Forgiveness Education Expands in Lebanon

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.

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Ramy Darwich Taleb (in white sweater) works with students.

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 Team B2organizations 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.

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Ramy with his family.

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

You talk about forgiveness as a process, one that can take time. I find that as I go along the path of forgiveness, that I slip into revenge-seeking. I do not mean anything violent, just some nastiness or even verbal disrespect. Do you think this will delay my forgiveness process?

We are all imperfect forgivers and so we cannot think of forgiveness as a straight line from the start to the finish. We go back and forth with forgiveness. At times, we see the one who offended us as possessing inherent worth. Then we might have a dream about the person and we wake up angry and do not want to even think about the person. The key here is to understand that the process is not a straight line. Have patience with yourself. Try to have patience with the one whom you are forgiving. In time, this back-and-forth will even out and improvements in forgiving are likely as you continue to persevere in the forgiveness process.

Joy in the Journey

Forgiveness is hard work. I sometimes refer to it as “surgery of the heart.” No one looks forward to the process of surgery, but when people look beyond the procedure to what lies ahead once healing occurs, it is easier to bear.

The process of forgiveness includes bearing pain and finding meaning in suffering. It Pain-Joyrequires pain, emotional pain, as we look directly at another’s injustice and struggle to see him or her as a person, just as I-the-forgiver am a person.

The joy comes, I think, in triumphing through a challenging process and becoming stronger once the process is complete. You stand stronger because you have not let injustice defeat you.

Heart-ForgivenessYou stand stronger because you are now more capable of receiving the other back into your life, if he or she can be trusted. You may play a part in this person’s positively changed ways as you stand strong.

You stand stronger because you know you have a way of meeting the next injustice, and the next, and the next after that.

Having a new heart as a result of forgiving and becoming stronger and helping others get stronger is a cause for joy.

Robert

Is it harder to forgive if a person is filled with anger compared with another person who is filled with pain and sorrow after being treated unfairly?

It seems to me that if the anger is very intense and includes resentment or even hatred, then, yes, it is harder to forgive. Some people who are fuming with anger cannot even use the word “forgiveness” because it intensifies the anger. At the same time, if a person has deep sorrow, sometimes there is an accompanying lack of energy and the person needs some time to mourn first. At such times, the person needs to be gentle with the self as emotional healing takes place.

I work hard on forgiveness, but sometimes I get to a week in which I do not want to even think about it or what happened to me. During these times, what can I do to not feel guilty or uncomfortable about setting forgiveness aside?

Let us take an analogy here. Suppose you have a physical fitness regimen. Do you work out every week for an entire year or do you take some time off to refresh, to heal, to re-group? Physical trainers tell us to take some time off. It is good for us. Think of becoming forgivingly fit in the same way. Hard work is good, but we need some time off to refresh and re-group so that we come back to that work with renewed enthusiasm.

Helpful Forgiveness Hint

We sometimes think that those who hurt us have far more control over us than they actually do. We often measure our happiness or unhappiness by what has happened inLove_Page_1 the past.

My challenges to you today are these: Your response of forgiveness now to the one who hurt you can set you free from a past influence that has been toxic. Try to measure your happiness by what you will do next (not by what is past). Your next move can be this–to love regardless of what others do to you.

Robert

It seems to me that anger is not always a bad thing. Can’t people be energized by their anger, focus, and attain fairness?

Yes, anger can be part of the motivation for achieving good. Yet, we have to make a distinction between anger within reasonable bounds (the emotion does not disable us, is not extreme) and anger that turns to resentment (a long-lasting and intensive anger that can lead to fatigue, distraction, and even physical complications). If we do not make this distinction, we could slip into resentment and conclude that it is good rather than dangerous in the long-term.