Lebanon is rich in diversity. However, throughout history, deeply ingrained religious, ethnic and political divisions in Lebanon have led to unrest and violence. With increasing scarcity of resources, tensions are again rising. A group of young people has been working with our local partner there to help build new relationships across the divides.
As they have learned to listen to one another, to work alongside each other and to see past the things that make them different, the friendships that these young people have started to make have given them the desire to bridge divides, dispel preconceptions and become peacebuilders in their community.
Giving back to the community
As part of the programme run by our local partner, the young people were encouraged and supported to do something that would give back to their community – a particularly deprived area of Beirut, affected by a number of ethnic, religious and political tensions.
First, they came up with ideas of what they could do to reach out and provide something of value that would help people living around them, and then, with help from our partner staff, they set about achieving their goals.
Reaching the children
One group decided to run a drop-in session for children of all backgrounds in the neighbourhood to come and be entertained and have fun for an hour and a half.
In the midst of an incredibly difficult economic situation, they offered a space of brightness and joy to children in this diverse community.
The young people were very excited to run the event!
On the day, the children who attended the event had a great time playing lots of games, taking pictures and having their faces painted. The young people running it even prepared goodie bags and pizza for the children to have at the end of the session.
The event was so successful and everyone had such a great time that one of the young people suggested, ‘Let's keep this up every week. The children are so happy and this is a very joyful and heartwarming moment.’
Caring for the elderly
Since the start of the conflict in neighbouring Syria, Lebanon has generously welcomed around 1.5 million Syrian refugees into the country. However, this has added to the strain on the country’s struggling economy and, in many cases, fuelled tensions between refugees and the host community.
Many of the young people taking part in our partner’s programme are Syrian, and so they decided that, as a gesture of love and friendship, they would like to find a way to serve some of the older Lebanese people living in a home nearby.
After asking how they could be most helpful, they discovered that there was a real need for help to paint and repair one of the rooms where two older women live and have to spend most of their time.
The young people got some professional painters to show them how to do the job, and then set about giving the room a fresh coat of paint.
Croissants and company
Some of the other young people from the programme spent time visiting the older people in their rooms and handing out croissants, while having some lovely conversations with them. The young people asked lots of questions and helped to put smiles on the faces of the residents of the home.
The young people also did some really practical jobs like cleaning the hallway, picking up rubbish and fallen leaves around the building and grounds, and planting flowers in the garden.
The residents were very happy to meet the youth and said they felt it was a welcome change from their daily routine.
The young people themselves were also very touched by their time spent with the people in the home. They felt such a sense of achievement to have made a difference – and particularly to have improved the living conditions for the two women whose room they had painted.
Sometimes it is the simplest things that can make such a difference. From the smallest seeds of kindness, relationships can start to be built across divides.
No matter our age or stage of life, each of us has something to bring to make a difference in the world. As Christians, we believe God created each of us with a plan and a good purpose.
Poverty is not God’s plan. These young people are. You are.
Please will you pray with us today for young people in Lebanon and all around the world.