Religious, sectarian and political polarization has been on the rise in Lebanon lately – also against the background of increasing regional tension. This is reflected on the social level in Lebanon where many Lebanese, especially Sunni and Shia Muslims, feel the effects of this tension. In addition to regional and local politics, media and social media also play a role in aggravating – sometimes even creating – sectarian polarization as it may serve political, electoral or regional interests. Despite numerous attempts to address the Sunni-Shia rift, few efforts for bridging the gaps and exploring areas of rapprochement seem to have been sustained over time to allow for rebuilding trust and facilitating communication between the two groups.
Although Lebanon is a country with a rich experience in political, inter-community and inter-religious dialogue, there are few active forums for Sunni and Shia representatives in the social, political, religious and (social) media fields for structured informal exchanges to reduce increasing polarization.
Accordingly, the project “Supporting the Establishment of Safety Nets against Polarization of Sunni-Shia Relations in Lebanon” aims to create such forums and to establish safety nets which contribute to bridging divides and addressing mutual concerns and fears. In addition, the project aims to develop ways to ease tensions between both sides and to support constructive relationship-building.
August 2017 – November 2019
Sectarianism is built into the political and societal system in Lebanon and entrenched in community relations. Yet, currently tools and forums for constructive and change-oriented political and social participation of Lebanese are limited and inefficient. Against this background, the project engages in consultations with different groups in both communities in order to explore interest, readiness and potential of a more structured, exploratory and informal dialogue between Sunni and Shia representatives in Lebanon. The project seeks to provide a forum for discussing current challenges of Sunni-Shia relations and to develop ideas for safety nets to reduce tension.
The project has the following concrete objectives:
Based on intense consultations, different thematic groups were formed and meet regularly. See Activities.
The project is supported by the Swiss Federal Foreign Office and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (for more information, see the full funding agreement).
The project activities fall under the following four main tracks:
In the context of the different project components, the following publications were developed: