Dialogue for Life and Reconciliation (DLR) was born in 2010 out of the recognition that although young people from different backgrounds occasionally spend time together socially, it is rare to actually visit each other’s houses. Doing so would provide them with better insight and understanding of each other’s differences and ways of life. Even though there does not seem to be a problem among young people in enjoying their time together and having fun, the founder of DLR believed that they never talked about substantial things or sensitive matters. Being aware of the consequences this can have – increasing prejudice and vulnerability to manipulation – DLR was established to provide young people with the possibility of really getting to know each other through various projects.
Interfaith dialogue is one of DLR’s most important projects. An ‘inter-religious academy’ was established which functions almost like a summer university. For a period of two weeks, young students undergo training in form of talks and workshops about different religions and cultural backgrounds. The idea is to learn about each other’s differences and way of life, while creating a space for interaction and dialogue.
Students are provided with the tools and skills on how to approach each other, how to inquire about each other’s religions and how to debate sensitive issues. As a last step during this academy, young people with different backgrounds are tasked to construct and build something together. This can be the building of a house, the painting of a wall or a small theatre play. In small follow up programs once the academy is over, the participants are given the chance to celebrate holidays such as Christmas and Ramadan together. Beyond that, the participants are divided into mixed groups and sent their universities where they conduct training, recruit new participants and talk about their experiences. The reason for the follow up programs is to keep the newly built relationships between students alive and to keep them working on a common cause.
DLR took groups of students from different religious and cultural backgrounds to visit and decorate the houses of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Lebanon. This helped fulfill two aims: completing a humanitarian projects - since these families could not afford Christmas decoration themselves - and promoting understanding of Christmas among the students of different backgrounds, and let refugees feel welcome away from their homes.
The youth are trained to exchange good practices and develop youth work initiatives based on the principles of human rights education and intercultural dialogue to counteract the violent extremism narratives.
DLR established the ‘Let's play project’ with four Muslim and Christian schools. At each school, ten students are selected to participate in playing football. As a first step the students from the different schools play against each other, but later the teams change allowing students from different schools to play on the same team. The duration and training of those students lasts for several months in order to ensure sustainability and to provide the students with the ability to form friendships in the course of doing sports together. The intention and reasoning behind this project is to move the spirit of young people forward from being and living near each other to being with each other.
“Sustainable Religious Leaders network” marched on several occasions in Beirut and Tripoli in solidarity with the peaceful demonstrators against corruption in the October 17th, 2019 uprising. DLR launched discussions about the Human Fraternity document signed by Pope Francis ans Mufti Ahmad El Tayyib on February 4th, 2019.
DLR’s goals and objectives include the following:
- Promote and believe in the dignity of being different.
- Establish and carry out youth-centred inter-religious dialogue.
- Diversity management.
- Cross-cultural exchange.
- The establishment of the inter-religious academy, a project growing with each summer camp and every workshop. There have been more than ten sessions so far.
- Having made a contribution to improve the Lebanese community in the sense that the younger generation is ready to build a society of hope and peace.
- Reducing the ground for extremists and politicians to manipulate their communities for their own interests by raising mutual understanding among youth. Intensive work and workshos in different cities all over Lebanon to fight the spread of fundamentalism and violent extremism especially with the presence of ISIS and other extremist groups in the Middle East.
As a part of the inter-religious academy, a young Muslim woman (approximately 22 years old) was taken to visit a synagogue in Beirut for the first time. The idea behind those visits is to educate the participants about Judaism, and how Judaism does not equal Israel. Soon after she was interested to meet one of the very few remaining Lebanese Jews who still reside in Lebanon. After having spent an hour together, she decided to dedicate her senior project at university to this man and made a documentary called ‘The Jews of Lebanon- voices without faces’. This documentary is not only very well known in Lebanon, but also earned international recognition.