BREAKING THE CYCLE: CIVIL WARS IN LEBANON
Tuesday-Thursday 6-8 June, 2006
Speakers: Prime Minister, H.E. Fouad Siniora; Dr.Youssef Choueiri; Georges Asseily; Alexandra Asseily; H.E. Ghassan Tuéni; Dr.Eugene Rogan; Prof. Theodor Hanf; Prof. Ahmad Beydoun; Prof. Samir Khalaf; Dr.Maha Shuaya; Dr.Michael Kerr; Dr.Paul Salem; Mohammad Mattar; Prof. Antoine Messarra; Dr.Joseph Bahout; Minister of Culture, H.E. Tarek Mitri; Dr.Oussama Safa; Dr.Michael Johnson; Dr. Nawaf Salam; Dr.Charbel Nahas; Prof. Farid al-Khazen; Sune Haugbolle; Marc Farha; Halim Shebaya; Rami Al-Siklawi; Dr.Pamela Chrabieh...
Breaking the vicious circle! The Contribution of the 25-35 Lebanese Age Group
"Even if the Lebanese War is currently on hold - the guns have fallen silent -, we are still trapped in the vicious circle - cycle - of its non-physical form. We are torn by tensions, rivalries, obstacles: between and within confessions, between and within political parties; between partisans of regional and international powers, etcetera. We are faced with persisting social, political, economical and institutional dysfunctions; impunity; selective and biased amnesty laws (1991, 2005)... There is an enormous task left to share mourning, heal wounds, reconcile emotions and build stability (...).
Fortunately, an increasing number of individuals and collectivities within the Lebanese Civil Society and the Diaspora is working on developing strategies and tools to ease the tensions (...). For example, my research has enabled me to discover that men and women between 25 and 35 years of age, who survived the 1975-90 combat period and who live in Montreal and-or in Beirut, are increasingly involved in shifting the way most of the Lebanese view and deal with their differences, and in constructing war memories towards a long term Reconciliation and Conviviality. They are journalists, poets, novelists, artists, psychologists, movie and documentary producers, activists in NGOs (i.e. Tadamon, Nahwa al-muwatiniya, Helem, Art de vivre...), in transnational organizations, in groups of interreligious (i.e. Le Cercle Interreligieux de Montréal) and intercultural dialogues etcetera. They publish books, articles, launch alternative websites and radio programs, produce short-movies and documentaries, independant media reports, trauma plays or dramas of survival (i.e. Wajdi Mouawad, Abla Farhoud and Bernard Antoun in Quebec), organize artistic exhibitions, events and round tables (...).
Their kind of activism is less characterized by demand-making movements than direct, individual, informal, underground or collective and institutional action (...). These individuals and collectivities show that breaking the war's vicious circle is the concern of all generations and identities. Many of them were children or teenagers during the 70-90 combat period, often sat out the fighting in cellars or abroad. They try to fill the gap that government, leaders, elites and often silent parents could not fill so far by standing against State alienation, Confessional social-political system, the enslavement of a part of the Lebanese Society - in particular a part of the younger generation driven into the political parties' rivalries (...). Therefore, they revisit, construct and reconstruct their personal memories, then share them with others through a diversity of means, in order to build a collective memory of the war that takes into accound people's sufferings from all sides, and in particular, youth's sufferings (...). They do not give information about the combats but about the human situation. They provide a social testimony of how the war affects individuals and collectivities living in a particular context and how they are engaged in creating a diversity of 'lieux de mémoire' (...) "
Based on my most recent findings, I believe we need to further discover and analyze the work of these individuals and collectivities, along with others within the Civil Society and Diaspora (...). We also need to build more bridges between all forces and agents of Reconciliation and Conviviality within the Lebanese Society and Diaspora. Two major limits of an effective end of the war's non-physical form are the lack of long-term partnerships between those forces and agents (i.e. political leaders, academic institutions, elites, official and unofficial religious institutions, regional and international organizations, local NGO's, media institutions...), and the diverse gaps within the Lebanese Society (i.e. intra and inter-generational, social and economical inequalities, gender issues...) (...).
Based on the latter, I believe we have to launch a national campaign that should focus on three broad areas: raising awareness about the need of looking backwards while focusing on individual and collective experiences/sufferings; implementing Transitional Justice strategies that do not require vengeance nor retribution (i.e. trauma clinics, truth-seeking through commissions adapted to the Lebanese context, Reparation Programs...); building a Human Rights, Reconciliation and Conviviality Culture based on partnerships and dialogue (...).
In this sense, I believe we do have good ideas coming from the 25-35 Lebanese Age Group that we could capitalize on, and objectives that could be pursued on a larger scale (...)".