Peacebuilding in Lebanon

Building the Bridges

It is a scenario of continuous war shredding the lives of many, the prospects of even basic needs addressed being a distant dream. Refugees huddle in, with hope written large on their faces for normalcy to return, their eyes speaking of untold misery, pain, torture, their hearts hardened, unforgiving, many seeking revenge, others losing the spirit to hold on and fight for peace. The psychological wounds are too deep, at times appearing to have no cure. The scene is gloomy in the Syrian refugee camp, the psycho social support programs failing to make their mark, heal the wounds. Discontent and bitterness continues to rule in spite of the best efforts of social workers.

That is when IAHV decided to step in with their healing touch, to mend the unfathomable cuts, apply a soothing balm on the sore hearts, lend peace to the exhausted mind stressed and pained by war and loss of loved ones. A long term peacebuilding effort was considered to address the years of turmoil and the uncertain future ahead in a holistic manner where the people could be given hope, the strength to face their current situation and work towards a future that is trauma free.

Staff and volunteers are currently being mobilised by IAHV Peacebuilding to respond and support these new peace initiatives in Lebanon. At present several tailored pilot trainings with different target groups and partner organisations in multiple areas are being conducted to set up this long term peace building program.

Training for Healing and Empowerment for refugee youth from Iraq, Syria, South Lebanon

This was conducted between 25th and 29th of May, in Haret Hreik, with 19 participants that included the centre manager, in cooperation with Amel. Most of the youth have been in Lebanon past several years and have lost family, home. In spite of their higher education they are either unemployed or under employed. The responses from the youth addressed were again extremely encouraging.

Says Mahmoud, “The training raised the level of fitness at both the physical and psychological level, filling in the gap between body and spirit. I learned to maintain my energy, release my emotions, accept and understand each other.”

While Sarah was able to experience and let go the different part of life that she had lived till then after the training, Yasmin was able to get rid of all the negative thoughts. “I felt energised after the exercises. I hope, when peace comes back to Syria, we will have these courses to offer to all our people.” If to Ibrahim, it was a very special experience, aiding him to prioritise his life, to Hannadi, it brought in a new love for life. “My psychological state improved so much that my perspective has changed!”

Says Zahra, “We learnt to get rid of negativity, be optimistic and start the change from ourselves. This would help in bringing about a greater change in rest of society.” Khadija who had problems remaining calm for long, was able to concentrate better and face the tensions and stresses of daily life, “especially life as refugees.” Agrees Methad, “It was an experience which showed me the way to face problems and obstacles of life, get rid of negativity, release the tensions and handle more positively the problems facing this region.”

Professional Training towards Integrated Peacebuilding for Peace and Social Workers from Tripoli

This workshop was conducted between 30th May to 1st June in Tripoli, North Lebanon in cooperation with Laser for those working with Syrian refugees and Lebanese host communities and also youth from different communities who are at risk or who have been actively fighting either in Syria or Tripoli. The responses from the participants were again heart-warming.

Says Nabil, social worker, Sufi, “The program helped me discover areas in my ego that I thought were non-existent besides finding that inner peace. The philosophy of the program in many ways resonate the teachings of Sufism, indicating that they are coming from the same single source.”

For Ahmed, a Syrian refugee, the course proved to be very good, “because it focused on peace and the way it should be given to ourselves first before we extend it to others.” He adds that the techniques that were taught are naturally in our body but we are unaware of it because of the pain and stress that we undergo. “The techniques gave a lot of confidence besides caring for our body”, he says.

To Kahled Merheb, a lawyer by profession, the experience proved to be extremely interesting, reaching the inner self, making one aware of the benefits. “I am sure if this is taught in Tripoli it will bring in major changes. I felt more positive and energetic after every session. I am on tranquilisers most of the time but after going through this session I have not touched them the last 3 days and I doubt if I will resort to them anymore.”

Says Abdul Rahman Ayoubi, “People tell you not to stress, over think, they tell you to let go of the past, be patient, smile and so on. But how to do these are not told and none of them who tell us know how to do it too! But what we learnt in this course, the techniques taught, help us to effectively address this and actually do all this! I had the opportunity to let go of all the baggage and be free for the first time! I embraced life with all its beauty, the very little things, the particles, molecules, everything seemed so clear, borderless, free!”

Nur, coordinator, Syrian refugee camp is happy that she had the courage to come and face her traumas, fears, the past as well as herself. “The question of ‘who am I’ reminded me to love myself again despite flaws and regrets. Professionally I care a lot about governance but was not aware of this psychological dimension. Now I understand why I see that dissatisfaction in the eyes of refugees I work with. My program and approach had not effectively addressed their well-being! Thank you for teaching us this new perspective of peacebuilding.”

Says activist Nuhad Sheikh, “I have done meditation before or at least I thought I did and was aware of its positive effects. But honestly, after going through this meditation, I realise this is the first time I actually meditated. The last few days have been both emotional as well as highly purifying. It was a catharsis. The feelings and emotions cannot be explained in words! I sincerely believe the breathing techniques should be introduced to everyone so they too can experience this peace.”

For Suha Alloche, protection officer, it seemed almost as if it was the first time he was breathing! “The whole experience was so unique, exciting. It is clear now that to go anywhere I want, it is only one breath away. Thank you!”

Professional Training towards Integrated Peace building for Peace and Social Workers

This was conducted in Beirut between 22nd and 24th of May 2015 with 17 participants in cooperation with LACR which is one of the pioneer movements in Lebanon non-violence and non-sectarianism. The response from participants was extremely encouraging with many discovering factors that they were unaware of, aiding them to drop the past and forge ahead.

When Rima, social worker, was invited to the course, she was surprised as well as pleased that somebody thought of helping activists too so they could continue to help others effectively. “The last one year I have been suffering from insomnia because of many unanswered questions. But now I have the key to disentangle the knots. The benefits received cannot be adequately expressed.”

Psychologist Lubna from Syria feels the vision was broadened both on the mental and psychological level after the course. “I realised that to continue with my work as an activist, I need to first be mentally, psychologically as well physically stable. The program gave me this amply, giving me the inner peace so that I can aid to promote conflict resolution and peacebuilding amongst others. It has made me more effective as a psychotherapist to deal with patients as well as a trainer for teenagers and adults in the path of peace.”

Says Jenna, “I certainly needed this training on the personal level and also on the professional level. The techniques taught gave us relaxation, inner peace, calmness, and a sense of security.” To Nabila, the course, besides relieving of stress and tensions of everyday life, “will positively impact our surroundings, family and work through our now positive interaction.”

Says Soha, “The course made me realise there is a lot of blocked emotions within me where my mind is refusing to think. The last few days I was able to freely think about the past, present and future. I also realised that I don’t have to constantly be thinking irrespective of what I am doing. I could breathe and think of a void than my to-do list. This thinking about a void helps in thinking about what really matters.”

For Yvette, the breathing techniques brought in the harmonious rhythm in the chaotic life around, while Abriza felt the beneficial experience offered by the course was a huge value to human existence and served as an agent of change and positivity in his surroundings and society. Sanaa opined that it would be practical to extend the techniques taught in the course to his social environment and work as it would help to dissolve many tensions between people.

Trauma Relief and Healing session with Lebanese and refugee women from Syria

The course covered 10 participants and was held on May 29th. The participants felt totally relaxed after the session. They unanimously felt that there was a lot of irritation amongst themselves, about the situation that prevailed at home but after the course, this irritation and anger evaporated. “We felt we were not in Lebanon but somewhere completely different”, they chorused. They also felt that the tiredness that seemed so much part of them given their situation, had ceased, making them feel totally refreshed and rejuvenated.