix-es de Paix au Liban’ (Voices/Paths of Peace in Lebanon) in 2008. When she came back from Canada to Lebanon and started teaching at St Josef University in Beirut, Notre Dame University and Holy Spirit University, she expanded her research to include high school students (with another book published in 2009) and 500 university students. This latest research’s progressive results were presented at Oxford-UK, Balamand-Lebanon, Istanbul-Turkey, Dubai-UAE and Rome-Italy. In her virtual presentation, Dr. Chrabieh introduces her audience to her final results, including her students’ visions of war and peace.

“Traumatic experiences of war may never disappear from the minds of many generations of Lebanese, and new wounded memories will be added to the old ones. But my research revealed the importance of creating alternative models of education through unconventional ideas and teaching techniques when it comes to the promotion of empathy, mutual respect and dialogue, as major peacebuilding pillars. Education, as I see it, is first and foremost about learning to be and become better human beings, capable of dealing with our individual and collective war traumas, of embracing our differences and constructing a common history/identity”.

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One Coffee Bean at a Time

I was born and raised in a war zone, where the culture of war prevailed – and still is -, along with sectarianism, State paralysis, militias’ laws, negative media propaganda, hatred, conflictual identities, etc. I spent enough time in shelters or in displacement. I avoided snipers and land mines. I faced the destruction of our houses and the death of family members and friends. One of my favorite games was Harb (war).

When you live in a war zone and you survive it physically, it doesn’t mean you won’t be damaged psychologically. When the bloodshed stops, it doesn’t mean the war ends. Like so many others from my generation, I carry a load of war traumas. According to colleagues of mine (psychologists and psychiatrists), more than 60% of Lebanese developed serious mental illnesses due to PTSD. Their wounded memories and illnesses are transmitted to the new generations, along with what they already inherited from the distant past.

In this chaotic and sick environment, my first oasis was my family. My parents were peace agents when people around us were drowning in the sectarian sea. My father was probably the only one in his village who never accepted to be enrolled in any of the militias or political parties that controlled the areas we used to live in. He continued on being an educator, a school and university professor and became a well-known model of dialogue in the academic sphere. My mother is a lawyer and a feminist. She comes from a feudal background, a Sheikha. But she decided not to use her title in the public sphere. She worked for many years defending women in religious courts and she still has her doors open for abused women from different backgrounds and religious identities.

Over the years spent in Lebanon, then Canada, then back to Lebanon and now the UAE, and short stays in different countries, I found myself exposed to different forms of diversity and learned to live by the rules of different systems of diversity management. I had many experiences and encounters, both negative and positive, that contributed to my journey from war to peace, and to the expansion of my first oasis beyond the family cell.

I chose the most difficult path, to be against the current (Aaks al sayr), away from the common defense mechanisms such as the ostrich attitude, the blank Page and denial (what I call ‘mafichism’). It’s the path of continuous self-transformation in order to contribute to the change of my environment. It’s the path of dealing with one’s traumas, healing one’s wounds and enlarging one’s horizons in the quest for internal peace and peace with others.

I found a parable to illustrate the path I chose:
“A girl was so discouraged by her experiences in school (just like many are discouraged by the current situation in Lebanon) she told her grandmother she wanted to quit. Her grandmother filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. She placed in the first carrots, in the second eggs and the third ground coffee beans. Then she fished the carrots, pulled the eggs out and served the coffee in a cup and asked the girl: Tell we what do you see? “Carrots, eggs and coffee” the girl replied. Then she asked the girl to feel the carrots – she noted that they were soft and mushy. She told her to break an egg, but she couldn’t. It was a hard-boiled egg. She asked her to sip the coffee, which she did and tasted it with its rich aroma. The grandmother then explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity – boiling water – but each had reacted differently. ‘Which are you?’ the grandmother asked. ‘When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot that seems strong but with pain becomes soft and loses strength? Are you the egg that appears not to change but whose heart is hardened? Or the coffee bean that changes the hot water, the very circumstances that bring the pain, by releasing the fragrance and flavor?

The moral of the parable?
I confess: I am a coffee lover, a coffee addict.
I chose and choose every day, as much as possible, to become a coffee bean.
The environment we find ourselves living in or having to deal with plays a role in the shaping of one’s beliefs and genetics, but it isn’t the only thing that matters. What matters more is how we react to it, how we interpret our experiences and encounters, and when it seems that we can’t change our circumstances, we start by changing ourselves. I truly believe humans are not conditioned; they can alter their situation as well as their genes. Ever heard of brain plasticity? Of gene mutation?

My parents were my first proof that self-transformation and its positive impact are possible. Many individuals in Lebanon and outside Lebanon I encounter prove the possibility of change, and “hope is a pocket of possibilities, we just have to hold it more often in our hands”. Since 2001, my researches have revealed the existence of hundreds of peace agents, including here at the American University in Dubai. To the question I am often asked: ‘so how come we don’t have peace in Lebanon?’ My answer is:
Without those individuals, Lebanon would have disappeared a long time ago.
Old and new war traumas need time to heal and hard work at all levels (non-official and official).
The war’s causes are multiple, both internal and external.

