Supporting local dialogues, regional exchange and prevention capacities of Sunni religious and social actors in Lebanon
Local religious leaders and scholars play an active role in addressing root causes of radicalisation, promoting religious tolerance, and supporting peaceful coexistence on a local and national level.
Timeframe: 2015 - 2021
Against the background of emerging threats of increased social tensions and growing radicalisation in Lebanon, the project seeks to develop locally rooted and regionally coordinated efforts of religious authorities and social figures to prevent and address violent extremism based on enhanced dialogue, mediation efforts and community engagement. By supporting religious actors and insider mediators to engage in grounded dialogue, mediation and prevention efforts according to local needs and challenges in the respective areas across Lebanon, the project aims at contributing to diffuse tensions, develop strategies to address radicalisation and strengthen religious tolerance. This project builds on a previous cooperation (2015-2019) with Dar al-Fatwa – the lead religious institution in Lebanon – that aimed at supporting the capacities of the institution to address violent extremism, and has since then evolved focusing more on local and regional levels of engagement.
External factors related to the war in Syria as well as developments in the wider region have strongly contributed to dynamics of radicalisation in Lebanon in recent years. Radical groups, such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the so-called Islamic State, have practiced recruitment efforts on Lebanese soil. Many recruited fighters have returned to Lebanon and are either at large or in overcrowded prisons where reintegration approaches are lacking. Domestic factors have also contributed significantly to the increasing social tension and more recent dynamics of radicalisation. These include structural weakness and often absence of the Lebanese state in providing basic services, security and rule of law, the growing socio-economic disparities and lack of economic and social prospects for youth as well as the prevailing sectarian strife. Moreover, since the October 2019 protests that erupted across the country, Lebanon plunged into an unprecedented economic and financial crisis, sharply increasing poverty rates and often leading to clashes and political tensions. At the same time, following several government resignations in response to wide-spread protests and after the August 4 port explosion that left more than 200 dead and damaged large parts of the capital, the country faces recurrent political vacuum and governmental deadlock. The current situation in Lebanon is characterized by multiple converging crises which reinforce dynamics of marginalization, deprivation and a sense of frustration and hopelessness among youth, dynamics which have fueled waves of radicalisation in Lebanon in the past.
Radicalisation is by no means a phenomenon particular to certain communities, confessions or groups. Yet several confrontations and escalations of violence in certain areas of Lebanon also involved radical Sunni-affiliated groups. Therefore, through the project, capacity and strategy-building support is provided to influential Sunni religious and social figures as well as civil society personalities capable of reaching the Sunni-Lebanese community to enhance intra-Sunni dialogue on the local level to overcome the fragmentation of moderate voices. In addition, the project provides space to discuss options to address local grievances and feelings of marginalisation, which have been fuelling radicalisation.
Our activities seek to support religious actors and influential social figures from the Sunni community in developing strategies to address religious and Sunni radicalisation through internal dialogue support and capacity-building for insider mediators.
The project builds on the assumption that intra-Sunni dialogue in a localized manner that takes into consideration the peculiarity of Lebanese cities and their specific political and social context is key to developing strategies and implementing de-radicalisation efforts within the Lebanese Sunni community. We are convinced that increasing tension and feelings of marginalization within Sunni communities in the region need to be addressed by respected Sunni leaders, institutions and activists themselves. Efforts to strengthen religious tolerance, stability and pluralism have to be locally led and owned to be efficient and legitimate within local communities
The project team consists of well-qualified Lebanese as well as international project staff based in Beirut and Berlin, assisted by experienced Lebanese senior advisors and facilitators.
We are working with the following key actors:
- Local official and non-official religious authorities from different Lebanese cities and towns
- A wide network of influential Sunni community representatives in Lebanon including imams, religious scholars, teachers and community leaders
- Representatives of religious institutions, academics/scholars and civil society figures from Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Iraq
Beirut, Beqaa, Tripoli, Saida, Tyr and Mount Lebanon, in addition to some activities taking place in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and/or Iraq.
Aims and outcomes
Against the background of religious extremism and lack of tolerance, especially amongst some local Sunni groups in Lebanon, the project starts from the consideration that an efficient, effective and sustainable response to this extremism requires the strong support of the Sunni community, its leadership and local leaders. Therefore, the overall aim of the project is to contribute to stability and peace in Lebanon (and indirectly the region) by developing locally rooted and regionally coordinated efforts of religious authorities to prevent and address violent extremism based on enhanced dialogue, mediation efforts and community engagement.
In order to contribute to this larger purpose, the project has the following three objectives:
- To foster dialogue, mediation and prevention capacities in the Sunni community by supporting locally grounded mediation and prevention initiatives by Sheikhs, faith-based insider mediators and multipliers, official and non-official religious authorities and groups as well as civil society representatives from across the confessional spectrum.
- To support a structured exchange and regular engagement of religious authorities and institutions, scholars and civil society figures from Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Iraq on the topic of prevention. The exchange also focuses on the role and potential of religious authorities in efforts to prevent violent extremism in their respective countries.
- To provide capacity-building on communication and outreach skills to moderate religious actors to deliver moderate messages in more effective and innovative ways.
The activities include thematic round tables and workshops, trainings as well as capacity-building activities in the areas of dialogue facilitation, mediation, communication and (media) outreach. The activities take place in different Lebanese regions with a focus on enhancing local capacities and outreach efforts.
Partners and funding
The project activities are funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.
- Local roundtables and dialogue initiatives in different Lebanese regions on topics relevant for prevention of extremism and violence in the respective area.
- Trainings for and strategy-building with a network of religious and social figures from different Lebanese areas on communication, dialogue, mediation and conflict resolution
- Regional exchange workshops between religious and intellectual figures from Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Iraq and Lebanon on prevention and the role and potential of religious authorities in efforts to prevent violent extremism in their respective countries
- Trainings and capacity-building activities on communication and outreach skills to religious leaders to deliver moderate messages in more effective and innovative ways.
Updates from this work:
Maria El Sammak
Media and Communications Manager
+49 (0) 177 7052758