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‘Even your voice has changed’: Women finding their voices for peace in Lebanon. Kate Monkhouse and Jean Brown report from Creators of Peace Circles in Lebanon.
Looking across the Bekaa Valley to the Syrian border, the context for the women meeting in the Creators of Peace Circles recently held in Lebanon could not have been more relevant. Memories of their own violent history still inform their relationships and attitudes. One Syrian participant risked the journey across the border from Damascus. She was nervous to come, unsure of the reception from Lebanese colleagues who had experienced the Syrian occupation of their country during the civil war. She was welcomed with open arms, affection and understanding – from those who could offer empathy for her country descending into chaos.
Creators of Peace coordinators, Jean Brown and Kate Monkhouse, were invited by Linaltaki, a women’s movement, to Lebanon to introduce Peace Circles. Fourteen women, Muslim, Christian and Druze, took part over one weekend and eleven returned the second weekend to receive facilitation training in order to set-up and run new Circles in future. Two more Peace Circles are already being planned, with another envisaged for the autumn as well as a series of small Peace Circles started up in Damascus.
Reporting back from the week between the Circle experiences, several women talked of the inner peace that had remained with them; one spoke of a new awareness of her reactionary nature and how to pause and listen; another reported that her family commented how different she looked and the daughter of another said ‘Mum, even your voice has changed!’ This had added significance as we looked at the power of women finding their voices for peace in Lebanon.
Linaltaki, which means “let’s meet”, brings Muslim and Christian women together and runs summer camps for school children from different backgrounds. Lina Hamadi and Marie Chaftari, the two women who founded it, have built friendships across the divides of faith and culture amongst their friends. Lebanon is avoiding major outbreaks of unrest, whilst watching with concern the troubles in the north of the country around Tripoli and the deteriorating situation in Syria. Many people are anxious about renewed conflicts and keeping the peace is a key theme for national debate. Stress and tension over many years has had a big impact on daily life, family and health. Themes of forgiveness, inner peace and qualities of a peace creator are as relevant for the home and workplace, as they are for the public sphere and politics.
Participants met at ‘ Days of Hope’ a centre for children with learning needs near Zahlé to the east of Beirut.
Who we are: Initiatives of Change (IofC) is a world-wide movement of people of diverse cultures and backgrounds, who are committed to the transformation of society through changes in human motives and behaviour, starting with their own.
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