The Social Life of Memory: Violence, Trauma, and Testimony in Lebanon and Morocco

Saturday, 2nd March 2019 Magazine of the European Observatory on MemoriesISSN 2565-2931 | DL B 27726-2017

Nikro, Norman Saadi; Hegasy, Sonja (Eds.). Palgrave, 2017

By Tsjalling Wierdsma, Master Student on Heritage and Memory Studies, University of Amsterdam. Fellow at EUROM (2018).

The Social Life of Memory: Violence, Trauma, and Testimony in Lebanon and Morocco, edited by Norman Saadi Nikro and Sonja Hegasy, is part of the larger Palgrave Studies in Cultural Heritage and Conflict Series, which focuses on themes such as heritage and memory of war and conflict, contested heritage, and competing memories. Contributors to the book include Joey Ayoub, Pamela Chrabieh, Brahim El Guabli, Ali Hamdan, Norah Karrouche, and Laura Menin. While the book focuses on the specific contexts of Lebanon and Morocco, in this short review I would like to reflect on some broader memory and heritage issues addressed in the book, while still keeping the particular contexts to which they refer and in which they were addressed in mind.

One of the main thematic parameters of the book concerns the interaction between, and “transformation of private memories into publicly shared memories, according to efforts claiming public acknowledgment and public redress” (2-3). Memory, in the process of this exchange, according to the authors of the book, “is acted on as a transformational site, a milieu, whereby social and political engagement takes place, situating memory as a public event” (3).

The book points to an interaction and tension between Nora’s famous concept of memory as lieu, as a memorial or other form of formal commemoration, and memory as the milieu. By addressing memory as milieu the book enables a focus on overlooked processes of memory that otherwise might not be classified as such. An example of this is given in Laura Menin’s chapter, in which she focuses on the process of waiting experienced by the families of victims of political violence that disappeared during the Years of Lead. Instead of viewing waiting as a purely passive process, she instead views it as a “multifaceted temporality that entails both passivity and proactive engagement” (27). Menin describes how waiting in this context is perceived as an additional state-imposed source of pain, trauma, and loss of agency, but simultaneously brings with it novel political subjectivities and specific modes of activism where personal memories of violence are re-socialized, made public, and act towards specific political and transformative goals (27).

Hariri Memorial | Picture: upyernoz, uploaded by Albert Herring [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Chapters such as Ali Nehme Hamdan’s, which focuses on the Hariri mosque in Martyrs Square Beirut as a site of memory, highlight the usefulness of the concept milieu for engaging with the everyday “messy stuff of contention” (146). It further allows for a focus on the simultaneously conflicting and collective cultures of memory, without “assuming the centrality of the nation-state to their production” (146), which is necessary in a context such as Lebanon, but also more generally enables a focus that highlights the multiple actors and the ways in which they engage, negotiate, and create sites and spaces of memory. It allows for an engagement with the “many cultures of memory that coexist at any one time” (147), and not just at the level of the nation-state.

Pamela Chrabieh’s chapter, focusing on the war stories of university students in Lebanon belonging to the 1990’s generation, adds a generational component to these cultures of memory, and problematizes Hirsch’s notion of post-memory, stating that “many memories that were transmitted not only constitute the memories or are part of the ressouvenir processes of the new generations in their own right, but also intermingle with other memories to the point of not having clear boundaries” (189).

Chrabieh employs Rothberg’s concept of multidirectional memory, to enable a generational conception of a malleable discursive space in which groups, their memories, and their positions come into being through dialogical interaction. Similarly, Norah Karrouche’s chapter, detailing how local memories of war and violence in the Northern Riff region of Morocco have shaped the agencies and identities of several generations of Berber activists in both Morocco and its diaspora, shows how newer generations of activists can attempt to inscribe themselves into and simultaneously construct larger mythological and symbolic histories of activism. Like Chrabieh, Karrouche shows how multiple episodes of violence interact. Karrouche further discusses how these histories of activism can act as mythomoteurs, grand narratives about the specificity of a place in history and (trans)-national narratives (232-233). In combination, the two chapters however also highlight the large contextual differences in the generational transmission of memories.

The interaction and the contradictions between the different chapters is one of the book’s largest strengths. Instead of taking away from the individual arguments, these contradictions work to show the many nuances and contradictions attached to institutions, spaces, and milieus of memory, when approached from different levels of analysis and with different focus points.

