First training on „Dealing with the past“ in Tripoli, March 2017

On 17 – 19 March 2017, forumZFD in collaboration with the NGO Youth for Growth and Development held the first part of a training for teachers and other professionals working in the field of education, on the topic of dealing with the past in Tripoli. During the first training weekend, which will be followed by two weekends in April and May, participants are introduced to the Arabic “Memory of the War" handbook.

The handbook was developed jointly by forumZFD, the Lebanese Center for Civic Education (LCCE) and A Step Away in 2013. It comprises exercises that can be used to stimulate conversations about the Lebanese civil war and people’s different perspectives on it; some of its modules also aim at raising awareness of the suffering of the civilian population during the war as well as its economic costs. During the training, participants try out the different exercises in the handbook and are encouraged to critically reflect upon them. Moreover, they also learn about methods for self-reflection and non-violent communication. The idea behind this is that is important to clarify ones's own identity and perspectives before engaging in teaching and conversations with others. The training is part of the forumZFD's Memory of the War project within the programme Dealing with the Past.

Civil war not integrated in school curricula so far

Teaching about the civil war in Lebanese schools has been difficult so far. “Our history books end with independence in 1943 and do not cover the period of the civil war”, said one participant, a teacher. “Moreover, the topic is seen as political, as different political parties have different approaches towards remembering the war; at the same time we are not allowed to teach in schools about issues that are considered political.” He added that most students were interested in the topic of the civil war and had many questions about it.

The training also provides a space for those working in education to reflect about their own experiences during the war and attitudes towards it. “I am here to learn more about the civil war myself and because I want to share my experience with others”, another participant said. “Memories of the war are still alive within me. We were seven kids, one of them recently born, and our father was working somewhere else. The war was something we lived through daily as children; I still remember the shooting.”

Towards mutual acceptance of different narratives

Against this background, the present training course within the forumZFD's Memory of the War project provides teachers and other professionals working in education with participatory methods to promote critical thinking and enable participants to review of various narratives of past and also present violence.

“What we aim at with these trainings is to create safe spaces for people to talk about their respective views of the past and other hot topics. During the training, the participants themselves have a save space for talking about these topics, but the training also enables them to later on create such safe spaces for their students”, says Soha Fleyfil, the forumZFD project coordinator for the Memory of War project. One of the methods used during the training involves a film entitled “When We Grew Up Amidst War“ in which different persons share their war experience as well as insights how it has affected them. Participants are then encouraged to relate to statements in the film.

Reactions by participants

The participants generally provided a positive feedback on the methods introduced. However, some of the participants also stressed that it would be good to have a history book or film presenting a comprehensive history of the civil war to students; moreover, participants also commented that it would be useful to have material specifically relating to the situation in Tripoli. The training in Tripoli is the first to be held in Northern Lebanon, following similar trainings in Beirut and Southern Lebanon.

Among the 18 participants are high school teachers of public and private schools, but also social workers employed in schools and professionals involved in training teachers. Most of the participants are from the Tripoli area.