About Y4T

In a complex Lebanon, different ideologies constantly clash in peace or in war.
Left: Children playing on a bombed building in Beirut - Right: Riots in Beirut
 

Y4T Mission

We at Youth for Tolerance, or Y4T in short, work to promote a culture of tolerance that will result in respect, acceptance and appreciation of religious and political diversity in Lebanon, as well as in a better inclusion of all socially marginalized groups.

Youth for Tolerance is a is a non-political, non-religious NGO (non-governmental organisation).

   

Our Target Group

Youth for Tolerance works specifically with young people (ages 16 to 22), who are usually in the process of defining their identity. This is no easy task in a country like Lebanon with a highly complex political, religious and social landscape. The differing opinions of some 17 religious sects and numerous political parties have prevented an agreement on even the most basic cornerstones of society, such as a unified narration of the country’s modern history.

In such an environment, Lebanese youth are at risk of defining their identity through devaluating others (which leads to intolerance), and/or excluding and dissociating themselves from others (which leads to radicalization and lack of dialogue).

Beyond our target group

Despite the fact that we are currently focusing on the youth between the ages of 16 and 22 in schools and universities, we believe that a project to spread a culture of tolerance should reach out to all age groups. We have an ongoing awareness campaign in old and new media (print, TV, social networks...) that reaches out to the youth outside of schools and universities – and the rest of society.

   

The Educational System

Most Lebanese schools are highly segregated, both religiously and socially, and lack a consistent civic education curriculum. Because of this, Lebanese youth often do not know their peers of different backgrounds, and their exposure to those of different backgrounds is sparse and limited to hear-say and (one-sided) media coverage. Their skills of dialogue and tolerance thus remain underdeveloped, and biased systems of belief are created and maintained through adulthood.

   

How We Work

Our trainers come to the classrooms with modules that are different from existing curricula and projects in many ways. They do not focus on covering a large amount of information, but are interactive and use role-playing techniques to allow full participation of the youth. They thus create a space to initiate ideas, reflect, interact, and engage in critical discussion. The educational modules are based on well-developed theories about and techniques of conflict resolution, communication and negotiation.

   

Why Y4T

The events witnessed by our youth from 2005 until today (political assassinations, international intervention, radical politics, the Arab Spring and the Syrian war) have re-ignited sectarian divisions. The situation started becoming critical after the July 2006 war with Israel and the post-conflict radicalization in Lebanese politics. The violent confrontation in the Palestinian refugee camp Nahr el Bared in the summer of 2007 between the Lebanese Army and fighting factions inside the camp complicated the picture even further. The years 2008 till 2011 carried with them a series of internal fights and political paralysis with the cabinet being either dissolved or ineffective for significant percentage of the time. The Arab spring initially gave hope to youth across the region about positive change. However it soon descended into chaos and religious radicalization. The Syrian war then brought about a refugee crisis to Lebanon unprecedented in modern history. Over one million Syrian refugees were registered in 2014 (for a population of four million). In addition, as the war devolved into sectarian conflict, several Lebanese parties got involved in the fighting both within Syria and with some spillover into Lebanon.

The psychological impact of the above events on this generation of youth has so far been increasing intolerance and a strengthening of convictions such as ‘violence is the most effective (or even the only) means for settling conflict’ and ‘political and religious diversity is unmanageable’.

We, at Youth for Tolerance, believe that the present situation is an urgent call for action. We cannot wait until circumstances obscure the possibility and necessity of moderation and non-violent conflict resolution for our youth. We want to be proactive and teach the youth these techniques early on.