SOURCE: EUROPEANMEMORIES.NET

Can we still build Inclusive Societies in the Middle East without Deep Learning? No…

I am sharing here the conclusion of my paper on deep learning in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates:

”One of the challenges that higher education will be facing is the spread of more surface learning versus deep learning, as deep learning can particularly take place in Humanities courses when appropriate education approaches are thought and practiced. I believe that the decision to reduce education (and learning) to a corporate consumer-driven model – providing services to the student-client -, transforms universities into factories or collegelands.

The ability to think critically and independently, to tolerate ambiguity, to see multiple sides of an issue, to deconstruct stereotypes, to appreciate diversity, to look beneath the surface, to dialogue with others on sensitive issues, and therefore the ability that equips us to live in and sustain democracies, to develop peaceful societies united in their diversity, will eventually disappear.

As I am completing the fall semester at the Lebanese American University as a part-time professor of Cultural Studies, I am being told that these courses and other Humanities’ courses will no longer be offered, due to budget cuts. Although my students have stated in their end-of-semester course evaluations their need for such courses and for a pedagogical approach that nurtures deep learning and in particular peacebuilding teaching/learning methods and activities in a country and a region on the verge of further explosion, their voices have not been heard.

I honestly fear that despite the efforts of few professors and educators, and of some youth and local NGOs initiatives, the future that awaits us is either further polarized or monochrome. Alternative narratives, perceptions, and practices that can challenge the ‘norm’ will cease to exist, and students will no longer be engaged to go beyond their disciplines and explore new avenues and skills. Furthermore, the automation of higher education will be contributing to the exacerbation of this reality. I am still struggling from my end and with other activists and pedagogues to build more just and inclusive societies in Southwestern Asia, but I honestly believe that this struggle has already become more arduous”.

Dr. Pamela Chrabieh, ‘Deep Learning in the University Context: Case Studies in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates’, International Journal of Arts and Sciences Refereed Conference Proceedings, 11 (03), 2018, p. 39-48.
www.universitypublications.net/proceedings/1103/pdf/DE8C56.pdf

Dr. Chrabieh presents research at 7th International Conference on Food Studies

Dr. Chrabieh introduces the concept of Peace Education
22/03/2018
AUD School of Arts and Sciences Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies Dr. Pamela Chrabieh attended the 7thInternational Conference on Food Studies at Roma Tre University in Rome – Italy and presented a paper entitled ‘Learning through Food at the American University in Dubai: The Case of Middle Eastern Studies Students’ Experiences’.

According to Dr. Chrabieh: “This paper introduces its readers to the Peace Education approach I have been developing since 2004 in the academic sphere in Canada, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates, as well as to one of its main applications in the classroom: the food component. These approach and component combine Anthropology of Food, Sciences of Religions, Cultural Studies and Irenology. The paper also presents the preliminary results of a qualitative research I have been conducting since 2014 at the American University in Dubai on the food learning experiences and food stories of more than 500 students enrolled in diverse Middle Eastern Studies courses. Students experience(d) conflict foods or foods as bridges across cultures and religions. They told/tell stories impregnated with gustatory nostalgia, whether relived or invented. They explain(ed) how food is an individual and collective identity marker. They also share(d) stories of migration, assimilation, pluralism, resistance and hybridity, while dealing with issues ranging from cultural appropriation to food security, as well as food diplomacy, intercultural dialogue and glocal (global-local) identity formation”.

Dr. Chrabieh concluded her paper with this statement: “It is far a given that food can bring about peace in this region and it is still early to evaluate the long-term impact of learning about cultures, religions and peace through food in the university context, but I can at least state that on a micro level, such as the classroom, and on an interpersonal level, food certainly contributes to deconstructing stereotypes and to bringing people together; therefore, food does prove to be a crucial instrument for a better diversity management and, as Sam Chapple-Sokol puts it, ‘it is a valuable addition to our toolbox as we confront conflicts both old and new’”.

The 7th International Conference on Food Studies was organized by the Food Studies Research Network that is curated by the Common Ground Research Networks. The Food Studies Research Network is brought together around an interest to explore new possibilities for sustainable food production and human nutrition, and associated impacts of food systems on culture.

