Lebanon is in a state that is neither war nor post-conflict. There is an overhanging threat of future violence combined with an uneasy relationship to the violence of the past. The strong sectarian and social identities that had made the wars psychologically possible are still active and transmuting, thereby further reducing trust and heightening fears.

For several generations, the lack of closure with regard to the civil wars and foreign invasions has had profound psychological and social effects. ‘Turning over a new page’ does not necessarily mean that grievances and memories have been fully acknowledged and addressed. The cycles of blame and revenge threaten to reignite violence, as competing victims do not take responsibility, but act from denial or blame, sharpened by fear The main objective of the program is to bring understanding and healing to address and heal the deeper roots of conflict. We believe that this is a key element in seeking to re-build relationships in a society that has long suffered from division and lack of trust between individuals and their communities.

We suggest that:

  • The causes for violence are rooted in recent but also older and even ancient historical grievances, memories and traumas. These psychological roots draw on perceived injustices, and become the sources of violence, especially in acute times of crisis, fear and threat. These driving forces usually remain unexamined. By unfolding and deconstructing them, individuals can begin to understand where these prejudices and impulses for violence against the other are rooted.
  • Memories of the past can keep conflict alive, consciously and unconsciously, which invoke the formation of certain sectarian and social identities. Individuals may feel that it is a betrayal of their ‘identities’ if they move away from these elements. It is through unearthing these deeply rooted identities that we can begin to reframe/rethink the “self”, humanise the other and to improve relationships.
  • It is necessary to propose an onward route. The process requires that approaches to healing, reconciliation and forgiveness are formulated so that they are relevant to all parties concerned. Feasible proposals for developing grassroots skills and capacities are crucial for how this can be achieved. Developing capacities at the individual level would help in collective action and peace building efforts at the group level. These should be placed alongside political, social, economic, juridical and civil society endeavours.