Towards Inclusive Societies in the Middle East Conference Full Report

Our conference’s full report (“Towards Inclusive Societies in the Middle East”
Ayia Napa, Cyprus, October 31 – November 2, 2019) by Karis Ailabouni:
“Inclusive societies based on equal rights remain at a distance as the Middle East continues to face radicalized religious and political movements. In light of this, Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture and the Christian Academic Forum for Citizenship in the Arab World (CAFCAW) organized its fifth international conference entitled, “Towards Inclusive Societies in the Middle East”, held in Cyprus from October 31 to November 2, 2019. The conference gathered 47 scholars, activists, and experts from around the world with the aim of stimulating critical dialogue on the factors that hinder equitable societies in the region. In an effort to practice inclusion, 29 (61%) of the conference participants were women, while 9 (19%) were youth under the age of 35. In addition, participants came from diverse national backgrounds. The majority hailed from the region, namely Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and UAE. However, participants also joined from the USA, Canada, Sweden, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, and the UK. The conference provided also a forum for Arab scholars from the diaspora to connect to their peers from the region. The forum’s diversity of participation inspired an unparalleled interdisciplinary, ecumenical, and interreligious discussion, through which participants could explore issues from multiple perspectives.

Following a welcome dinner on October 31, the event consisted of eight sessions and 22 paper presentations over two days. Sessions I and II provided a theoretical framing of inclusivity in political and theological terms. This led into sessions III and IV, which tackled gender justice as a critical form of inclusivity. On day 2, the morning consisted of two sets of parallel sessions. The first contextualized inclusivity through specific insights from Lebanon and Egypt, while the second brought unique interdisciplinary approaches to the theme- from philosophy, to germ theory, to natural resource management.

The conference also made space to include a flash panel on the revolution currently unfolding in Lebanon. As a scholarly forum rooted in everyday realities, it was necessary to include this session given its relevance to the themes of the conference and to the sociopolitical context of the region at large. Lebanese participants shared their diverse perspectives from the ground, reflecting on the opportunities and challenges of the revolution as a platform for people to affect social and political change.

Several important themes emerged from the discussions surrounding these sessions. Firstly, the bondage of minoritization and sectorization in the Middle East poses a challenge to inclusive societies. Through histories of colonialism and authoritarianism, Christians have been constructed to think of themselves as minorities and, therefore, inherently disempowered. This phenomenon calls for a radically inclusive, popular theology that rejects sectarianism.

Inclusivity, then, requires societies in the Middle East to learn from local history so that they might deconstruct oppressive power systems inherited from colonialist and authoritarian regimes. Rather than reproducing exclusivist modes of authority, there is an urgent need to build new social contracts that empower the participation of all people in public life. This necessitates not only the building of new political systems, but also a sociocultural shift in which people begin to understand political participation not as a privilege, but as an essential dimension of their being.

Therefore, there is a need to pursue a collective journey towards inclusive societies. This was brought to light in discussions tackling gender justice, as many women’s movements are already carving a place for themselves as equal citizens. For example, women are at the front lines of the revolution in Lebanon. Meanwhile, women Islamic activists in Palestine are challenging the dominant culture by studying Islam and building their religious practice. In addition, women in the Evangelical Church in Egypt are struggling to become ordained leaders in their church through subversive ministry. Youth in the Middle East are also actively excluded from participation in public life. Research presented in the conference showed youth’s growing disillusionment with their future. Although they are eager to better their own community, many feel they must ultimately go abroad to realize their dreams. The problematic of Arab youth and women’s exclusion calls for participatory processes that allow the marginalized in society to make their voices heard.

Finally, the conference concluded with a discussion of pressing topics that might be addressed in future conferences. The recommendations emphasized by participants included the following:

Public theology of the religious other
Liberation from exploitation and authoritarianism
Technology, Religion and virtual realities
The role of education in social change, peace, and reconciliation

CAFCAW executive committee decided to choose the theme of Education for the next year with a working title “The Future of Education in West Asia and North Africa: Education for the Future.”

The conference was utilized as a platform to launch Telos magazine (www.telosmagazine.org), a new online magazine with a focus on public theology.

In addition to the stimulating discussions that surrounded these sessions, one of the greatest successes of the conference occurred informally. Academics and activists from around the world were able to build new connections with one another, creating a network where ideas and experiences could be exchanged. As one participant noted, the conference succeeded in developing a community of scholars and practitioners. This allowed not only for rich and critical dialogue, but also opened endless possibilities for future”.

Source: Dar al Kalima University of Arts and Culture

CAFCAW Executive Committee
Telos Wana Magazine Editorial Committee

Standing Together in a World Divided – Bangkok Consultation

My video conference has been screened a few hours ago in Bangkok – Thailand.

STANDING TOGETHER IN A WORLD DIVIDED – Consultation developed by the Presbyterian World Mission and the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), (PCUSA).
Bangkok – Thailand, November 1-6, 2019.
My paper will be available in due time (“Christian Responses in Western Asia: Case Studies”).

Full video here.

عن الحوار الإسلامي المسيحي، ذاكرة الحرب وبناء السلام في لبنان

Interested in the subject on Interfaith Dialogue, War Memory and Peacebuilding? This is the full version of my article, and you can have access to the PDF file on Telos’ site: https://www.telosmagazine.org/

Artist Pamela Chrabieh’s “Peace Collection” in Indelible Dubai

I was born and raised in the 1970s-1980s war in Lebanon. My experience as a war survivor has marked my writing and art, as has fueld my quest for peace. As I see it, peace is not only about ceasefires, the end of bloodshed, the absence of hostilities, and a state of mutual concord between governments, as war is both “physical” and “psychological”. Peace is about accountability for violence, openness, generosity, clemency, and catharsis. Peace is and should be a transformation process within mindsets, a celebration of interconnected life and unity in the diversity of complex identities. As long as the legacy of violence is not addressed within ourselves and our societies, we will remain lost, cut off from connection, living in a never-ending apocalypse of carnages and tortured souls and bodies.

Dr. Pamela Chrabieh is a scholar, writer, visual artist, and activist. Author of several books and papers with a 20+ year experience in higher education, communication, content creation, and the arts, she has exhibited her artworks in Canada, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Italy. Previously Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the American University in Dubai, she currently owns and manages a Beirut-based company offering expertise in Learning and Communication. 
http://pamelachrabiehblog.com and http://spnc.co

Source: Indelible

CAFCAW WORKSHOP Towards an Inclusive Society in Lebanon?

Positive vibes, fruitful dialogue, critical thinking, and a beautiful blend of identities united in their differences around a common goal: building a better inclusive society.

Hotel Monroe, Beirut, September 28, 2019.

A Colored Day at Qalamoun North of Lebanon

Amazing day with the inhabitants of Qalamoun, shooting videos, interviewing “Qalamoun in colors” project’s beneficiaries, tasting authentic bread and lemonade, and enjoying the hospitality of the mayor and the locals.
“Qalamoun in colors” is a Cash for work employment project that focuses on the rehabilitation and beautification of the Qalamoun market and public spaces. It creates ownership as youth and the community are actively involved in the design and execution of the project, generates short-term income opportunities, and aims to strengthen community cooperation. Implemented by GIZ Local Development Programme for Urban Areas in North Lebanon  in partnership with Utopia Lebanon and the Municipality of Qalamoun through financial support of the European Union and Germany.
#eastlinedigital

‘Les portes’ Artwork and Poem published by Indelible at the American University in Dubai

Indelible is a new literary journal edited by my friends at the American University in Dubai. A special thank you to Dr. Roula Maria Dib for publishing a photo of one of my paintings and a short prose poem.


“Les portes”, by Dr. Pamela Chrabieh
Oil and acrylic on canvas, Beirut – Lebanon, 2012


“Doors are the keepers of secrets, memories of the past and dreams about bright futures. Doors’ closures give the feeling of fences that speak. Behind doors, there are people who live, love each other, argue, are sad or happy; there are furniture and objects, sounds of voices, smells of soup … Doors are boundaries, presence, absence, call, communication, access, defense, rupture, transition, intimate, and universal. Doors are protective shelters, guardians of passages between the profane and the sacred. Doors are chances to do something different, they are places of departure and entrances into new worlds.

Doors are ecumenical images of life’s immanence.”

Dr. Pamela Chrabieh is a scholar, writer, visual artist, and activist. Author of several books and papers with a 20+ year experience in higher education, communication, content creation, and the arts, she has exhibited her artworks in Canada, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates. Previously Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the American University in Dubai, she currently owns and manages a Beirut-based company offering expertise in Learning and Communication. http://pamelachrabiehblog.com and http://spnc.co

Source: INDELIBLEAUD.COM (March 2019)