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Fighters for Peace (FFP) is the only organisation in Lebanon uniting former combatants of the civil war from different political, religious and social backgrounds. It was formally established in 2014 to promote peace building and dialogue among Lebanese communities.
Unlike others who are still willing to fight in the many small scale conflicts erupting in Lebanon, these former combatants work to 'recruit' others from parties not represented in the group, helping young Lebanese avoid the path of taking up arms. All of these former combatants have undergone a deep process of inner struggle, followed by reflected and transformation, leading to the conclusion that violence, and ultimately war, results only in personal loss and destruction. They underwent a long path of reflected, re-elaboration of life and re-gaining a new identity, from fighters in war to fighters for peace.
Every now and again, these ex-combatants share their personal experiences with each other. They are always astonished to re-discover that even though they belonged to rival parties, each and every one of them experienced fear, indoctrination, hatred, dehumanization of others, then trauma and introspection that led to change. Some take a long time to change, but for others it happened all of a sudden. Some became active in NGOs, others are pursuing their PhDs in Philosophy and Peace Studies or are involved in political activities.
FFP have two psychotherapists in their team. The former combatants take part in workshops in the framework of 'biography work'. This is a method mainly practiced in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It is not psychotherapy, yet it allows individuals and groups to explore their biographies. It is intended to support people who have suffered ruptures in their lives.
Programmes and activities
The former combatants involved in FFP became agents of change and peacebuilding, reaching out to other stakeholders of society such as filmmakers, activists and journalists. Assad Chaftari calls the former ex-combatants his 'new family'. Everyone dreams of expanding this family by winning over the hearts and minds of fellow ex-combatants to engage them in reconciliation and transitional justice efforts.
- Young people are a prime target. The aim is to pass to them the experience of wars, the lessons learnt and stories of personal drastic changes, so that they in turn learn to listen to each other, defying inherited misconceptions and stereotypes. Dialogue sessions are a core activity as well as specialized workshops in conflict transformation techniques. In 2015, FFP held 23 sessions and workshops in schools, universities, clubs, women's groups and municipalities. To convey the message strongly, usually two persons from formerly opposing parties work together. Additional activities with the youth include theater plays, improvised interactive expressive plays, exhibitions, book signings and readings.
- The fate of thousands of disappeared during the war remains unknown, and their families still wait for them, or any news of their fate. FFP organized discussions with the families and works closely with them to share any glimpse of information and encourage everyone knowing anything to come forward.
- During the war, many fighters fought against the Syrian army who had military and political influence in Lebanon for long years. FFP extended a hand of friendship to Syrian refugees, Syrian civil society activists and NGOs leaders planning for the post war era. Dialogue sessions were very emotional and intense, as it is hard for people who are still in the middle of war to hear from war veterans that clashes only lead to self destruction and loss. An attempt to reach out to Syrian fighters is on the agenda of the organization.
- FFP also work with Palestinians, living in Lebanon or coming from the occupied Palestinian territories. The Palestinian camps were once the ground of fierce battles with Christian, Druze and Shiite militias. In fact, the FFP "family" includes a former Palestinian combatant. Summer camps are organized with Syrians and Palestinians, and youth from Bab el Tebbeneh and Jabal Mohsen. The latest summer camp entitled ‘Violence is Not a Solution’ brought together students and ex-fighters, to talk about war, memory, peace and non-violence. Assad Chaftari, one of the founding members, shared his experience in a book, now published in French and Arabic, to give the youth of his country a vivid testimony on the ugliness of war so they don't fall into that trap.
- The ex-fighters share expertise with counterparts in other countries such as Northern Ireland and South Africa where a community for Reconciliation and Truth was crucial in overcoming the harshness of the Apartheid regime, as well as post-war countries in the Balkans. Skype dialogues are often organized to share experience with mixed groups in the Balkans.
- FFP has reached out to around thousands of people in 2015 and 2016. Its projects are supported by UNDP, Norwegian Embassy in Beirut, German ministry of Foreign Affairs and British Council.
Last updated: August 2016