​LIU.2 2013: COURAGE is CONTAGIOUS

It is important for each society to concoct its own vision of what to be. It is even more essential to create an action plan and steps to be followed in order to attain certain predefined goals. Who are the people involved in this?

In terms of creative and contemporary social activism, let us say, they are the youth, the energy of LIFE, for better understanding that leads to more integration.

We know nowadays, more clearly than before, that there many differences throughout the world, as well as diversity of many cultures and religious beliefs. It is natural to ask how we can live and interact together despite all these differences. To be more precise, how can we enhance our movement in respecting and preserving our human dignity and escalating towards a better community with an array of cultures?

It is quite essential to work on letting people with diverse beliefs and backgrounds interact with their surroundings, because integration helps us maintain a sense of unity and a certain balance in our society. There is a great need to build coherence in the society, defend humanity, build bridges with the others, and accept the other with all his or her difference. This will ultimately sustain the elements of a successful social order, so we all can share the same beliefs and values in this system. Moreover, reducing conflict and misunderstanding will come along. Needless to say that if all parts of a society are linked together, it becomes more homogeneous, which affects the degree of conflict present. Working on resolving this conflict must be one of the goals of our interreligious understanding program.

Struggling to keep this image shining and persisting to keep working on integration among all irrespective of gender, political belonging, and religion, the engine was turned on and worked on two main themes: “Religion, integration and political participation” and “Religion, conflict prevention and reconciliation”, so we can end exclusion and promote empowerment. This program is run through LIU, (LEADERS FOR INTERRELIGIOUS UNDERSTANDING) which is an integrative and cross-cultural approach of dialogue and formation offered to young professionals from Arab and Danish societies. It aims to enhance the role of interreligious dialogue as a factor of mutual understanding, social cohesion and peace-building within and between Arab and Danish societies. LIU program is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, in the framework of The Danish Arab Initiative Program, initiated by Adyan (Lebanon), CEOSS (Egypt), Danmission (Denmark), and FDCD (Lebanon and Syria).

This distinguished program stresses the importance of possessing the soul and vision of better community. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines ‘soul’ as, “the immaterial presence, an animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life.” It further defines it as an active of essential part, a moving spirit and a strong positive feeling. Vision is defined as a thought, concept, or creation of the imagination, the act or power of seeing beyond physical realities. Both concepts thus make reference to an intrinsic, non-material driving force that originates in the imagination, shapes ideas and results in the creation of various material objects. In the context of our global movement for religious integration and conflict resolution, the idea of possessing a ‘soul’ of understanding and ‘vision’ of integrating are integral and essential in order to gain and maintain momentum as a movement.

Starting from March till December, the program professionally managed to promote a positive change, by leaders from different sectors, as factor of mutual understanding, social cohesion, and peace-building within and between pluralistic societies. The builds the cognitive, behavioral and entrepreneurial capacities of young European and Arab leaders in managing religious diversity to develop their role as change agents for social cohesion and peace-building within and between societies. Through the nine months, we adopted the vision, and this means that obstacles, challenges and/or any hindrances of any kind became insignificant, since what matters is the goal of the vision and everything that contributes to its realization. Serving this vision, the participants, as multipliers within their own professional environment (religious leaders, journalists, educators, civil society leaders, public employees, academicians, politics, artists…) communities and societies, contribute in spreading the outcomes of their dialogue and formation, through common initiatives that they design and implement together on the local level. They worked on many local activities for integrating Syrian and Lebanese kids, and targeted students of universities, to inspire them in serving values fostered in an understanding community, partnership, dialogue, and leadership as being the major pillars. What better way to aid in communicating these values than the lively lyrics of songs, and the partaking of performance talents. The latter contributed in a well-thought out play signifying the tolerance level in religious diversity and its negative impact on society if left untreated. “Untreated”, we mean, the lack of tolerance which will lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings within the same society.

The Lebanese group engineered their initiatives and promoted, on a practical level, the intercultural and interreligious understanding through – as mentioned earlier – the presence of music and acting. This movement requires encouragement and quality partnership among the community and performance talent. We believe that this type of art has the capability, with its creative talents, to participate in solving critical problems within society. Theater, dance, and visual art can help us reach youth through a unique and powerful language. It is “art” that can move and elevate people and communities through cultural and humanitarian strategies that value social reform; it is “art” that strives in all our senses and enhances our underlying identity.

It is time now to dream big, and strive to fulfill the mission.

Best Regards

Khouloud AlKhatib, LIU participant of LIU.2 2013 from Lebanon