Hosted by Gustolab International Institute for Food Studies and Roma Tre University , the conference’s scope and concerns were Food and Sustainability; Food, Nutrition and Health; and Food and Politics. Roma Tre University has always shown a tendency towards multidisciplinary research, and recently with a focus on sustainability through a new graduate degree in Innovation and Sustainability and a degree program in Gastronomic Sciences and Cultures. As for the Gustolab International Institute for Food Studies, it is a pioneering leader in Italy in developing study abroad and international education programs and research projects on Food Studies. It is the academic headquarters in this country for programs specialized on Food Culture, Communication, and Media and Nutrition for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This Institute has also worked with more than 30 universities on study abroad programs, from the USA to Canada, France and Japan.

Gustolab organized a pre-conference workshop on Studying, Teaching and Doing Research on Food Studies in Italy that Dr. Chrabieh attended. The objective of the workshop was to share and discuss opportunities for study and research in the food field with professors, students, researchers, and independent scholars who are interested in learning about study programs or doing research abroad. Attendees explored topics such as study abroad programs, culinary schools, master programs and internship programs. The material ranged from the social sciences to human, technological, biological, and agroecology sciences.

Dr. Chrabieh concludes with the following: “It is no surprise that the research interests of academics across a wide range of disciplines relate to food in some way. Food is at the center of our lives, cultures and religions, socio-political and legal systems, etc. Scholars in humanities for instance examine issues including the cultural significance and representation of food and food as an identity marker. Food Studies programs are now growing in popularity in North America and Europe. However, misconceptions are still found in our region i.e. Southwestern Asia and North Africa. For instance, the use of food in class is seen as a frivolous or not serious enough praxis. This is quite unfortunate. Food Studies is an important interdisciplinary field of study of food and of its relationship to the human experience that definitely needs to be promoted in local academic circles”.

Further information found on the Conference:
http://food-studies.com/2017-conference

SOURCE: AMERICAN UNIVERSITY IN DUBAI NEWS http://www.aud.edu/news_events/en/view/1747/current_upcoming/dr-chrabieh-presents-research-at-7th-international-conference-on-food-studies

من الحرب إلى التربية على السلام

pamela-chrabieh-el-machreq-online-peace-education
With my students – Interreligious field trip at Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

الدكتورة باميلا شرابيه

ولدتُ ونشأتُ وقتَ الحرب في لبنان، وقد ساهمت هذه التجربة في تكوين هويّتي، كما هي الحال مع معظم المواطنين اللبنانيّين. ولولا حبّ أهلي وانفتاحهم على الآخر، وخبراتي ودراساتي في الحوار الدينيّ والثقافيّ والإنسانيّ، لكنت من عداد الذين يعيشون في غيتوهات الهويّات المتصارعة – كما وصفها الروائيّ أمين معلوف[1] -، ويؤمنون في الصفحة البيضاء ومنافع فقدان الذاكرة الفرديّة والجماعيّة. قد تعلّمت بناء السلام من خلال فعل السلام وهذا الفعل في الأوساط الرسميّة وغير الرسميّة دفعني إلى إنتاج معرفة عن السلام ومنهج تعليميّ في السياق الجامعيّ.

وفقًا لإيان م. هاريس، تشير التربية على السلام “إلى المعلّمين الذين يدرسون السلام: ما هو عليه، لماذا لا وجود له، وكيفيّة تحقيقه. ويشمل ذلك تدريس تحدّيات تحقيق السلام، وتطوير المهارات  اللاعنفيّة، وتعزيز المواقف السلميّة. إنّ للتربية على السلام أربعة مبادئ رئيسيّة: 1) أنّها تفسّر جذور العنف؛ 2) تعلّم بدائل للعنف؛ 3) السلام نفسه هو عمليّة تختلف وفقًا للسياق. 4) الصراع في كلّ مكان”[2]. في مقال آخر، يشرح هاريس وجهة نظره من خلال القول بأنّ التربية على السلام “تستمدّ من فطرة الإنسان للعيش بسلام مع الآخرين، وتؤكّد القيم السلميّة التي يجب أن يقوم عليها المجتمع، وتمكّن المعلّمين من استخدام مهاراتهم المهنيّة لتعليم طلّابهم على السلام”[3].