As individuals in our own worlds, maybe we can’t change the external factors, but what we can do is something about the internal ones, especially when it comes to the psychological aspect of the war, the culture of war.
Truly, Mahatma Gandhi’s quote “You must be the change you want to see in the world” is not an ideal, it is a reality. One just has to believe in it, and believe that “Peace is a journey of a thousand miles; it must be taken one step at a time” (Lyndon B. Johnson).


And I will add: one coffee bean at a time.

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My speech
‘Change to induce change’ round table (American University in Dubai, November 18, 2015)
AUD online publications – School of Arts and Sciences, November 22, 2015.

Source: http://www.aud.edu/arts_and_sciences/en/page/4185/one-coffee-bean-at-a-time-dr.-pamela-chrabieh

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Innovation Week: The Diplomacy of the Dish – Culinary Festival

Source: American University in Dubai News

AUD Faculty, students and staff who are interested in learning about the cultural diversity of the Southwestern Asian and North African regions through food, as well as in having a visceral experience of the unknown/ inexperienced while participating in an intercultural dialogic platform, are invited to attend one of the many Culinary Festival sessions that will take place at the American University in Dubai from Monday, November 23 till Tuesday, December 8, 2015, as part of the MEST-318 Cultures of the Middle East courses.

MEST students will be presenting their final projects, consisting of a short oral and visual presentation of the food they will individually prepare – unfamiliar cultures and foods to them -, and their dish for a collective degustation.

Culinary Festival Sessions (Fall 2015)

Monday, Nov. 23 E-202, 1:30 – 2:45 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 24 E-405, 2:00 – 2:50 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 25 E-202, 1:30 – 2:45 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 26 E-405, 2:00 – 2:50 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 29 E-405, 2:00 – 2:50 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 30 E-202, 1:30 – 2:45 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 1 E-405, 2:00 – 2:50 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 6 E-405, 2:00 – 2:50 p.m.
Monday, Dec. 7 E-202, 1:30 – 2:45 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 8 E-405, 2:00 – 2:50 p.m.
Contact Person: Dr. Pamela ChrabiehWhy the Food and the Discovery of the Unfamiliar?

Food is a central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture” (Mark Kurlansky, ‘Choice Cuts’, 2002).

Most people are introduced to a culture’s cuisine before they decide they want to learn more about it. When we cook, eat and drink unfamiliar types of food, we have a visceral experience of foreignness brought into our bodies and minds, which contributes to the process of familiarization, thus helps students face Xenophobia (the fear of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange) and Food Neophobia (the fear of eating new or unfamiliar foods) by repeated exposure to unfamiliar/novel foods. The process of familiarization opens the door for dialogue, the recognition of differences, mutual respect and the search for a common ground – for what unites in the diversity of legacies and stories.

Food is a life force and a good meal fosters a strong connection between individuals, a convivial relation beyond mere coexistence. When we gather to share the physicality of the food and the cultural knowledge (historical, political, religious and social knowledge related to the prepared food, Global foodways, Culinary colonialism and neo-colonialism, Culinary nationalism, Culinary interpenetrations and fusion, Culinary/Cultural wars) that accompanies the praxis of cooking and eating together (commensality), when we think about the food, prepare it and serve it together, we share bits and pieces of our belongings and our glocal (global/local) identities, bits and pieces of our lives with our commonalities and our differences. In my classrooms, I focus on creating awareness that behind the foods we eat, there are stories of wars and hardship, conflicts and fear, but also reconciliation, positive relationships, resilience, empowerment and solidarity that merit study.

When food and cuisine are used as instruments of peace, as tools of soft power and communication, when language alone is not enough, we create cross-cultural understanding in the hopes of improving interactions in cooperation. This form of cultural diplomacy is called the Culinary Diplomacy or Gastrodiplomacy, and it is being recognized in Southeastern Asia for instance in South Korea, Thailand, Japan and Malaysia as a form of edible nation branding – a growing trend in public diplomacy. Scholarship on Gastrodiplomacy is burgeoning and will certainly expand in the upcoming years.

