Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Yes to dialogue about the civil war

More than 30 people – mostly young people – gathered at Chords Lounge in Hamra last night to listen to Naam Lil Hiwar: The Civil War According to 3 Different Generations: 1960’s; 1970’s; 1990’s and 3 Different Tales: A Detainee; An Artist; A Citizen. The purpose was to have a dialogue about the war.

As the event was in Arabic, I was not able to understand everything. At the beginning, organizers told people the event was to be in fusHa, but many of the participants either would not or could not speak it, so I missed a lot. However, I wanted to make a few observations in addition to pointing out Naam Lil Hiwar:

  • Dialogue once the speakers were finished was very active and at times very emotional, though a few witty participants kept the tension level down. One young woman left early somewhat upset, but the dialogue was very civil.

  • One man made a point to say Lebanese need to quit blaming outside influence for the civil war, pointing out that the leaders of Lebanese factions are indeed Lebanese. If more people held this idea, it would go a long way towards solving internal differences.

  • Some of the talk was about how today’s youth don’t understand the civil war. There is no uniform textbook in history classes, leaving youth to get the information from parents and other adults who may not have the most objective view of the war or who don’t want to talk about it. The youth all seemed to grasp the idea that it is important to understand the war in order to move the country forward.

  • Attendees were pretty evenly split among men and women, though all of the speakers were men.

  • The Lebanese Twitterverse was absent from the event. It would be great to see these active young people being interested in dialogue about Lebanon’s problems so they can participate and lead in the solutions.

Speaking of participation, Lebanese youth in general are apathetic towards issues of citizenship like engaging in such dialogue sessions as Nahwa al-Muwatiniya's Naam Lil Hiwar. This program, which has recently been expanded to include other parts of Lebanon, and programs like the NDI-sponsored Citizen Lebanon, are vital to strengthening and stabilizing Lebanon’s democracy.

I encourage you to attend the next Naam session.

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