وقد أعرّف التربية على السلام بالآتي: تتكوّن هذه التربية من مقاربات تربويّة ضمن منهاج يعتمد في المدارس والجامعات ومبادرات من قبل أفراد وجماعات غير معنيّين في النظام التعليم الرسميّ الخاصّ والعامّ. وتهدف هذه التربية إلى صقل معرفة ثقافة السلام وممارساتها. لا يستطيع المدرّسون فعل الكثير في الصفّ لأجل تخفيف أسباب الحرب الاقتصاديّة والسياسيّة، ولكن يمكنهم أن يساهموا في ضبط العوامل النفسيّة التي تدعم العنف، وفي تفكيك الأحكام المسبقة، وفي تفعيل الحوار وتعزيز الاحترام المتبادل وبناء الجسور بين الفوارق. تولد الحروبُ في العقل البشريّ ومن هنا أهميّة التربية على السلام التي تؤدّي دوراً في تغيير العقليّة، كما جاء في الميثاق التأسيسيّ لليونسكو:”لمّا كانت الحروب تتولّد في عقول البشر، ففي عقولهم يجب أن تُبنى حصون السلام”.[4]

إنّ التربية على السلام في لبنان مدعومة من قبل منظّمات غير حكوميّة، كما من قبل بعضهم في القطاع الفنيّ والثقافيّ، ولبنانيّين في المهجر. وثمّة بعض المبادرات في المدارس مثل نشاطات فنيّة ومخيّمات صيفيّة. وتعتبر التربية على السلام ظاهرة نادرة في الإطار الجامعيّ. هناك استثناءات بحيث يتمّ ربط التربية على السلام بالحوار بين الأديان كما في جامعة القدّيس يوسف. ويتّفق جميع الأفرقاء على ضرورة تعميم ثقافة السلام، خاصّةً في وضع يغيب عنه أيّ مشروع وطنيّ لبناء ذاكرة حرب مشتركة ونشر كتاب تاريخ لبنان موحّد يعتمد في المدارس وكسر حلقة الحرب وبناء سلام مستدام.

وقد بيّنت نتائج أبحاثي في الأوساط الجامعيّة والمدرسيّة في لبنان (٢٠٠٤-٢٠١٤) أنّ الأجيال الصاعدة تحتاج إلى اهتمام خاصّ بصفتها الأجيال التي ترث تجربة العنف وتحوّلها إلى معرفة تاريخيّة مطلقة – وهنا يكمن خطر توظيف التاريخ، هذا الأمر الذي حذر منه المؤرّخ بينجامين ستورا في كتابه عن الاستعمار الفرنسيّ في الجزائر. ففي نظر ستورا، تستعمل أفكار من الماضي من دون إعادة النظر فيها ويتحكّم سياسيّون فيها ويبقون مخيال المجتمع مُرتبطًا بها، ويحافظون إذاً على نمط واحد من هذا المخيال[5]. من هنا يمكن الماضي أن يجمد وسلسلة الانتقام أن تخلّد ضمن أسطورة راسخة. إنّ التربية على السلام تساعد على أن يستوعب الماضي في تعقّده التاريخيّ وعلى توسيع فسحات العيش المشترك وإكثارها.

قد كوّنتُ منهجًا تربويًّا يُعنى بالسلام في كندا ولبنان والإمارات. وقد فعّلت نظريّة بناء السلام من خلال نشاطات مختلفة مثل ورش عمل لحلّ النزاعات، ورحلات ميدانيّة ومشاريع إعلاميّة رقميّة وأعمال فنيّة عن الحرب والسلام ولقاءات حواريّة إلخ. – نشاطات تساهم في عمليّة اختبار الغير المألوف والاحترام المتبادل وإدارة التنوّع[6]. وقد عبّر الكثير من الطلّاب عن اكتسابهم معرفة بديلة في جوّ مؤاتٍ للحوار، ساعدهم على تطوير فكرهم النقديّ واكتساب مهارات الحوار مثل الاستماع النشط وشجّعهم على التعاون. وأكّد طلّاب في لبنان أهميّةَ قبول الآخر والعمل بوجهٍ متضافر للوصول إلى وجهات نظر متقاربة، وقد أصبح أكثر من ١٥٪ من هؤلاء نشطاء من أجل السلام.

