Saida, Southern Lebanon – About 40 miles south of Lebanon’s capital of Beirut, the International Forgiveness Institute – Lebanon is making major inroads into the sectarian violence that has disrupted and crippled the country for years. Calling its program “Forgiveness Education for Violence Prevention and Peace Building,” the Lebanon effort is headed up by Ramy Darwich Taleb who grew up in the northern part of the country. Here is Ramy’s most recent progress report on the IFI program:
Our goal is to make forgiveness principles known throughout Lebanon with programs at schools, refugee camps, youth centers and churches because we believe that Forgiveness Education for Violence Prevention and Peace building brings about behavioral change that will help prevent conflict and the practice of violence.
Due to the cultural impact the younger generation is minted with the idea of taking revenge to defend one’s honor. Many have never heard of Forgiveness as an option of dealing with conflict in a peaceful way.
We are very glad to have been given the opportunity to implement the forgiveness program in a public school near Saida, the South of Lebanon. The school has a variety of Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian and Gipsy students which depicts the miniature version of the situation in the whole country very well. Obviously these students have barely ever heard about forgiveness, which makes us even more excited and thankful to be able to impact these youth.
For the beginning we chose a group of 230 students from grade 1 to 9 that will partake in the 7 sessions Forgiveness program for 7 weeks. We divided the group into two groups, which means our Facilitators will work with the first 115 kids from February to March and the second group from April to May. The principle of the school seems to be very open to the program, so we might be able to establish a full year curriculum for the next school year.
Another Organisation called “Open Gates” in Saida that works with Bedouin women, invited us to provide a weekly program, starting in February for a group of 10 young women at the age of 17-28 that combines bible studies with the forgiveness program. These women live in a Muslim community but are interested in learning more about Jesus. They partake in a Jewellery project that provides work and a spiritual home for them.
IFI-Lebanon teamed up with other relief organizations last Sunday (Feb. 14) to conduct the first bridge-building event for Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian youth in Lebanon. Through a day-long series of fun team activities, the event helped overcome hostility and break down barriers of sectarian division in Lebanon.
Read more about Bridge-Building activities in Lebanon.
In addition, our team strives to stay in contact with the youth groups from the Palestinian camp Shatila, the Lebanese/ Syrian Youth group from Barja and the Syrian students from grade 4 and 5 from the Syrian Refugee School in Choueifet, that already participated in the Forgiveness Program. We scheduled a meeting with every youth group individually once a month and plan a monthly event with all of the groups together to work on reconciliation between these opposing people groups. For this month we will have an activity by the sea with surfing opportunities and games.
During our work in the Shatila camp we have recognized a need of relief work within the camp. We got in contact with 3 families that are in need of medical or financial support that we want to address. Therefor we plan on visiting these families every other week, to bring the message of forgiveness and as well provide for their urgent needs.
Furthermore, we got in contact with Youth for Christ Lebanon (YFC Inc.) who want to dedicate this year 2016 to reconciliation. The IFI Lebanon Team will provide a one-day staff Training for YFC staff to introduce the Forgiveness Program and discuss further cooperation.
A group of Ex-Fighters of the civil war that aim to promote peace and reconciliation through their testimonies on schools and other institutions have invited Ramy to introduce the Forgiveness Educational Program to this group to discuss further cooperation as well.
Another opportunity has opened up with a community center called “Tahadde” that is placed in one of the poorest living areas for Lebanese. We are invited to do the program with their youth- and women groups and plan on doing so in April.
Ramy Darwich Taleb