Lebanon’s diverse religious groups live in close proximity to one another, scattered from block to block in a jumbled, overlapping mosaic of faiths. Despite this proximity, there is often little to no interaction among the various groups, resulting in limited understanding of different religious perspectives.
In the Lebanese town of Saida (Sidon), however, teachers at Christian and Muslim schools are educating their students about the importance of religious tolerance. Thanks to a small grant from One Community: Promoting Inter-Faith Cooperation in Lebanon, a Catholic priest and a Sunni sheikh joined forces to write and produce a documentary film on the issue of child labor in the community.
The documentary, entitled Helwe Jameetna, tells the story of Youssef, a young boy who is forced to work in a café instead of going to school and playing with the other children. He daydreams of joining the others during story time, but instead spends his days taking orders from rude customers and his abusive boss. A group of children take note of his plight, and go to the town priest and sheikh for help. Their innocence and concern bring together townspeople of both faiths, who start a collection to pay Youssef’s school fees. According to the priest, “We are all responsible for such an issue.” The documentary, which has been shown in local religious schools, not only demonstrated the importance of inter-faith cooperation, but also brought together real people of diverse faiths during its production.
The One Community project, in partnership with the ADYAN Foundation and Nahar Ashabab, works with faith-based community organizations and their leaders to undertake community development projects that promote religious tolerance in Lebanon. Its goal is to increase positive interaction and collaboration among confessional groups by bringing together pairs of leaders and their communities for joint projects.