Peace Education: A Priority for our Youth and Society

My latest article published by Executive Women

December 9, 2019

Peace Education
Dr. Pamela Chrabieh-Director of SPNC Learning & Communication Expertise, University Professor, & Visual Artist

Much has been said about social responsibility in the last two to three decades, and many non-governmental organizations have created programs and organized youth camps in the Arab world to encourage individuals and groups to act for the benefit of society at large. However, ongoing political disorder, wars, and economic crises in several countries have contributed to the implementation of national security-based strategies, whereas any society’s survival depends on a social responsibility strategy, and this strategy should include peace education. 

Peace education encompasses a variety of pedagogical approaches within formal curricula in schools and universities, and non-formal popular education projects. It aims to cultivate the knowledge and practices of a culture of peace, and plays an important role in individual and collective mindset changes.

Unfortunately, most academic curricula in the Arab world do not offer peace education courses, and little attention has been paid so far to the inclusion of peace programs in universities — they are considered to be low priorities.

In addition, many avoid giving too much attention and too many resources to Peace Studies programs out of fear that they may become politicized. The emphasis is usually placed on subjects considered to be tangible and have practical value for competition in the local, regional, and global marketplaces.

Peace education’s advantages are numerous:

  • It develops cultural awareness and effective communication strategies in intercultural/interreligious settings,
  • It leads to increased and differentiated understandings of cultures and a desire to expand one’s own knowledge of cultural customs, concepts, and values,
  • It helps deconstruct stereotypes and fight against xenophobia, discrimination, and ethnocentrism,
  • It helps the youth to reflect on the subjectivity of their own thoughts and language as they learn to step outside boundaries and develop more critical thinking,
  • It helps students to understand and experience unity in human diversity.

I have developed my own peace education approach and applied it in universities in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates with thousands of students from 2007 to 2018. The results of my research were published in several books and academic journals, proving the positive impact of peace education.

The basis of this educational approach is dialogue, which is not used as a mere technique to achieve some cognitive results, but to transform social relations. Through interactive practices and an emphasis on cooperation, students are provided with space in which they can undergo constructive analysis, build bridges, and develop a sense of national inclusive belonging. 

Nonetheless, peace education faces many challenges and obstacles in our region, starting with the context itself that makes it hard to disseminate — such as the context of continuous physical and psychological wars in Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Iraq,… 

Furthermore, it still is a socially isolated affair. For peace education to have a large-scale impact, there are many conditions that need to be fulfilled, such as support from private institutions and public authorities, sustained interaction between students and their professors, interdependence in completing common tasks, etc. 

In the context of both formal and non-formal education, funding for projects and their sustainability are two major challenges. Only elite schools and universities can offer sufficiently long training and the much needed follow-up support as inequalities and discrimination are a major challenge. In fact, they do not disappear when the classroom doors close or when they open again; students may continue pursuing opposing agendas, especially when they have unsupportive home environments.

Even when they are equipped with a new way of perceiving themselves and the “others”, the students enter into a collision course with their social surroundings and their “unquestionable truths” through their homes, neighborhoods, sectarian communities, political parties, and the media. In my opinion, peace education should be considered a public good and, as such, should be offered as a free service to all. 

Youth represent the largest group in the region, and they are exposed to an increasing number of vulnerabilities, threats, and challenges. The lack of economic, educational, and leadership opportunities limits the youth’s full potential for contribution to their families and communities, and for sustainable development and peace.

Facing these challenges requires investment in youth education, active participation, visibility and empowerment. Such investment must target youth from all cultural and religious backgrounds, including young people from disparate communities, as well as young people with disabilities and vulnerable or marginalized youth.

Clearly, this investment will not be a waste, for a culture of peace is needed to build prosperous countries and inclusive societies, and this culture is not an unattainable ideal. It is a culture we can make, embody, and share.

By, Dr. Pamela Chrabieh, Director of SPNC Learning & Communication Expertise, University Professor, & Visual Artist.

https://executive-women.me/2019/12/09/peace-education-a-priority-for-our-youth-and-society/

Ala’ Abou Fakhr, martyr de la révolution, martyr national – article dans l’Orient-le-Jour

Lire l’article complet sur le site de L’Orient-le-Jour

Le meurtre du révolutionnaire Ala’ Abou Fakhr devant son épouse et son fils a ravivé dans ma mémoire le décès de mon beau-père Gebran Badine qui fut assassiné en Irak en 2004. Dans un article que j’avais publié en 2007 dans Scriptura (Université de Montréal), je posais à l’époque les questions suivantes : « Qui est Gebran ? (et donc, qui est Ala’ ?). Vaut-il la peine d’être remémoré ? Sa mort, à l’instar de beaucoup d’autres, compte-t-elle sur l’échiquier national ? »

Depuis des décennies, les meurtres et massacres perpétrés au Liban et dans la région de l’Asie de l’Ouest ne sont plus que des événements relégués aux oubliettes, des concours de circonstances, des accidents faisant partie du lot dit normal de la guerre et des révolutions. En ce sens, la mort de Gebran, de Ala’ et de bien d’autres encore ferait partie de l’ordre des choses, du cycle de la vie et de la mort. Elle ferait partie des tragédies enfouies dans les méandres de l’histoire, jugées par des politiciens, des historiens, des institutions médiatiques et des peuples entiers, inaptes à porter le qualificatif de mal absolu, d’horreur extrême, et donc inaptes à être même pointées du doigt. Or toute guerre constitue un génocide, et tout être humain ayant péri de la folie meurtrière vaut la peine d’être remémoré, pour que justement cesse cette folie.