من الطبيعيّ أن تتطوّر هذه التربية مع الخبرات المتراكمة وتتنوّع تطبيقاتها بحسب السياق. فالتربية على السلام في كندا تختلف عن التربية في لبنان وأيضاً عن التربية في الإمارات. في الحقيقة، هناك بعض التحدّيات والصعوبات المشتركة لدى المهتمّين بهذا المجال. من هذه التحدّيات: أوّلاً الربط بين المحلّية والعالميّة في تكوين هويّات الطلّاب، وثانياً، أخذ مبادرات وروايات الطلّاب الفرديّة بعين الاعتبار. أمّا عن الصعوبات فتكمن في عدّة قضايا أساسيّة، منها: العقبات السياسيّة والاقتصاديّة؛ والاعتقاد السائد في المجتمع اللبنانيّ أنّ الحرب وسيلة مشروعة من أجل تحقيق مصلحة الوطن والجماعات والأحزاب وحمايتها؛ ومعرفة قليلة بالخيارات والبدائل المتعدّدة لحالة العنف؛  واعتبار السلام حالة مثاليّة، غير واقعيّة؛ والتربية على السلام شأنًا معزولًا وليس خيرًا عامًّا.

* أستاذة علوم الشرق الأوسط في الجامعة الأميركية في دبي؛ باحثة، كاتبة، فنّانة وناشطة اجتماعيّة.

[1] Amin Maalouf, Les identités meurtrières, Grasset, 1998.

[2] Ian M. Harris, “Peace Education Theory”, Journal of Peace Education, Volume 1, Number 1, 2004, p. 6

[3] Ian M. Harris, “Peace Education: Definition, Approaches and Future Directions”, in Peace Studies, Public Policy and Global Security, Volume II, edited by Ursula Oswald Spring, Ada Aharoni, Ralph V. Summy and Robert Charles Elliot, EOLSS Publications, 2010, p. 283.

[4] (in Arabic).  http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002269/226924a.pdf

[5] Benjamin Stora, Algeria, 1830-2000: A Short History, Cornell University Press, 2004.

[6] For more information about my Peace Education approach and activities:https://pamelachrabiehblog.com/my-pedagogy-peace-education/

SOURCE: EL MACHREQ ONLINE – ST JOSEF UNIVERSITY, BEIRUT-LEBANON
http://www.darelmachreq.com/ar/desc-almachreq-cat/284

Learning through Food at the American University in Dubai

I attended the 7th International Conference on Food Studies at Roma Tre University in Rome – Italy and presented a paper entitled ‘Learning through Food at the American University in Dubai’ on Friday, October 27, 2017.

My audience of foodies and food experts was introduced to the Peace Education approach I have been developing since 2004 in the academic sphere in Canada, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates, as well as to one of its main applications in the classroom: the food component. I also presented the results of a qualitative research I conducted from 2014 to 2017 at the American University in Dubai on the food learning experiences and food stories of more than 500 students enrolled in diverse Middle Eastern Studies courses.

The 7th International Conference on Food Studies was organized by the Food Studies Research Network that is curated by the Common Ground Research Networks. The Food Studies Research Network is brought together around an interest to explore new possibilities for sustainable food production and human nutrition, and associated impacts of food systems on culture.

Hosted by Gustolab International Institute for Food Studies and Roma Tre University , the conference’s scope and concerns were Food and Sustainability; Food, Nutrition and Health; and Food and Politics. Roma Tre University has always shown a tendency towards multidisciplinary research, and recently with a focus on sustainability through a new graduate degree in Innovation and Sustainability and a degree program in Gastronomic Sciences and Cultures. As for the Gustolab International Institute for Food Studies, it is a pioneering leader in Italy in developing study abroad and international education programs and research projects on Food Studies. Gustolab is the academic headquarters in this country for programs specialized on Food Culture, Communication, and Media and Nutrition for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This Institute has also worked with more than 30 universities on study abroad programs, from the USA to Canada, France and Japan.

Gustolab organized a pre-conference workshop I attended on Wednesday, October 25, focused on Studying, Teaching and Doing Research on Food Studies in Italy. The objective of the workshop was to share and discuss opportunities for study and research in the food field with professors, students, researchers, and independent scholars who are interested in learning about study programs or doing research abroad. Attendees explored topics such as study abroad programs, culinary schools, master programs and internship programs. The material ranged from the social sciences to human, technological, biological, and agroecology sciences.

