Lebanon on the edge
The Syrian conflict has long spilled over into Lebanon. More than 1 million Syrian refugees have become stranded in Lebanon. Some of them have lost everything they had. Political tensions between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime have led to open violence, most notably in the cities of Tripoli and Saida and in the Bekaa region. Different neighbourhoods are under the constant threat of snipers and mortar grenades.
We have visited all regions of Lebanon for conducting our conflict and needs assessment. After a throrough evaluation, we decided to start operating in the Akkar region, at Lebanon's Northern border to Syria. Akkar is the poorest region of the country that shelters the highest percentage of refugees in Lebanon. More than 100,000 are said to have arrived here. The ratio between refugee and host population reaches almost 1:1. The poorest are welcoming the poor.
Akkar is a mixed region where a majority of Sunnis is living side by side with Christians and Alawites. In this region, family ties have crossed the Syrian border for many years. It is the ideal place to create a model that could also work inside Syria. Sectarian tensions are rising but have not yet led to sustained open violence.
Our First Peace Centre
With the help of more than 850 individual donors, we opened the first Peace Centre in Bkarzla, a small village next to the district capital Halba.
We have received tremendous support on the ground for our work. Many local NGO leaders have helped us in identifying available houses that might be well-suited to become the first Peace Centre. The mayor and the municipal council of Bkarzla welcomed us with open arms. We also established strong relationships with Syrian refugee communities in the surroundings and with international NGOs operating in this area. The needs in the Akkar region are so big that everybody is helping each other.
Several local personalities have expressed their readiness to become members of the first Steering Committee: the Sunni Mufti of the Akkar and other sheikhs, some of them from Syria, the Maronite Archbishop and local priests, the Greek-Orthodox Metropolitan, local NGO leaders and also one Alawi notable.
Our Peace Centre is welcoming the youth of different confessions and groups, both Syrian and Lebanese. We chose a building in a safe, natural setting to give traumatised children and adolescents the possibility to breathe. In our Peace Centre, they are receiving psychosocial and educational support as well as material help. We have started the distribution of non-food items to newly arriving Syrian refugees in most urgent need.
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Cover photo: Bkarzla (Lebanon), in the heart of the Akkar region, place of our first Peace Centre
Location of our first Peace Centre in the North of Lebanon. Operational regions are marked in red.
Close-up map of the Akkar district in the North of Lebanon; in red: core operational area; in yellow: outreach activities.
Summer festival at the Peace Centre in Bkarzla
Performances with young Syrians and Lebanese of all communities.
Photo exhibition following a summer intensive class at the Peace Centre.