forumZFD also supports teachers and religious communities across the country in learning and teaching about the past, seeking to bridge rather than deepen existing divides. With creative methods, forumZFD and its partner, the Lebanese Association for History, inspire teachers and students to transform the narrative of contested historical events and the memorisation of past violence. Besides multi-perspectivity, establishing dialogue with the older generations is an important approach.
The project "From local history to a wider understanding of the past", for instance, initiated trans-generational conversations on daily life during the civil war. After recording these oral histories, students are invited to transform their findings through artistic means and express how these memories relate to their own present life. The project contributes to a cross-generational process of reconstructing and integrating fragmented memories from the past, which is an essential element in collective trauma healing.
Encouraging community activism across divides
Another focus of forumZFD aims at encouraging community activism across divides to mobilise for non-violent action. Together with its partner, The Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering, forumZFD supported the foundation of a women’s cooperation Nisaa Kaderat (Capable Women) with Syrian and Lebanese peace activists. Nisaa Kaderat opened a self-organised community centre that provides a safe space for women of all nationalities and generations in the city of Baalbek.
It invites women to find shelter and relief from everyday micro-aggressions against their gender and to practice self-care. Inspired by tools from non-violent communication, community dialogue and psychosocial support, women meet each other with empathy to transform collective emotions of loneliness, victimhood and shame. The dialogue supports women from different generations to stimulate a trans-generational healing process.
In short, on the one hand, the lens of collective trauma can be integrated into the work of conflict transformation. On the other, group-building processes create an atmosphere of empathy where individual experiences can be processed with the support of the group and collective learning processes can be facilitated.
If conflict transformation is sensitive to the psycho-social dynamics of collective trauma, it can strengthen resilience at an individual and collective level. Health-promoting techniques are transformed in the process, strengthening resilience and positive coping strategies – parallel to other activities – thereby creating safe spaces for groups involving women or community groups to gather.
It remains important, however, to work on the transformation of shared narratives of the past and of victim identities through media, arts, festivals, exhibitions and digital storytelling platforms and to transform the enemy image of "the other". This in turn will serve to reinforce a sense of self-efficacy, helping to overcome shared feelings of helplessness and transforming passivity and political apathy into empowerment and agency.
Miriam Modalal & Dalilah Reuben-Shemia
Miriam Modalal is a project manager for community organising at forumZFD, an international non-governmental organisation working in the field of conflict transformation, in Lebanon.
Dalilah Reuben-Shemia has worked as a peace and conflict consultant and conducts research into non-violent action.