“I can always travel the world, and try to save the world. But it’s my own space that I need to learn to save first, and to work on.”

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Episode notes

Jean-Paul is part of the generation that was fundamentally shaped by the Lebanese civil war, but had no responsibility for it. In his words, when he left the country in 2006 after the brief and calamitous war with Israel, he never wanted to come back.

While abroad, however, he found a sense of agency and possibility. He did come back, and founded an organisation called Peace Labs, which aims to facilitate the difficult conversations that need to happen if the country is to move forward.

Topics discussed:

[02:30]  Growing up during the civil war, the origins of Peace Labs, and their current activities across Lebanon. Being mistaken for a priest.

[12:00]  Frustrations around the stagnation of Lebanese politics, and the 2006 war with Israel. Leaving with the intent to “never come back”, but finding a new perspective.

[19:30]  First steps in the peacebuilding sphere after coming back to Lebanon. Work with youth, and the commonalities that recur time and again in violent conflicts.

[32:55]  Why there was a need for a new kind of model in Lebanon. Gaps in the conventional peacebuilding approaches supported by the UN and big INGOs.

[42:00]  Being a “purist” rather than taking all the work that’s available. The need for an experimental attitude in dealing with a new and little-understood field like peacebuilding.

[49:10]  Why success stories, or moments that can inspire people, are particularly important in this field. Some pivotal moments in Jean-Paul’s own journey.

[55:35]  The critical importance of working on your own self, and how you relate to the world, before trying to change too much externally. Finding a “tribe” of like-minded people to help you navigate conflictual and disturbing topics.

[59:00]  Some book recommendations. Galtung, personal strengths, and a touch of science fiction.