Transformative Collaborations: Building Bridges between Local Communities and Governmental Institutions

A History of Clashes, Battles, and Resentment

The city of Tripoli, Lebanon, has faced its share of challenges, including periods of partial government absence and clashes between the communities of Jabal Mohsen and Bab El Tebbeneh, as well as between these communities and security institutions, notably the Lebanese Armed Forces. During the peak conflicts of 2011, the government’s presence diminished, only to reemerge in 2014 with a new security plan. However, this resurgence came with raids and arrests that left elevated feelings of resentment towards the Lebanese Armed Forces and the state. Consequently, tense relationships developed between the Lebanese Armed Forces and the community, leading to ongoing clashes.

MARCHing Forward for Change

MARCH recognized that fostering stability and unity required rebuilding trust, respect, understanding, and communication between local communities and the Lebanese army. This vision led to the creation of innovative initiatives aimed at bridging the gap and shifting perceptions away from hatred towards acceptance and tolerance.

Sustainable and resilient stability isn’t achieved in isolation; it’s the outcome of collective efforts from diverse stakeholders working together. As such, MARCH strategically collaborated with the public sector, particularly the Lebanese Armed Forces, to reshape perceptions, rebuild trust, and foster unity within a community that has experienced conflict and division.

Building Bridges Through Sports

One of MARCH’s innovative approaches is football tournaments that bring together youth from historically opposing neighborhoods, Bab El Tebbeneh and Jabal Mohsen, along with members of the Lebanese Army. The participants form mixed teams, fostering teamwork and respect both on and off the field. By promoting trust and collaboration, these activities aim to positively influence individual and community opinions and change the narratives of war and hatred. This approach was previously successful with the biannual three-week-long football tournament.

Building Bridges Through Dialogue

In May 2019, MARCH organized a two-day army camp that facilitated open dialogues and physical activities between the Bab El Dahab team and the soldiers of Tripoli’s 12th infantry brigade. This retreat delved into past conflicts, encouraged team-building exercises, and provided shared experiences through team-building activities and shared meals. The event proved transformative, fostering mutual respect and a sense of partnership between the two groups.

Moreover, an impressive example is the military training base established from the ground up. Young individuals from Bab El Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, some of whom had participated in MARCH’s rehabilitative programs, teamed up with the Lebanese Army. This initiative involved constructing various elements of the facility, while dynamic ice-breaking activities focused on teamwork and interpersonal dynamics. Through daily cooperation and a shared goal, tensions dissipated, and a foundation for unity and inclusion was solidified.

To learn more about the two-day army camp, check out this video

Building Bridges through Construction and Agriculture

The civil-military cooperation activities were numerous and successful throughout the years. They brought the youth closer to military institutions and enabled them to learn various construction skills, from plastering to painting to electricity, along with the construction of solar panels in the army camps to produce sustainable energy for the camp. One of the initiatives also included an agricultural project in Araman Barracks in Tripoli. Youth who had once taken part in clashes in the area joined forces with the Lebanese Army to plant several lands in the camp and install greenhouses to benefit the army.

In conclusion, MARCH’s journey exemplifies the transformative power of collaboration. By partnering with the public sector, particularly the Lebanese Armed Forces, the organization has succeeded in reshaping perceptions, forging communication, and building a stronger community. The initiatives, from sports tournaments to collaborative construction projects, highlight MARCH’s achievements in promoting unity, understanding, and resilience, all achievable through collaborative efforts that transcend divisions and promote progress.