Promoting Peace Through Interfaith Dialogue
Youth journalist Samir Sabbagh is changing perceptions about the roles youth and religious leaders can play in promoting peace in south Lebanon. Working with the Lebanese youth organization Nahar Ashabab, Samir participates in IREX’s One Community program that provides interfaith training to religious leaders from across Lebanon and supports their interfaith community development projects. Samir and his fellow youth journalists interview religious leaders and write about their efforts to promote peace, stability, and development. The articles are published in Lebanon’s leading Arabic language daily newspaper An-Nahar and posted on Nahar Ashabab’s online blog, which is accessed by over 200,000 viewers daily.
Thanks to his education at the Al-Doha school where religious tolerance and critical thinking are encouraged, Samir is considering carefully the motives and actions of some Shi’a religious leaders. Through his work with the One Community program, he has traveled around the country, learning more about other faiths. He says that he now appreciates more fully that young people of different faiths may face similar challenges: unemployment, poverty, and a loss of hope for the future.
A recent trip provided the opportunity to interview Sheikh Abdallah, one of the religious leaders involved in the One Community program. According to Sheikh Abdallah, clerics should serve as living examples of positive interfaith cooperation: “Each of the participating religious leaders should afterwards build on these collective positive views [of interfaith dialogues] to promote a tolerant attitude toward other religious sects among their community members visible in their day-to-day lives.”
Samir shares many of the cleric’s views on the best ways to resolve conflicts and about the potential for faith-based organizations to help. Samir says that youth must not only advocate for interfaith dialogue among religious leaders. They should also highlight the positive roles religious leaders are playing within their communities by documenting their efforts to promote peace, stability, and development such as those taking place under the One Community program.
The above story is originally featured in our 2011 Annual Report. With your help, we can continue to support young peace builders like Samir. Please consider making a gift online through our donation page.