It is no surprise that the research interests of academics across a wide range of disciplines relate to food in some way. Food is at the center of our lives, cultures and religions, socio-political and legal systems, etc. Scholars in humanities for instance examine issues including the cultural significance and representation of food and food as an identity marker. Food Studies programs are now growing in popularity in North America and Europe. However, misconceptions are still found in our region i.e. Southwestern Asia and North Africa, and this is quite unfortunate. Food Studies is an important interdisciplinary field of study of food and of its relationship to the human experience that definitely needs to be promoted in local academic circles.

Fall 2017 Intercultural Banquet One of the sessions with my Cultures of the Middle East students dedicated to food sharing and hospitality, intercultural visceral experiences and learning about cultures of the Middle East through food.

Other culinary and food anthropology activities with my American University in Dubai students:

 

Further information on the Conference:

http://food-studies.com/2017-conference

 

 

Make Hummus Not War: PACE Workshop for high-school students about Middle Eastern Studies at the American University in Dubai

pamela-chrabieh-middle-eastern-studies-workshop1

Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at AUD Dr. Pamela Chrabieh organized a workshop entitled ‘Make Hummus Not War’ for high-school students enrolled in the PACE Workshops Program and interested in Middle Eastern Studies.

According to Dr. Chrabieh: “Hummus is not just food. It tells stories of war, peace, religions-politics relations, migrations, cultural resistance and cultural appropriations. It tells stories of Southwestern Asians’ communities, nations and glocal (global-local) identities. This is how I introduced high-school students to Middle Eastern Studies and to my teaching methods. Students used all their senses to learn more about this much needed field of study, through interactive and engaging dialogue sessions, collaborative learning, and experiential/visceral activities by making and eating hummus.”

As Dr. Chrabieh stated: “I have been using food (and food anthropology) as one of my many teaching methods since 2004, in Canada and Lebanon mainly, and since I joined the American University in Dubai in 2014. The “Make Hummus not War” workshop is a shorter version of a series of activities I usually organize for my Cultures of the Middle East and Religions of the Middle East courses, and these activities have started to be recognized in the UAE as innovations in Education – ‘The Diplomacy of the Dish Festival’ I organized in Fall 2015 was one of the officially registered activities of the UAE Innovative Week.”

Students who participated in the workshop came from the Dubai International School, Al Mawakeb School – Garhoud, the International School of Choueifat and the Dubai National School. Following the workshop, most students wrote in their feedback forms they highly appreciated learning more about the region and the complex religions-cultures-politics dynamics by focusing on a case study, working in teams to communicate individual and collective learning experiences, and learning through doing. Furthermore, they expressed considering Middle Eastern studies – Certificate or Bachelor degree – as part of their future academic journey.

pamela-chrabieh-middle-eastern-studies-workshop-2
pamela-chrabieh-middle-eastern-studies-workshop-3

Middle Eastern Studies Forum: Peace through Arts

On the afternoon of April 11th, 2016, the Middle Eastern Studies Division at the School of Arts and Sciences held the last of its monthly MEST (Middle Eastern Studies) Forums of the 2015-2016 academic year, titled “Peace through Arts.” The event consisted of MEST students showcasing visual art, songs, poetry, dances, and food that symbolize peace.

The organizers, Dr. Nadia Wardeh and Dr. Pamela Chrabieh, began the event with short introductory speeches. Dr. Wardeh presented first a dictionary definition of peace: “a state of non-violence or truce” and stressed the importance for peace to become “the nature of the human state, not a temporary phase in human life.” She then emphasized the “ripple effect,” in which everyday actions such as a smile or a hug between individuals can easily lead to world peace. According to Dr. Wardeh: “To say it frankly, unfortunately, peace is what is missing in the world around us (…). In our war-torn world, it seems like there are no human values, thus, no peace. But today we want to prove that peace can be big and small, seen in the entire globe or in brief moments.  Indeed, peace is what we are doing today (…). Think of when you drop a stone in a pond. It generates a small ripple at first, but after a while, that little ripple spreads throughout the entire pond. Now, think of world peace. If someone apologizes to someone else, if someone smiles to someone else, if someone feels the meaning of the greeting he/she uses all of time, Peace be upon you, imagine what we can achieve!”

