Creating space for peace in the Bekaa

International Alert organised an interactive retreat with Lebanese NGO Sada al Bekaa as part of our new dialogue project in the Bekaa Valley.

The three-day retreat brought together 40 Lebanese and Syrian students aged 18-24 from the Bekaa area who are interested in finding peaceful solutions to everyday situations that challenge them.

“We are bringing together young people from the grassroots and creating a safe space for them to raise their concerns, to inspire and amplify the voice of peace, because it is only by discussing and voicing out the sources of tensions we can achieve a real change”, said our field coordinator Redolphe El Helou.

The war in Syria and resulting influx of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has strained relations between Syrian and Lebanese communities in the Bekaa. Our project, called Creating space for peace, will reduce tensions between these communities and strengthen local networks by connecting local and influential leaders in dialogue. Communities will share their understanding of the risks and potential of individuals and groups to intervene and prevent or contain violence.

Young people taking part in the interactive retreat engaged in different peacebuilding and conflict mitigation activities. This encouraged them to break down negative stereotypes, lessening the chances that they will resort to violence and disputes.

“On the last day, we were trained on how to conduct simple community initiatives, and worked together on designing initiatives of our own to be implemented in our communities”, said Ziad, 21-year-old Syrian participant. “This is where I could really sense the change we can achieve”.

Lama, a 25-year-old Lebanese student, also took part in the retreat.

“We understood that peace can be simply interpreted as helping communities live together, side by side, and resolving their differences without resorting to violence, and this is where we can contribute.”

The Creating space for peace project is being funded by the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (IFA) and Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).