Report on Lattakia Leadership Training

When I visited Lebanon and Syria in March 2014, I met an ecumenical youth group called Eid b Eid; they are based in Lattakia, my home town, and they work to support the many Christians in that region. They knew the work of the Foundation well, and they asked for our help to teach young Christians how to become leaders and reconcilers in their churches and in their communities. They believed that this would benefit everyone in Syria, whatever their religion. Over the course of several weeks, I met many Christian leaders in Syria and Lebanon, and they strongly supported Eid b Eid's request.

In addition, on this trip I visited one of the refugee camps in Lebanon. Afterwards, I could not leave this camp and just go back to my normal daily life. I had to find ways to help these, and other, refugees. Having spent a little time with them, I could see that among all their needs there was one thing that could make a tremendous difference to the lives of the refugees now and in the future: EDUCATION.

Refugee Camp - view             Refugee Camp - baby

These two experiences, of the need for teaching young Christians to be ambassadors for peace and the need to help the children in the refugee camps, led me to formulate our Leadership Training Programme. You can read more about the general aims and methods of the Leadership Training Programme here.

We set a date for the very first Leadership Training Programme - 2nd to 6th October 2014 - and we chose Lattakia as the venue for this ground-breaking event. Lattakia is on the Mediterranean coast and this region has been spared much of the conflict that has ravaged Syria, making it an ideal place to begin our new programme: a place of relative safety and a sanctuary for Syrians from across the country. I then worked with Eid b Eid and the churches around Lattakia over the following six months to ensure their support and to encourage the churches to propose candidates for the training. The Awareness Foundation, working with Eid b Eid (pictured below left), received the proposals and selected participants to ensure that all denominations were represented. Father Habib Daniel of the Maronite Church, (pictured below right), is one the local clergy who sent their young people to the training.

Meeting Eid b Eid             Meeting Fr Habib Daniel

In August I returned to Lattakia to finalise the programme, complete all preparations with the venue and the speakers, and ensure the continuing support of churches of every denomination.  All we needed now was the permission of the local government.  H.E. Archbishop Nicholas Sawaf, the Melkite Archbishop of Lattakia and Tartous, acted as our referee; thanks to his support, we obtained official permission and the event could go ahead.  At last everything was ready and the young participants had been selected.