Stories of Hope from the Middle East
On 8th May, I attended an inspirational event at the House of Commons hosted by Rt Hon Tom Brake MP and arranged by Creators of Peace and Initiatives of Change, bringing personal insights from grassroots peacemakers from Lebanon and Syria.
The event provided an opportunity to hear from a small group of grassroots peace-makers from Lebanon and Syria who are associated with the international Initiatives of Change movement. They represented two networks which are working for peace through people finding new perspectives and a change of heart.
Assaad Chaftari and Haidar Ammacha are members of ‘Fighters for Peace’, a group of Lebanese former militia fighters who fought on opposite sides during the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990), but who have since come to regret their role in it.
Assaad was Head of Security for the Lebanese Forces Christian militia, and Haidar held a senior position in a leftist, pro-Palestinian militia.In the last 3 years, Fighters for Peace have spoken to over 15,000 young people in schools and universities to ‘de-romanticise’ the image of war.
They were joined by two women from Syria, Iman Alghafari, a teacher and counsellor, and Ola Aldarwish, a lecturer in Architectural Engineering at Damascus University, whose work in Damascus is inspired by Initiatives of Change’s ‘Creators of Peace’ programme, which aims to develop women’s potential for peace-making.
Iman and Ola were able to share their distinctive and gentle approach to bringing women together from across the divides to build trust. Of the event, Iman said: ‘It was about sending a message that peace must be built by inviting all sides to sit around one table and a call to choose the tools that unite us’.
Kate Monkhouse wrote,
“After this event, we visited the newly unveiled statue of Millicent Fawcett, the suffragette who has now been honoured in Parliament Square, representing the efforts made by women to secure the vote for the first women in the UK 100 years ago. Her banner “courage calls to courage everywhere” left an emotional impression on us as friends collaborating a century later across international divides to empower women.” Read more here
During the evening, a short documentary called ‘Fighting for Peace’, was also screened. The film was produced by British Council under the Active Citizens project national initiative to promote peace and community cohesion. The film raises awareness about the risks of slipping into the civil war again and the danger of using armed conflict and violence as a solution. The film brilliantly depicts the experience of 4 ex-fighters from different religions and parties of the 1975-1990 civil war era where they describe their “dreadful” moments using a common letter addressed to the Lebanese to become fighters of peace. The documentary was directed by Rebecca Lloyd-Evans and Zeina Aboul-Hosn.
Read more about Fighters for Peace here…