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/

Towards Inclusive Societies in the Middle East International Conference

“Towards Inclusive Societies in the Middle East”
Ayia Napa, Cyprus, October 31 – November 2, 2019) full report 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”.

Concluding Remarks and Recommendations
Lebanon’s Revolution Panel
CAFCAW Executive Committee
Telos Wana Magazine Editorial Committee

Appel à une médecine d’urgence au Liban

“L’interdiction du concert de Mashrou’ Leila et la polémique qui fait rage depuis plusieurs jours sur les réseaux sociaux m’ont fait penser aux écrits de Mohammad Arkoun, éminent érudit algérien qui remit en question la cristallisation de plusieurs types de discours, notamment religieux.

Arkoun plaidait pour une pratique intellectuelle libre et libératrice, dans une perspective de dépassement dégagée des postulats dogmatiques, ce qui malheureusement est devenu une denrée rare au Liban.

En effet, face à la montée des fanatismes, l’exacerbation des identités meurtrières, le recul des libertés, la sacralisation de la politique et la radicalisation des discours et pratiques, on ne peut qu’appeler à promouvoir cette pensée en tant que médecine d’urgence : une pensée humaniste, ouverte au semblable et au différent, conviviale, incitant à l’écoute mutuelle, au respect et à la désinstrumentalisation du religieux lorsqu’il est à la merci – souvent de façon outrancière – des manipulations idéologiques.

Cette pensée aiderait une partie des Libanais à désapprendre ce qu’ils ont appris suite à des décennies de guerres et de propagation de la peur de l’autre. Désapprendre est un processus et une éducation visant la sortie du système d’exclusion mutuelle, en appliquant l’exercice de la « subversion », qui n’est nullement une destruction ou un rejet, mais qui essaye de comprendre le pourquoi et le comment des choses, de problématiser le canevas épistémologique articulant chaque discours et/ou expression (religieux, politique, littéraire, artistique, etc.).

N’est-il pas temps, en effet, de déconstruire – lorsqu’il le faut – les systèmes de construction du savoir prétendant détenir « la vérité » et offrir des effets de sens ? Et de poser les questions suivantes : jusqu’à quel point les Libanais sont-ils conscients des dimensions idéologiques de leurs discours et de leurs actions ? Quelles structures cognitives emploient-ils dans le but d’interpréter « leurs religions » ? Jusqu’à quel point développent-ils une relation critique entre leur passé et leur présent afin d’avoir un meilleur contrôle sur le futur, et comment cette relation pourrait-elle être effective et créatrice ?

En d’autres termes, nous avons besoin d’une archéologie de discours sédimentés et d’évidences sclérosées, afin de substituer au climat de méfiance et de dénigrement réciproques l’exigence d’une solidarité – voire d’une interpénétration –, en vue de l’exorcisation de la crainte de la perte du sens, de la ruine de l’identité et du crépuscule des valeurs, et afin de dépasser les systèmes de production du savoir, qu’ils soient religieux ou non, qui tentent d’ériger le local, l’historique contingent, l’expérience particulière en universel, en « transcendantal », en « sacré irréductible ».

L’objectif n’est pas de dévaloriser les religions ni les appartenances religieuses, mais d’y puiser ce qui pourrait favoriser l’éclosion de lectures et de pratiques renouvelées de la gestion des diversités au Liban, tout en opérant une ouverture aux discours et pratiques non religieux.

De ce fait, nous sommes appelés à nous engager dans le terrain de la complexité identitaire, à dépasser les frontières dites immuables entre individus et communautés, à sortir des ghettos, à être à l’écoute des attentes et des aspirations de toutes les composantes de la société, à transformer le regard sur l’autre afin qu’il soit dénué de tout projet d’autojustification et le regard sur soi-même pour qu’il ne se complaise pas dans des poncifs convenus”.

Dr. Pamela Chrabieh

L’Orient-le-Jour, Beyrouth, 01/08/2019

https://www.lorientlejour.com/article/1181145/appel-a-une-medecine-durgence-au-liban.html

Repenser la gestion de la diversité religieuse et culturelle entre le Liban et le Canada

Les cas d’étude et de comparaison entre le Canada et le Liban ne sont pas récents, et suscitent encore aujourd’hui l’engouement de plusieurs chercheurs, vu que ces deux pays sont marqués par la diversité religieuse et culturelle. Une diversité qui pourrait constituer un terreau de dissensions, ou une pratique et un horizon de convivialité et de paix.

Au Liban, des individus et des organisations non-gouvernementales revendiquent des changements dans la gestion de la diversité. Au Canada, avec les revendications particulières de communautés religieuses et culturelles, ainsi que l’intégration de l’expression du phénomène religieux dans l’espace public comme dans les secteurs académiques, médiatique et juridico-politique, les défis de non-discrimination sont multiples.

En fait, tant au Liban qu’au Canada, on cherche continuellement à repenser la place du religieux dans l’espace public et à réformer le système de gestion des composantes de ces deux pays, tellement différents mais aussi semblables à bien des égards.

(Extrait de mon introduction à la 4e table-ronde du colloque “Les communautés de l’Etat du Liban” à l’USEK, 22 mars 2019)

Au Colloque “Les Communautés de l’Etat au Liban” à l’USEK

Ce fut un plaisir de revoir et de rencontrer des collègues du Québec, et de modérer la 4e table ronde du colloque “Les communautés de l’Etat du Liban” organisé par le Centre de Recherche sur les Minorités au Moyen-Orient (RCMME) et le Centre de Recherche Société, Droit et Religions de l’Université de Sherbrooke. Avec les intervenants Mirna Bouzeid, Pierre Noel et Claude Gelinas. Un grand merci au Prof. Sami Aoun, ainsi qu’aux P. Jean Akiki et Georges Yarak pour l’invitation. Certes, les perspectives comparatives entre le Canada et le Liban devraient se poursuivre vu qu’elles permettent les décentrements nécessaires afin de repenser la gestion de la diversité.