About my Pedagogical Approach:
Learning through food has become an essential component of all my courses since 2004 in:

  • Canada, at the Université de Montréal (with +1000 students – majority of French Québécois and minorities of immigrants, 2004-2006);
  • Lebanon (with +3000 students from different religious and political backgrounds in three universities, in a context of continuous physical/psychological war, 2007-2014);
  • The UAE, at the American University in Dubai (with a 100+ national identities, ethnic identities and religions to manage in classrooms, since 2014).
Learning through food is a major application of my Peace Education approach that aims to cultivate the knowledge and practice of a culture of peace. Wars start in the human mind, and Peace Education plays an important role in individual and collective mindset changes from classrooms to communities. Students learn to develop cultural awareness and communication strategies in an intercultural setting. They learn to deconstruct stereotypes and construct alternative narratives. They learn to reflect on the subjectivity of their own cultural patterns, to step outside boundaries and discover the fluidity of cultural frontiers. They learn to share responsibility for the act of learning while using all their senses. They learn to understand and experience unity in human diversity through dialogue. They learn about peace by gaining peace knowledge, and more, by doing peace.Other examples of activities I have been implementing in my classrooms since 2004 include field trips; intercultural/interreligious gatherings in galleries, museums and sacred spaces; visual art workshops including art therapy sessions; outdoor agoras; meditation sessions; virtual dialogue platforms; storytelling/story sharing sessions; as well as singing and dancing, to name just a few.

I have been presenting numerous conferences about my Peace perspective and educational approach since 2000/2001 – Canada, Lebanon, Italy, France, UK (Oxford University), Japan, Turkey, Cyprus, USA (University of California), Hungary, Czech Republic, UAE…– and publishing articles, academic papers and book chapters, in French, English and Arabic. All of my 7 books include information about my Peace perspective and activities as an educator, scholar-researcher, activist and artist.

– See more at: http://www.aud.edu/news_events/en/view/1007/current_upcoming/innovation-week-the-diplomacy-of-the-dish-culinary-festival#sthash.MmBLz9XV.dpuf

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Beirut is bleeding, again!

pamela-chrabieh-beirut (225x224)Why do humans do terrible things to each other? This is a question I asked my parents when I was a child trapped in a shelter, afraid of the bombs, the snipers and the breaking news gloomy sounds. A question I ask myself every day following the massacres taking place throughout the Southwestern Asian region… A question I ask tonight…

Beirut is bleeding, again! A pair of suicide bombings killed at least 45 people and wounded over 200. Many blame the religious indoctrination of young ignorant and damaged individuals who are promised eternal pleasures in heaven. Some would say humans are inherently evil or would compare modern day murderers to primitive barbarous humans. Others would blame it on the quest for survival, for power, or believe that we become enthused zealots who want to destroy the evil that threatens our groups, the people we love, who share our genes, our religious beliefs, our political affinities, our social-economic background… We fight because we are insane, we do the same thing over and over again and expect different results – quoting Einstein –, because we claim absolute authority and want to impose our own beliefs on what we consider as nonbelievers and dissidents alike, or because it simply feels good!

Tonight, I am filled with horror at images of people torn to shreds by those who turned themselves into incendiary devices. I am filled with sadness as I think of all the victims and their families. I still cannot find a satisfying answer to THE question. And blaming each other of religious fanaticism, impiety or incorrect faith won’t help.

The current situation in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Palestine, the ancient Land of Canaan with its rich history and its major achievements from the invention of the writing system and the alphabet to outstanding developments in sciences, philosophy and arts, promises nothing more than the road to hell.

Tonight, we mourn the loss of so many lives. Tomorrow, we go out, spirits lifted again, to make this country a better place for us and our children.

تغير لتغير

The best place to start change is with yourself!

Round table organized by the Lebanese Student Club at the American University in Dubai (Dubai-UAE).

November 18, 2015, 6-8 p.m. (E421)

Join us, share your stories and raise your voices!

Speakers: Mrs. Reina Dib Angoujard, Mr. Fouad Diab Maalouf, Ms. Hiba Bou Daher, Dr. Haitham Solh and Dr. Pamela Chrabieh

Because it’s 2015!

P.M. Justin Trudeau gives Canada a first cabinet with ethnically diverse ministers and an equal number of men and women, and in my home country, Lebanon, women can’t even confer their nationality to their husbands or children.

As a naturalized Canadian citizen, I am proud of the gender equality under the law in the land of maple, poutine and hockey, and as a native Lebanese, I am more than ashamed of the discriminatory laws that deny women their basic rights in the land of the alphabet, the cedars and the thousands of years of rich history.

I am ashamed of the mountains and rivers of trash, of the abysmal State, of the wasted opportunities for change, and more, of the non-recognition of women as full nationals and citizens.

“Because it’s 2015″, Trudeau said, when asked about why parity was important to him, but in Lebanon 2015, the denial of basic rights places women in a subordinate second class position, and leads to marginalization and social exclusion.

Citizenship “is both a status (or an identity) and a practice or process of relating to the social world through the exercise of rights/protections and the fulfillment of obligations” (Meer and Sever, 2004).  Citizenship should be inclusive, incorporating the interests and needs of all citizens, and an active concept, a relationship that promotes participation and agency, such as in Canada. But in Lebanon, the identity ascribed to women is in relation to men – passive, eternally immature and dependent – even if there are/were women who are/were able to re-shape their identities .

As long as most women are not able to make claims as citizens in their own rights nor to fully exercise political, economic, social and cultural rights, a Lebanese half-female cabinet is just a mirage in an expanding desert of ignorance.