Change is Coming From the Bottom-Up
This week in Lebanon, young people are taking to the streets to demand change in the government structure and stabilization in the economy. Meanwhile, the Lebanese Prime Minister resigned earlier this week. In Algeria, protests demanding an end to the military regime have continued weekly since February. Earlier this year, it was because of demonstrations—composed primarily of young people—that a revolution took place and removed a 30-year-old military dictatorship from control in Sudan. The changes we are seeing through grassroots movements such as these are exciting for us at Musalaha since we see similarities with grassroots movements and our model of reconciliation.
Almost ten years ago the Arab Spring began and led to widespread demonstrations throughout the Middle East and North Africa. However, since dictatorships materialized as a result, many people have lost hope in change efforts, especially in the Arab world. Yet what is happening now throughout the Middle East is successful change that starts from the bottom-up. We are now seeing what seems to be the second wave of the Arab Spring. We see everyday people rising up and making change happen in Lebanon, Algeria, Sudan, as well as in Tunisia, Iraq, and Hong Kong. Demonstrators have learned from the mistakes made during the Arab Spring and are focusing on nonviolent grassroots initiatives because they have seen how people in power have previously justified oppression against people as a result of violent protesting. The power is in the people as they advocate and work together to demand just governments.
In Israel-Palestine many people are awaiting change, hoping that our elected officials and government will create it. In our nearly 30 years of reconciliation ministry at Musalaha we have held to the conviction that peacemaking and reconciliation starts from the bottom up. We know that 80% of peace is achieved through grassroots efforts and that it only takes a small percentage of dedicated people to create a tipping point that brings this type of change. It seems that people throughout the world and especially in the Middle East are realizing this and that is why we are seeing a resurgence of grassroots movements even despite the recent failures of the Arab Spring.
It’s hard to say what will be the last straw that leads people to action here in Israel-Palestine, or anywhere for that matter. We do not know what will spark it, for example, it was a WhatsApp tax in Lebanon that prompted the protests. Our hope is that this peaceful nonviolent grassroots change would spread to many places, and we especially long for it among Israelis and Palestinians. At Musalaha, we are actively working to train all types of people to build bridges. Later this month we have a group of community leaders, public affairs leaders, female leaders, and business leaders heading on a trip as they complete the final phase of their reconciliation process. They will meet together and discuss what next steps could be taken. We are working diligently to train up changemakers and peacemakers so that we may soon see the kind of change we are currently witnessing throughout this part of the world.
Salim J. Munayer
Musalaha Executive Director