Dr. Chrabieh followed by specifying the fundamental motivations behind organizing this event: “The madness of some religionists who try to win followers by hook or by crook and the misinterpretation of sacred scriptures for various interests have led to religious persecutions and holy wars. Despite these terrible experiences, as Middle Eastern Studies faculty and students, we believe that religions’ fundamentals play an essential role in people’s search for inner peace and peace in society. We believe that war begins in the minds of people, therefore it is in the minds of people that peace should be constructed”. According to Dr. Chrabieh, the pillars of peace’s defenses are dialogue, education, mutual respect and conviviality. “Differences in religious beliefs and practices should not hinder the progress of many individuals and communities working for common causes such as the causes of humanity and peace. The Middle Eastern Studies division envisions an AUD community in which people of different backgrounds and identities live together in respect and mutual support, creating paths to peace. Today, we celebrate this vision and the initiatives of many professors and students who work in harmony and cooperate in the true spirit of service (…); we celebrate through various arts. Art has the potential to raise awareness. It also serves as an avenue for creative and collaborative learning, and engagement”.

Following the introduction that also included the recitation of sacred scriptures emphasizing peace by Dr. Wardeh and Dr. Chrabieh, Qamar Tahboub, student host of the day, announced the performances awaiting the participants: Christian and Islamic heritages in songs, Dabke dance as a symbol of unity in diversity, peace poetry recitation – from Palestine, Azerbaijan, Japan… – and self-produced poems by students. Hala Abulhawa’s poem for instance narrated her inner thoughts from when she was first introduced to the “Peace Through Arts” event. Abulhawa explained her initial difficulty in thinking about a way to represent peace, and finally concluded that “[she] realized [she] could not just find peace in the air […] it comes from within us.” Omar Shazly’s poem, written in Arabic, responded to the stereotyping of Muslims as terrorists, pointing out that the very name “Islam” is derived from the word “peace” in Arabic. Videos of all these powerful performances and more can be found on Dr. Chrabieh’s YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/user/nemr76

The final event of the forum was the “peace buffet,” in which food brought in by students from different cultures was shared. The students who prepared the food provided explanations on its meanings while serving it to their peers. The food was united under the theme of peace; some dishes are traditionally made to welcome visitors, and represent hospitality, while others are made on wedding days and represent joyful community occasions, or represent national unity such as Tabboule in Lebanon.

During the buffet there was a screening of videos created by Dr. Chrabieh’s Islamic Art and Architecture students. Participants were also invited to visit the art exhibition held at the entrance of the venue, which featured paintings, calligraphy, digital images, photography, and installations about peace, all created by Dr. Chrabieh’s students. Dr. Chrabieh shared also the story of a real life example of peace achieved through art. In Redlands, California, a mass shooting caused few months ago the rise of Islamophobia in the region. A good friend of Dr. Chrabieh, Katia Aoun Hage, organized an Arabic calligraphy workshop for students at the Grove School, a public school in Redlands. Ms. Hage is a musician, poet and art teacher, and used her artistic skills to teach the Grove School students the calligraphic strokes of the Arabic letters. During the session, Ms. Hage was able to deconstruct misconceptions and build bridges, truly embodying “peace art.”

The Forum and real life examples of peace achieved through various arts provided a hopeful conclusion to the semester, inspiring all individuals present to cast their own ripples of peace in the world. Dr. Wardeh concluded with a poetic note: “The MEST Division’s mission is to break any cultural, religious, ethnic, and social barriers among people and to build bridges of acceptance, tolerance, respect and appreciation of the “other”.  I had tears in my eyes and my heart danced while watching MEST students eagerly and actively contributing to and participating in this event. I can claim that today, we have succeeded in finding an amazing ideal kingdom of love and peace.  Our kingdom is composed of diverse musical notes which was built by each citizen in the MEST program. Today our message was: religions and wisdom command love, tolerance and forgiveness to bring the entire world together around peace”.

Dr. Chrabieh also concluded with the important function of art: “that of helping in creating and promoting a culture of peace; this culture is not something we wish for or an unattainable ideal; it is a culture we make, we embody and we share”.

Credits: Dr. Pamela Chrabieh and Ms. Haeley Ahn