Lebanon: 56 preachers and religious education teachers learn about humanitarian norms
4 April 2016
As part of its continuing strategy to spread knowledge of humanitarian norms among Lebanon’s civil society, Geneva Call recently held 2 two-day workshops on humanitarian norms in Tripoli: one for 23 male preachers and religious scholars from Tripoli and the north of Lebanon (16 and 17 April), and one for 23 female religious education teachers from public schools (23 and 24 April). These workshops were organized in cooperation with Dar al-Fatwa – Lebanon’s State Sunni authority – and Mufti Malek Shaar, of Tripoli.¨
“I hope this workshop will help achieve the protection of the human being and the respect of their dignity,” said one participant after the session. Although there is no active fighting in Lebanon at the moment, tensions between communities are high, exacerbated by the armed conflict in neighbouring Syria and regularly reported acts of sectarian violence. Training religious scholars and preachers constitutes a strategic approach to disseminating knowledge about humanitarian norms and their related values among civil society and potential arms bearers.
These workshops followed a first meeting with 10 senior Sunni leaders in 2014. That meeting raised their awareness of the necessity for the religious community to participate in the regulation of armed forces and violence. As one of the participants pointed it out after the workshop, “We [the religious community] should not should not just come together for the sake of it. We have a responsibility. We have to learn the norms and laws.” Geneva Call will try to hold the same workshops with other religious institutions in Lebanon, including Shia, Sunni and Christian authorities.
As an external evaluation report of Geneva Call’s programme in Lebanon highlights, “many Palestinian and Lebanese actors perceived Geneva Call’s programme in International Humanitarian Law as very relevant and as one –small but still meaningful- ‘contributing factor’ to the continued ‘stability’ of Lebanon.” The evaluation report encourages Geneva Call to continue its unique work in the country and stresses that no other actor is doing what Geneva Call is doing.
Just as there is a lack of awareness about international humanitarian law (IHL) in Lebanon, there is also one on human rights and the rights of the child. Geneva Call has been a pioneer in Lebanon, not only in raising awareness about IHL but also on the issue of protecting children from the consequences of armed violence, and from recruitment and ‘association’ with armed groups (including in non arms-bearing roles).
In addition to the dialogue with religious authorities in Lebanon, Geneva Call engages with political parties and the armed security forces in the Palestinian refugee camps on the respect of humanitarian norms.