Government ministers and civil society leaders in Lebanon have praised a SAT-7 project that brought together 14-24-year-olds from different faiths and nationalities in a country that has deep religious, racial and political divisions.
Information Minister Ziyad Makary was visibly moved as he heard how the young people overcame barriers of prejudice to form understanding and friendship through the Lebanon, Our Story storytelling clubs. Speaking at the launch of a book featuring the stories of by 36 club participants, he said, “My hope and dream is for the youth to run the country. They have the right to dream for a better Lebanon and future.”
Dr Nader Hadifeh, Deputy to the Minister of Education in Lebanon, added his praises. He said that the project is helping the Lebanese Ministry of Education achieve its goal of building a stronger community through students who focus on building the nation rather than sectarian differences.
Fayez, a Syrian teenager who came to Lebanon as a refugee, was one of ten young people who shared what the Lebanon, Our Story storytelling clubs had meant for him. “When I first came to Lebanon, they wanted to throw me in the trash because I am Syrian, but not now. They blamed Syrians at first, but now it’s different. For people to get closer, one must make the first move to know them and make them feel comfortable.”
Elie Al Hindy, Executive Director of the Adyan Foundation, a Lebanon organisation which promotes citizenship and solidarity, was one of several civil society leaders to congratulate the project. He said, “This is an excellent project because it focuses on what our societies need, which is putting humanity above our sectarian, national, and cultural differences.”
The storytelling clubs are part of a wider Lebanon, Our Story project that will scale up its impact through SAT-7’s mass media programmes. These will include a televised documentary, a social media campaign and an online cross-community platform.
Lebanon, Our Story is run by SAT-7 in partnership with the Danish and Lebanese Bible Societies and the Centre for Church-Based Development (CKU), the development arm of the Danish Church. The project is being funded by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Speaking at the launch, Daniel Nygaard Madsen, Project Coordinator from CKU, urged project participants: “Please do not stop hoping for a better future. Your situation in Lebanon now may be even worse than two years ago, when this project began. And it is tempting to give in to fear and to allow powerful people to divide you. But please think about this: are you a Lebanese that happens to be a human being, or are you a human being that happens to be Lebanese? Are you a Syrian refugee that happens to be a human being, or are you a human being that happens to be a Syrian refugee? Please remember that our common humanity is what unites us.”