July 2018 - Lebanon
Displacement uproots people from their land and forces them to find refuge outside of their traditional environment. Even after having crossed borders, the person still carries with him the traditions, customs, and culture that have shaped her/his identity and values. And hence, music lies within the essence of collective identity and cultural diversity.
Considering the escalating tensions amongst the local Lebanese communities and the rising violence and discrimination between the host and the Syrian refugee communities, RET implemented a project aiming at the prevention of radicalization and violent extremism in Lebanon funded by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany.
In an effort to empower youth and contribute to the community stabilization, RET trained the youth on community leadership and conflict resolution skills, giving them the opportunity to put the knowledge they gained into action through the implementation of Quick Impact Initiatives. As follows, the youth of Hermel advocated for the creation of a mixed choir formed by Lebanese and Syrian youth with the objective of decreasing discrimination, marginalization and social exclusion, while increasing awareness of peace and non-violence in their respective communities.
“Young people can relate to music; music is the universal language. If people would hear us sing together, perhaps they might be open to accepting other cultural values and admire their diversity. Mixing music and songs from both our traditions in one performance has a great impact in spreading the message that every human is diversely unique.” said Nisreene, choir member.
The creation of the choir was motivated by the lack of artistic and recreational activities in Hermel, coupled with the need to take a stance vis-à-vis the internal tensions and violence from the armed conflicts to the oppression of the tribal and ethnic families in their community. Hence, the “Voice of Peace” choir was born, an initiative accomplished by Syrian and Lebanese youth to perform fusion songs from both the Lebanese and Syrian traditional repertoire, celebrating cultural diversity at its best.
“We would like to show a beautiful image of our society, RET gave us this opportunity. Let us give a shout out to cohesion instead of conflicts. If we can sing about peace, perhaps we might live in peace.” said Majed, choir member.
The social interaction and communication during long practice hours and on-stage performances allowed the youth to bond with each other, strengthening their social ties and leading them to think about sustainable actions to continue spreading the message of peace. The choir is already planning to write their lyrics advocating for peaceful coexistence and social cohesion is tackling several social issues including, amongst others, human and women’s rights, gender equality, civic engagement, the rights of refugees.
The choir wants to promote even more sensitive issues they face on a daily basis in their respective communities like violence, armed conflict, and stray bullets.
Mohammed, one of the members of the choir, stated “We want to perform in the streets, at universities, in any community celebration. The youth can relate to our music and our songs which will spread positive messages and will sensitize the youth all over Lebanon.”
People identify with music, as the latter is a manifestation of cultural identity and the ability to combine music originating from two conflicting communities to spread the message of peace is always a transcendent aspiration.
“Whenever we share our music, we share our emotions, our fears, and challenges that bring us together,” said Abeer, choir member.
No matter the roots of the conflict, people can rise above negativity, tension, and discrimination and bring about the change towards a more positive future for the generations to come.
RET helped the choir become a tangible reality of the impact of positive social change instigated by the youth who feels more engaged and empowered to commit to RET’s mission in Lebanon; embracing the culture of peace and solidarity, joining their voices together as one voice, the voice of youth, a voice for peace.