Civil peace service: defragmentation of society and prevention of violence through culture and sports in the context of Palestine refugees
Title: Civil Peace Service / Special Initiative on displacement: Defragmentation of Society and Prevention of Violence through Culture and Sports in the context of Palestine Refugees
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Palestinian territories
Overall term: 2014 to 2022
Today, around five million people are registered as Palestine refugees with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). It is one of the longest-running crises in the world. Displacement began immediately after the Partition Resolution of the United Nations and the creation of Israel in 1948.
The Palestinian territories are geographically, politically and institutionally fragmented into the West Bank (Areas A, B and C), East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Since 1967, the subsequent Israeli occupation has created a divided and discorded Palestinian society.
More than 1.5 million Palestinian refugees live in 58 recognised Palestine refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Being refugees, they are socially isolated and stigmatised. They have no civil rights and are subject to systematic discrimination. The majority of inhabitants of refugee camps in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is youth, with around 40 per cent of inhabitants under the age of 19. Given the high level of unemployment, poverty and often daily violence, these young people are growing up without prospects.
Fragmentation of Palestinian society is reduced through fostering and strengthening a sense of community. Harmful stereotypes and prejudices are deconstructed. Through art, culture and sports children and youth develop their creative expression and learn to overcome psychological and emotional barriers. Young people have gained a non-violent perspective on life and are accompanied on their way to realising this.
Through its partner organisations the Civil Peace Service (CPS) supports young Palestinians in refugee camps and marginalised areas in using alternative forms of expression derived from art, culture and sports.
Through CPS’ partner organisations safe spaces are provided in which these alternative methods, such as cultural pedagogy and art, are developed to promote prospects of a life free from violence. Safe spaces also help to strengthen peaceful social structures.
CPS promotes peace education to help break down negative stereotypes and prejudices within the divided Palestinian society. Joint activities within and outside refugee camps give Palestinian children and youth an opportunity to interact and exchange perspectives. In various trainings and workshops, they learn about non-violent strategies which they can use in their daily lives. These activities bridge the fragmented communities and enable them to connect.
The long-term cooperation between the CPS and its partner organisations has initiated many exchange opportunities such as concerts and music festivals for youth from different refugee camps, cities and villages.
Regular joint sports activities kept the participants positively creative and reduce frustration. For instance, children and young people have been learning the non-violent martial art of Aikido since early 2015. Aikido shows them ways in which they can deal with experiences of extreme violence and channel their aggression. Climbing and parkour sessions have been offered since 2018, giving youth the opportunity to overcome physical and emotional barriers and thereby experience a sense of self-efficacy and build self-confidence.
Music production, specifically rap, educational art and cultural activities such as creative writing and dance enabled children and young people to discover their emotions and express them creatively. Media for social change, learning photography and storytelling shifts the focus from the personal to the social, from the individual to the community. By using media tools, participants achieved an active and durable information exchange about their communities and were strengthened to voice their perspective and present their success stories.
These innovative, new ways for non-violent interaction helped to counteract the political, social and geographical fragmentation of Palestinian society, while also empowering youth and children to non-violently deal with conflicts around them, making them role models for non-violent cooperative interaction in their communities.