Painting and planting for peace: Young people ease tensions in the Bekaa

International Alert has organised local activities to improve relations between Syrian and Lebanese communities in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, which have been strained by the war in Syria and resulting refugee crisis.

We teamed up with our partner Sada al Bekaa to run community initiatives in Kamed El Loz, Jeb Jannine and Mdoukha as part of our Creating Space for Peace project, which is funded by the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (IFA) and Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).

This project is bringing together Lebanese and Syrian communities in the region and creating a space where their concerns and tensions can be voiced and resolved. A retreat for 40 young people from both backgrounds was organised last year, and they have now organised their own activities to continue building and sustaining positive relations as part of this project.

“These outreach activities allow young Lebanese and Syrian participants to break barriers and stereotypes that obstruct positive social interactions, as well as decrease the chances of resorting to violence and disputes”, said our field coordinator Redolphe El Helou.

Activities have included painting a wall in an area surrounded by schools, planting trees around the Mdoukha municipality, a popular area for young people, and organising a traffic safety campaign in cooperation with the Jeb Jannin municipality.

Young people lay down a speed bump to improve road safety in Jeb Jannin municipality

A mural sends out a message of unity on the streets

All the young people involved are interested in creating solutions to situations that challenge them on a daily basis.

“I am proud to be part of these activities, as we are addressing and finding solutions for challenging problems. Traffic accidents are a big problem here in Bekaa, and proposing an awareness solution to shed light on this issue was inevitable”, commented Hatem, a 19-year-old Syrian.

“By designing and implementing these simple community initiatives, all of us, Syrian and Lebanese, are trained on how to work and interact alongside each other”, said Manale, a young Lebanese girl involved in the project.

Find out more about the Creating Space for Peace project.