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Peace through forgiveness

By Gideon Heugh | 21 Sep 2018

Today is the International Day of Peace. Much of the world seems mired in violence – yet God’s light can break through even in the darkest situations. One of our partners in Lebanon is using the power of forgiveness to spread peace among Syrian refugees and the Lebanese community.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.’ (Matthew 5:9)

Much of the world seems mired in violence – yet God’s light can break through even in the darkest situations. One of our partners in Lebanon is using the power of forgiveness to spread peace among Syrian refugees and the Lebanese community.

The conflict in Syria has lasted more than seven years. More than 11 million people have been forced to leave their homes, with 5.5 million Syrians having fled to other countries.

Lebanon is currently hosting more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees. Many of them have experienced unthinkable trauma – homes destroyed and loved ones killed or injured. This has resulted in deep-seated anger and grief for many.

Young refugees have limited opportunities for continuing their education. This makes them vulnerable to exploitation, harassment and involvement in illegal, extremist and violent activities.

If the anger is not addressed it can spill out into daily life. In adults, this can result in arguments, sometimes to the point of domestic violence. In children and young people, it can translate as depression, anxiety and bullying.

Dignity and respect
A Tearfund partner in Lebanon is working with young people of all ethnicities and religions, addressing this anger through a Forgiveness Journey programme.

The curriculum focuses on nonviolent conflict resolution. It deals with issues of anger and hurt in a constructive, restorative way by exploring forgiveness as a first step towards peace and reconciliation.

One of the people that participated in the Forgiveness Journey is Sara*. After her father was killed, Sara’s family fled the war in Syria and are now living in Lebanon. The things she saw during the war left a terrible mark on Sara. She had low self-esteem, was dealing with anger issues and felt very isolated.

During the programme Sara learned about her true identity, that she’s worthy of dignity and respect – and above all that she’s loved. ‘Learning about forgiveness and love helps us not to judge others,’ she tells us. She’s learned how to deal with her emotions in a constructive way, and now has practical methods to deal with conflict. Though life is still hard, the anger she once felt has faded, and she is now bringing peace to her relationships.

A new narrative
Mariam Tadros, Tearfund’s Programme Coordinator for Peacebuilding, explains why this work is so important: ‘The conflicts across the region we see today are manifestations of decades of nations reforming their identities: a process that has led to considerable sectarianism – fracturing societies and communities and slowly destroying social cohesion.

It is the profound sectarianism among religious, ethnic and tribal lines that our partner seeks to respond to. They create space for conversation, new ideas and encounters across dividing lines, instilling a new narrative and hope.’

A prayer 

Lord Jesus,
You are the Prince of Peace. We pray for your light to break through in countries affected by conflict. We pray for your love to fill our hearts, so that we might deal better with conflict in our own lives. And we pray that you will help us to forgive, as you have forgiven us. In your precious name, amen.

*Name has been changed to protect identity

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Photo of Gideon Heugh

Written by Gideon Heugh