Lebanon s civil war may be over, but it s no secret that social and religious divisions remain. However, with increased dialogue and interaction, particularly among young people, a better future is possible for the country. This goal, at least, is the driving force behind a new children s television series premiering on Saturday.
Search for Common Ground (SFCG), an international conflict transformation non-governmental organization, created “Kilna Bil Hayy (All of Us in the Neighborhood), in the hope of enlightening young viewers to the commonalities shared between Lebanon s different communities.
The 13-part series, which was funded by Denmark s Rockwool Foundation, focuses on six families that live in the same apartment building. Representing Lebanon s wealth of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, the families are Armenian, Christian, Druze, Palestinian, Shia and Sunni. The building has a conscience, personified by a woman called Lina, who gives shrewd advice to the children in times of crisis.
[This conscience] has been talking for years, a statement by SFCG said, but the adults have not heard a word … because adults, you see, don t listen.
While the children s parents cannot hear or see Lina, her words of wisdom inspire the children to shake off the cultural and socio-economic prejudices of their parents and to forge deep friendships with their neighbors based on mutual respect, understanding, cooperation and trust.
According to the program s executive producer, Leena El-Ali, Lina s mentoring offers the children a more open-minded perspective to that of their parents, adults who are already set in their ways and not open to change. The strong friendships formed among the children help to defuse and repair tension resulting from their parents unconscious repetition of the country s broader trend to reinforce artificial divisions.
Our initial reason for coming [to Lebanon] was to bring listening and problem solving [skills] to the country , said El-Ali in reference to SFCG.
The organization decided to create “Kilna Bil Hayy after the success of a similar children s program the organization initiated in Macedonia, El-Ali said at a preview showing held at the Haret Hreik headquarters of Lebanese non-governmental organization UMAM. I think we re adding value where nobody else is.
The actors use their real names and accents in a bid to authentically represent their communities, she said, unlike other Lebanese television programs, which use names that don t indicate a specific religious confession. The program s scriptwriters likewise hail from different backgrounds.
In a recent episode, a conflict between the Druze and Palestinian families arises when the Druze mother accuses her Palestinian neighbor, who also cleans her house, of stealing a gold necklace. It transpires that the Druze mother s daughter, Sally, borrowed the necklace without asking permission. After consulting Lina, she helps rebuild the severed relationship between the families.
Although the subject matter is serious, the program still manages to remain humorous and avoids coming across as a dose of lecturing. The series also features more light-hearted episodes that center on cooperative problem solving, to try and show children that it only works when you work together, El-Ali said.
In the words of Nader Noueiri, one of the young actors in “Kilna Bil Hayy, SFCG created the series to show the world that no matter how much the leaders fight, the reality on the ground is that we all get along and live well together no matter what community we come from.
Aside from the television series, SFCG is also launching three other nationwide projects aimed at children in Lebanon. The organization will be distributing curricular resources to schools as part of an ongoing listening and problem-solving project for 8 to 14 year olds, as well as activity kits to encourage young people to reflect and practice on the themes presented in the “Kilna bil Hayy series. A music video of the program s theme song has also been produced, sung by the young actors.
Dalila Mahdawiis a Daily Star staff member. “Kilna bil Hayy airs on LBC on Saturdays at 5:15 pm, with re-runs at 9:30 am on Saturdays. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) with permission from the Daily Star.