Lebanese influencers start project to fight sectarianism
Twenty social media influencers from Lebanon have banded together to open up diverse conversations about social, cultural, and political tensions in the hope to challenge sectarianism across the country.
The group includes Nadine Nassib Njeim - an actress and former Miss Lebanon with nearly 14 million followers on Instagram - as well as Al-Araby television channel host Amanie Geha and popular comedian Ghayd Chammas.
The social media stars were selected by the Lebanese office of the Berghof Foundation, a German non-profit, who said the project sets out to “de-escalate social tensions, to promote inclusive conceptions of citizenship, and to contribute to building consensus around national priorities”.
"Communication is vital in promoting tolerance and mutual understanding, and social media is an ideal tool for that," Ali Anan, one of the project’s organisers told Deutsche Welle.
"The biggest achievement of the project is that our own influencers met and even became friends," Anan said.
Though Lebanon is home to a mix of religious backgrounds, sectarianism has seeped through Lebanese society - often to deadly effect.
Among the influencers involved in the project is Mohammed Awwad, who mediated online between both members of Hezbollah and Arab tribes after they clashed in Khaldeh south of Beirut during the funeral of a Hezbollah militant in August.
"Several of our influencers who had contacts and influence on different sides sprang into action and helped behind the scene in mediating and de-escalating the tensions, helping Lebanon avoid more bloodshed and suffering," Anan said.
By the time the project concludes at the end of this year, the group aims to have educated its followers and younger audiences on how to help contribute to a more inclusive, empowered Lebanese society.