“One activity after another broke down our transparent walls,” says Marie-Belle Milan, a 19-year-old participant in the project Lebanon: Our Story. As crisis-hit Lebanon waits on a knife-edge to see if its newly confirmed government can offer hope, this project has begun its first Storytelling Clubs, bringing together youth from different backgrounds to create change from the ground up. Here is Marie-Belle’s experience in her own words:
It all started on a normal day, when a group of teenagers all received a message asking if they would be interested in taking part in a two-day storytelling club event. We all agreed, but we had no idea how much the club would change us.
On the scheduled day, we approach the destination where we had planned to meet. We each know only one or two people out of 20. There we see a group of people gathered, but what we cannot see are the barriers, the transparent walls, in between us.
These are not just any walls, but old ones. Walls built ever since the day we were born. Walls built brick by brick. Racism, followed by stereotypes. Then comes the world war, and let’s not forget the civil war. Here comes hatred, there comes bitterness – and here we can see the judging eyes.
Tension covers the atmosphere, causing us to observe skin colours, detect religions, identify nationalities, and check political parties. We inhale and exhale all these negative thoughts, remembering experiences we have passed through or stories told by parents and fellow elders.
Nevertheless, we conceal these deep suspicions. We start talking and greeting each other. At last, the time has come, the meeting has started. Oh, what a moment.
Barriers become bridges
One activity after another struck down these transparent walls. Struck them down brick by brick. Not only struck them, but built a bridge out of them.
We introduced ourselves to each other, mentioning our names, family names, gender, nationality, religion, hobbies, talents, and so on, without the fear of being judged. We pointed out the similarities and the beauty of each and every special individual.
Honestly, we got lost, marvelling at each other’s great sweetness, tenderness, and uniqueness, putting aside the pieces of information written on our ID cards.
The bridges built that day allowed a bond of trust to grow. And a mysterious key opened our hearts and we all started sharing sensitive testimonies. We started flipping the black pages and the white ones too: the stories told many times as well as the unsaid and unheard; the beauty and the bitterness of what we have tasted and seen. We started sharing amongst each other.
By “each other” I mean us: the people who met as strangers but departed as family. This is what we call unity, this is what we call love. This is how we want our community.
Lebanon: Our Story is run by SAT-7 and its partners, the Danish and Lebanese Bible Societies and the Centre for Church-Based Development, and it is funded by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project aims to use storytelling and media activities to strengthen civil society in Lebanon and ultimately reduce vulnerabilities for refugee and host communities. Find more information on this project here.