Tripoli, Lebanon - On the occasion of the International Day of Peace, on September 21st, young artists took the stage at the Cultural League Theatre in the hot spot of northern Lebanon in Tripoli, the second largest city in the country. They showed their beautiful, non-violent talents and performances to the community through dancing, music, acting, and drawing, and they reminded everyone that despite the ongoing conflict, there is still a place for peace. This celebration demonstrated that, even in highly volatile areas, there are always people who refuse violence and serve as role models to inspire and mobilize others to stop using violence.
The security of Tripoli is threatened by an ongoing conflict between residents of different neighborhoods, Bab-al-Tabbaneh (majority Sunni Muslim) and Jabal Mohsen (majority Alawite Muslim), who have been rivals since the Lebanese civil war in 1975. Currently, tensions are exacerbated by the Syrian civil war, and they are divided according to their opposition or support of the Alawite-led Syrian government. But Tripoli is not only about violence; there are people who want to live in peace and believe that they can make a change.
It is true that peacebuilding is a journey full of challenges, difficulties, and disappointments. However, a deep belief in the mission and a strong determination are capable of taking us far. And this is exactly the belief of the Media Association for Peace (MAP), which organized the event through its MasterPeace club. MAP is a platform for people coming from different backgrounds to gather in a place that unites their similarities, ambitions, and goals. It is a place for youth to be active citizens and for journalists to be responsible professionals.
During the event, the audiences as well as the performers were ecstatic to see a peace celebration being held in their town. One of the attendees said: “It is time for the world to know that we are not a city of war.” Symbolically, the event was very meaningful to the people of Tripoli with the messages of hope that it carries to Lebanon and the world. It was an opportunity for young artists from this agitated town to prove that they do not support violence. Barrak Sabih, an art teacher at the local association Cross Arts which assisted in the event’s organization, performed a Lebanese folk theater known as “Hakawati Albalad” (storyteller of the town). He used traditional forms of art to remind the audience that peace was a need of all people at all times. The young Syrian singer Ahmad Dandashi, who is living in Tripoli, as well as the local 9-year-old Jad Sabih, who is a star from the popular TV show Arabs’ Got Talent, performed several songs with their gifted voices. Then, artist Ahmad Naji, from the local musical group “Lahza” (one second), played traditional pieces on his Oud, reminding everyone about the amazing classical music of Lebanon that unites all Lebanese despite their differences.
Furthermore, far away from the violence, drugs, guns, and prison that stress Tripoli society, amazing break dancers jumped on stage to surprise everyone with their incredible flexibility, strength, and well-designed choreography. The Lebanese rap band “Men l Ekher,” (from later) formed by three rappers from different towns in Tripoli made sure to take part of this celebration to perform their unique rap and hip hop songs about unity in Lebanon. They made the audience sing with them while creating an amazing atmosphere of engagement, excitement, and fun. One of the band members, Issa Naaman, shouted passionately during the performance: “A greeting of peace from Tripoli to Lebanon!” Naaman was responding to the video messages screened at the beginning of the celebration, when journalists from around the country presented a “greeting of peace to Tripoli” from their regions.
At the end, “the flame of peace” that was carried all over Lebanon by the tenor Gabriel Abdel Nour finally arrived in Tripoli on the International Day of Peace. The celebration gave hope to the locals who want peace, and it gave a chance to youth to express their hopes for the future.
The artists of the new generation in Tripoli can be an inspiration for other youth in conflict zones about the use of non-violent tools such as art, music, and dance. They remind all hopeless and skeptical people that even in places agitated by violent conflict, peaceful people exist, they have the right to be heard, and they have a duty to convey the nonviolent message they believe in. While Lebanon continues to face real threats to its security, the day triggered new hopes among the people of Tripoli, who sent a greeting of peace to the rest of Lebanon.
*Vanessa Bassil (Vanessa.firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Freelance Journalist, Peace Activist and Peace Journalism Trainer. She is the Founder and President of Media Association for Peace (MAP) and the Country Coordinator of the International Peace Movement MasterPeace in Lebanon. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).
Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 6 October 2014, www.commongroundnews.org
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