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 (, 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

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:

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

اليأس هو فقط لأولئك الذين يرون النهاية بما لا يدع مجالا للشك. نحن لا نراها!

بدأت الثورة الفعلية في لبنان منذ أكثر من ثلاثة عقود مع عدد لا يحصى من الناشطين والمجموعات والمنظمات المحلية والعابرة للحدود. الثورة سلسلة من المواقف والمبادرات والأصوات والتعبيرات والممارسات والديناميات، إلى جانب الاحتجاجات الشعبية. انها صيرورة …

يشكل الأسبوعان الأخيران بالتأكيد خطوة أخرى في هذه الصيرورة التي لن تنتهي قبل أن نبني مجتمعًا سلميًا وديمقراطيًا وشاملًا لجميع اللبنانيين.

كيف؟ بالإصرار دائما على استخدام النضال السلمي في مواجهة الأنظمة الشموليّة والديكتاتوريّة. هذا ليس سهلاً في منطقة لطالما خضعت لقواعد لعبة مختلفة، حيث كان التغيير يأتي عبر إنقلابات عسكريّة يقودها ضباط وعسكر.

ليس النضال السلمي استسلام وخضوع للقوي. أن يواجه المدنيون السلميون العنف الجسدي والمعنوي والرصاص بالصدر العاري يلزمه شجاعة أكبر من مواجهة الرصاص بالرصاص.

الآن ليس الوقت المناسب لليأس، ولا للتراجع. “اليأس هو فقط لأولئك الذين يرون النهاية بما لا يدع مجالا للشك. نحن لا نراها”.

لا للحرب ولا للنظام… اريد لبنان للجميع

انا جزء مما يسمى “جيل الحرب”. لقد ولدت وترعرعت في حرب السبعينيات والثمانينيات من القرن الماضي. لقد شهدت إراقة دماء ونجوت من القناصة والقنابل. أصبحت ناشطة سلام عندما كنت مراهقة وأقسمت أنني سأكرس حياتي للمساهمة في إنهاء الحرب. لقد ناضلت من أجل ثقافة السلام من خلال التعليم والفن والكتابة والنشاط الاجتماعي في لبنان والخارج، وسأواصل القيام بذلك ، بشكل فردي ومع الآخرين.

ما شهدناه في آخر 9 أيام في لبنان هو ظاهرة فريدة. أكثر من ثلث السكان يتجمعون ضد نظام فاسد يمثل أحد الأسباب الرئيسية للأزمات الاجتماعية والاقتصادية. ظاهرة فريدة من نوعها بسبب لامركزيتها، عفويتها ومصداقيتها. فريدة من نوعها لتعدد الأجيال والهويات الاجتماعية والثقافية. فريدة من نوعها بسبب تضامن خلاق بين وعبر الاختلافات.

من المؤكد أن هناك مجموعات وقوى محلية وإقليمية ودولية تستغل إيمان الناس ورؤاهم وأحلامهم وثوراتهم وانتفاضاتهم في جميع السياقات، بما في ذلك في لبنان، لكن هذا لا يعني أن تطلعات وممارسات الناس المتنوعة نحو لبنان أفضل باطلة، غير مجدية او مأجورة.

لا أريد حرباً أهلية ولا نظام طائفي.
لا أريد فراغًا سياسيًا ، ولا أمراء الحرب والسياسيين الفاسدين.
لا أريد الزواج بين الدين والسياسة ولا التخلص من الناس الذين لديهم إنتماء ديني.
لا أريد تلويث العقول وبيئتنا. و لا أريد الامساواة في الحقوق والفرص.
لا أريد مجتمعًا منقسمًا بين 8 و 14 آذار ، ولا بين مؤيد وضد ثورة.
لا أريد مجتمعًا قائمًا على التفرد ولا على الاقصاء.

أريد أن أعيش في مجتمع متحد في تنوعه.
أريد أن أعيش في سلام وأريد أن يعيش اللبنانيون من جميع الخلفيات والأجيال في سلام مع بعضهم البعض. اريد ان اعيش في لبنان لي، لك، لنا ولكم.

اريد لبنان للجميع.

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.

CAFCAW Meeting in Jordan: Working for the Renewal of Religious Thought in the Arab World

It’s a wrap! #CAFCAW meeting @Dead Sea Marriott Resort & Spa, Jordan, January 2019 
لتجديد الفكر والخطاب الديني في العالم العربي وتعزيز الوجود الفعال المسيحي والعمل من أجل مواطنة الوحدة في التنوع وكرامة الإنسان

Dr. Atef Gendy, Dr. Victor Makari, Maya Khadra, Dr. Mitri Raheb, Dr. Pamela Chrabieh, Mary Mikhael