DANISH GOVERNMENT BACKS MAJOR PROJECT TO STRENGTHEN SOCIETY IN LEBANON
A new collaborative three-year project by SAT-7 and partners to improve social cohesion in Lebanon has received major funding from the Danish Government. Lebanon – Our Story will bring young people from a variety of backgrounds, including Syrian refugees, together to rethink divisive narratives and develop a new shared story of hope.
“SAT-7 is honoured to receive this opportunity, along with our partners the Danish and Lebanese Bible Societies and the Centre for Church-Based Development, to make an even deeper positive impact in a country our ministry calls home. Lebanon, which is engulfed in multiple crises, must not only rebuild. It must rebuild better, with divisions healing and a strong, shared vision for its future. Lebanon – Our Story will enable young people to drive this positive change from the ground up,” says Rita El-Mounayer, SAT-7 CEO.
The backbone of Lebanon – Our Story will be storytelling clubs for participants aged 15 to 25 from different communities, including Syrian refugees, Palestinians, and Armenians as well as Lebanese youth from a variety of backgrounds. In addition to the clubs, which will be run in cooperation with expert local partners, the project will launch an online platform to facilitate greater cross-community connection.
“Lebanon – Our Story is a blessed opportunity. In light of the very serious situation in Lebanon, there is a need for programs that can involve, and give hope to, the new generations. And given the persecution of Christians in parts of the Middle East, we also see the need to put freedom of religion or belief on the agenda, particularly while Lebanese society is under pressure. I look forward to working closely on this project with colleagues at SAT-7, the Lebanese Bible Society, and other NGOs in Lebanon. SAT-7 knows how to bridge societal gaps, bring diverse young groups together, and engage them in dialogue. The Danish Bible Society will, in the years to come, communicate about the programs to a Danish audience, where there is growing interest in the topic and a heart for Lebanon,” said Synne Garff, International Director at the Danish Bible Society.
Daniel Nygaard Madsen, Pooled Fund Coordinator at the Centre for Church-Based Development (CKU), which facilitates the partnership and funding process, said: “We at the CKU are delighted that the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided in 2020 to grant 5.5m Danish Kroner, approximately [US$900,000] to the cooperation between SAT-7, the Lebanese and Danish Bible Societies, and CKU. The grant is a highly welcomed opportunity to facilitate a larger intervention and to meet more of the huge need for funding.”
Lebanon – Our Story will also produce a sitcom/drama and a documentary to be broadcast on SAT-7, as well as a social media campaign and a book of the stories created in the project. “SAT-7’s role in this kind of intervention is important,” explains Maroun Bou Rached, Executive Director of SAT-7 Lebanon. “We are growing in awareness of how media can drive cohesion or division, and the importance of better positioning SAT-7 as a trusted and empowering public voice in Lebanon. This is why this project is so important at this very crucial time in our country.”
Lebanon, which had a population of around 4.5 million in 2011, now hosts an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees. This has taken a toll on Lebanon’s already fragile infrastructure, which is now also impacted by the Beirut blast, a devastating economic and currency crisis, and COVID-19. Over time, these issues have aggravated tensions, including the feelings of struggling host communities towards vulnerable refugees. To counter this, Lebanon – Our Story aims to connect people across ethnic, social, political, and religious lines to identify common values and address issues of shared concern. It will also conduct training for media professionals on the role that they can play.
Lebanon – Our Story will begin work on 1 March 2021. For SAT-7, this three-year project builds on an extensive range of social development and education programming, including its SAT-7 ACADEMY output, watched by 8.6 million1 viewers in the Arab World.
1According to 2018 Ipsos survey, SAT-7 ARABIC channel is watched by 16m adult viewers