Au Liban, il est habituellement demandé tant aux enfants qu’aux adultes de ne pas revenir sur le passé, de taire les blessures, de se murer dans un mutisme approbateur de la fatalité du destin, privilégiant la survie sociale et politique à la survie psychique et humaine. La société entière est soumise aux chuchotements et à l’autocensure qui font que la moindre pensée subversive est automatiquement réprimée. Cette omerta, ou loi du silence, est renforcée au niveau national par l’auto-amnistie des leaders de la guerre en 1991. En effet, la loi

n° 84 du 26 août 1991 a voulu voiler le passé récent en accordant une amnistie aux criminels pour tous les actes commis avant le 28 mars 1991. Cette loi fut élaborée en fonction de critères politiques et non des droits de l’homme. Les « seigneurs de la guerre » – expression utilisée en politologie libanaise – ont fait en sorte que leurs crimes soient oubliés. Or suffit-il d’affirmer que le passé n’existe plus en droit pour qu’il cesse d’exister dans la réalité et les consciences, pour que victimes et bourreaux se valent ?

L’oubli n’est qu’une illusion, le temps nous rattrape à grandes enjambées et la souffrance nous descend, même si nous tentons de fuir. « Gare au retour du refoulé ! » avait prévenu un célèbre architecte libanais lors d’une conférence en février 2004 intitulée « Le centre-ville, exploit ou fracture ? ». Comment tourner la page sur des milliers de morts, de blessés, de disparus, de déplacés, de prisonniers, d’émigrés forcés, de destructions, d’horreurs? Comment dépasser la peur qui marque sa présence et la dépression qui suit la fin de l’espoir ? Comment envisager ce qui sera sans tenir compte de ce qui a été ?

« Je désire savoir où sont les choses futures et passées, si l’on peut dire qu’elles sont. Si cette connaissance est au-dessus de moi, au moins je suis assuré qu’en quelque lieu qu’elles soient, elles n’y sont ni futures ni passées, mais présentes, puisque si elles y sont futures, elles n’y sont pas encore, et que si elles y sont passées, elles n’y sont plus. »

Aux interrogations de saint Augustin, dans les Confessions (livre XI, chapitre XVII), répondent certaines certitudes : si l’avenir n’est pas encore et si le passé n’est plus, celui-ci n’est pas sans influencer celui-là. En ce sens, un avenir pacifié ne peut être envisageable si la politique de la tabula rasa relevant de la terre brûlée est adoptée. Celui-ci requiert la reconnaissance de la douleur en la muant en souvenir fondateur qui puisse nous en affranchir, notamment en construisant une mémoire individuelle et collective de la guerre. Dans cette perspective, la parole ou la mise en récit de l’événement traumatique occupent une place centrale dans le processus thérapeutique qui constitue la base du processus de « peacebuilding » – construction de la paix. Donner un espace de parole, d’où l’on peut s’exprimer en toute sécurité et liberté, est indispensable pour passer de la simple reviviscence à la représentation, du souvenir au « ressouvenir » – un terme utilisé par Amin Maalouf et qui signifie une réécriture, un déchiffrage, un dévoilement, un travail de critique et d’autocritique (intériorisation), un projet herméneutique, un travail de deuil, un acte refondateur, une transformation – pour qu’on puisse dire les blessures, leur attribuer un sens, les comprendre et vivre avec.

En ce sens, le principe « œil pour œil, dent pour dent », ou la culture de la vendetta, devrait être remplacé par un processus réparateur impliquant toutes les parties, constituant une manière puissante d’aborder non seulement les préjudices matériels et physiques causés par les crimes, mais aussi les préjudices sociaux, psychologiques et relationnels. Cette démarche est centrée sur la victime, et la communauté et le dialogue en sont les éléments centraux. Le but n’est pas la vengeance, mais que la vérité soit connue et qu’une reconnaissance publique soit officiellement sanctionnée. Les auteurs de crimes de guerre et de tout crime ont beau répéter que personne n’entendra les victimes, que personne ne se soucie d’elles, que personne ne le saura jamais… D’où la nécessité de faire face à ce que le journaliste Lawrence Weschler qualifie d’« instant primordial » : « Qui était là ? Qui criait ? Qui se tenait aux côtés de la victime et que faisaient-ils ? Qui encore maintenant oserait écouter ses cris ? Qui souhaite le savoir ? Qui sera tenu responsable ? Et qui leur en demandera des comptes ? »

Source: https://www.lorientlejour.com/article/1195118/ala-abou-fakhr-martyr-de-la-revolution-martyr-national.html

سقط الزعيم!

سقط الزعيم في الشارع والساحات والمواقع الاجتماعية… سقط الزعيم في ذهون وأقوال وأفعال المواطنين… سقط الزعيم في حلقات الحوار والعيش المشترك…

الثورة في لبنان هي ثورة على النظام الطائفي والفساد والامساواة؛ ثورة على الاستبداد والقمع والزبائنية والتخويف والتخوين؛ ثورة على ثقافة التبعية وقدسيّة الطوائف؛ ثورة استعادة حقوق وكرامة الإنسان…

هي ثورة حلمنا وبشّرنا بها وانتظرناها وعملنا طويلاً كي تأتي… وأتت… وهزّت أركان النظام الذي استكان إلى التقسيمات المذهبية والطائفية والصراعات الفئوية، وفتحت بوابة على الطريق إلى الدولة المدنية المبنية على المواطنة والحريات والاطائفية وثقافة السلام.

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/

Towards Inclusive Societies in the Middle East International Conference in Cyprus

Last preparations for the international conference “Towards Inclusive Societies in the Middle East” in Ayia Napa – Cyprus. Organized by CAFCAW and Dar al Kalima University of Arts and Culture. Oct.31st-Nov. 3rd 2019.

CAFCAW executive committee