Original source: http://www.bridging-the-divide.org/south-lebanon/youth-bitterly-divided-by-religion-and-politics/
LEBANESE YOUTH DIVIDED BY CONFLICTS
After nearly a half century of civil war and foreign occupation, divisiveness in politics and religion has come to define much of what is Lebanon, with the possibility of relapse into conflict being a constant threat. The effects of this history are particularly acute in the Beqaa Valley - located adjacent to the Syrian border, housing a diverse array of rival confessional groups - between the tightly clustered Christian and Muslim populations. A Syrian occupation between 1978 and 2005, and more recent attacks by Israel in 2006 and 2008, positioned the region as a convenient central hub for lawlessness, often leaving its inhabitants cut off from supplies, funding, and development initiatives.
Although only 12.7 percent of Lebanon's population resides in the Beqaa, they account for 17.2% of the nation's extremely poor, with the overall presence of poverty at 29%. In this context, Christian and Muslim youth are often divided in the aftermath of the 16-years-long civil war. Opportunities for education and training in life skills - communication, teamwork, cooperation, and community participation - are often absent. Moreover, the severity of the situation further impacts the aspiring younger generations in terms of access to technology and opportunities for gainful employment, all of which are essential to their ability to secure a stable future.
Because new generations are vulnerable to poles of extremism, militancy, and illicit trade, action must be taken to encourage and facilitate dialogue among Christian and Muslim youth on issues of common interest. They must be equipped with the tools to secure key rights necessary to realizing a future of inclusion and prosperity and to affect change in their communities. Investing in alternative channels like civil society, youth voices are empowering social dialogue so as to reach out to their communities in a call for reunion and to increase participation in political life.