INTERVIEW: PAMELA CHRABIEH
Interview: Pamela Chrabieh
Luca Curci talks with Pamela Chrabieh during ANIMA AMUNDI FESTIVAL 2019 – VISIONS at Palazzo Ca’ Zanardi.
Pamela Chrabieh is a Lebanese & Canadian Doctor in Sciences of Religions, scholar, visual artist, activist, university professor, writer and consultant. She has exhibited her artworks in Canada, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Italy, and has organized and participated in art workshops and art therapy sessions in North America, Europe and Western Asia. She was selected as one of the 100 most influential women in Lebanon in 2013, and won several national and regional prizes in Canada and the United Arab Emirates.
Luca Curci – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
Pamela Chrabieh – I was born and raised in the 1970s-1980s war in Lebanon. Growing up in war left me with a thirst to discover the truth behind the endless years spent in shelters and displacement, the survival techniques I learned, such as how to avoid snipers and land mines, the suffering following the destruction of our houses and the horrific deaths of loved ones, the fascination with war games I used to play, and the hours spent with my parents trying to look for bread. War has definitely marked my identity, world vision, and visual expression, but also my journeys and experiences at the crossroads of several countries, cultures and religions.
LC – Which subject are you working on?
PC – Mainly, war and peace as a general subject. Sub-subjects include: Dialogue, Human Rights, Gender Equality, Freedom of Expression, Cultural interpenetrations, Inclusion, etc.
LC – What is your creative process like?
PC – My visual art accompanies my writing, is influenced by it and influences it. And both creative journeys are closely linked to my personal experiences. These experiences should be powerful enough to push me to express myself me such as violence, separation, exile or death. I rarely produce content when I’m going through a status quo. And I rarely follow a strict path to create combinations of words, forms, colors and energies. Emotions and ideas progressively intermingle, and ultimately incarnate. I don’t see the creative journey as a series of specific steps set in stone, from preparation to implementation, but a multilevel construction, deconstruction and reconstruction of mental, physical and spiritual dynamics.
LC – Are your artworks focused on a specific theme?
PC – My artworks are a certain reflection of my journey as a resilient human being, a war survivor who is relentlessly searching for inner peace and peace with others, so that the vicious cycle of war breaks.
LC – How is being an artist nowadays?
PC – As I see it, being an artist nowadays is being (or should be about being) engaged in the production and dissemination of counter-cultures facing hegemonic cultures. It’s also being kind of a neo-renaissance human being, actively participating in building bridges across cultures and working towards more inclusive societies. Beyond a mere profession or a simple expression of one’s emotions, making art is and should be about living it and creating connections through it.
LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think about the theme of the festival?
PC – Definitely, and as previously mentioned, it is at the heart of my approach and quest. Anima Mundi symbolizes connections between cultures and religions; the contemporary and the traditional; the physical and the mental; the visible and the invisible; the past, present, and future; the logos (word) and the eikon (image); humanity, the natural and the spiritual, etc.
LC – What is the message linked to the artwork you have shown in this exhibition? How is it connected to the theme of the entire festival?
PC – War disconnects lives, memories, and experiences by creating endless cycles of violence, murderous identities, and wounded memories. I have come to believe that these memories are inevitably transmitted from generation to generation in private and public spaces, and that socio-political conviviality and peace need both individual and national healing processes. Or else, the load of traumas that we carry will prevail, fueled by the continuous local and regional crises and State-sponsored amnesia. Contrary to war, peace is the art of connecting. It is a continuous process encompassing historical subjectivities and energies in interpenetrative modes; a process of interacting dynamics, fragmented and common truths, voices, paths, and pathos.
A Duwama (spiral or vortex) is a visualization of this peacebuilding process. It symbolizes life versus death, positive movement towards the manifestation of connections, and therefore, towards forgiveness, healing, and conviviality.
Every one of my Duwamas is a story of transformation, from a shattered and disconnected situation, event, emotion or experience, to a connected realm.
LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
PC – It’s a platform that translates across diverse channels and contributes to transnational creative communication. It pushes the envelope and helps artists who think outside the box connect and discover the richness of their differences.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
PC – Yes, and I hope we will pursue this cooperation.
My latest article published by Executive Women
December 9, 2019
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.
Mon entrevue cet après-midi sur Radio France Internationale (RFI) sur la révolution des femmes au Liban. A partir de la minute 33. Merci à Emmanuelle Bastide pour l’invitation!
“Depuis le 17 octobre, la population libanaise occupe la rue. A l’origine des contestations qui a rassemblé jusqu’à 1,5 millions de personnes, soit 20% de la population du pays, l’annonce d’une taxe sur la messagerie WhatsApp. Le pays a été immobilisé et le premier ministre a annoncé sa démission. Mais le mouvement ne faiblit pas et dénonce désormais les défaillances de l’Etat. Pénuries d’électricité et de gaz, chômage endémique, mariages précoces, dette abyssale, violences conjugales : quelles sont les revendications de la population dans ce pays où l’âge médian est de 29 ans?
Bilal TARABAY, Journaliste pigiste franco libanais à France 24, photojournaliste pour l’agence le pictorium, agence indépendante
Dalia OBEID, libanaise, activiste installée en France qui a beaucoup agi en faveur du mariage civil.
Souraya KARAM, étudiante en relations internationales et histoire à l’Université St Joseph de Beyrouth.
Pamela CHRABIEH, activiste féministe et pour la paix depuis 20 ans, docteur en sciences des religions, habite dans les environs de Beyrouth.
Mira MINKARA, guide touristique à Tripoli, fondatrice de « Mira’s guided tour » qui propose des visites guidées culturelles et historique de la ville”.
Dr. PAMELA CHRABIEH’S video conference has been screened a few days ago in Bangkok – Thailand.
STANDING TOGETHER IN A WORLD DIVIDED – Consultation developed by the Presbyterian World Mission and the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), (PCUSA).
Bangkok – Thailand, November 1-6, 2019.
The paper will be available in due time (“Christian Responses in Western Asia: Case Studies”).
Full video here.
“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”.