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Christmas appeal holds out hope to the dispossessed

April 19, 2014 at 9:49 am

Letters: The Independent Christmas Appeal

The Independent’s appeal is to be congratulated. In particular, the article about the young Palestinians and Lebanese who are negotiating a very complicated milieu in Lebanon gives us hope for the future (“Rappers who speak their mind in the name of peace”, 18 December).

Over the past 12 months I have been in Beirut six times working with the Palestinian refugees whose conditions are described so graphically by Katherine Butler, and it is clear that young people there need a voice, an opportunity to express their hopes and aspirations. The refugee camps are stifling in the physical sense, but there is a tremendous amount of creativity just waiting for an outlet.

Earlier this year, the British actor-director David Morrissey led a team of actors holding a five-day drama workshop for Palestinian teenagers from camps across Lebanon. Held at the request of the UN Relief & Works Agency (UNRWA), the workshop saw young people travelling daily (and those who know Beirut’s traffic will know that this is no mean feat) to a school adjacent to Shatila refugee camp in south Beirut. It culminated with a performance in front of family, friends, UNRWA officials and, I’m pleased to say, the British ambassador to Lebanon, Frances Guy.

The students were given free rein to develop their own performance topics and some opted for a fantasy on “If Palestine was free, I’d . . .”; others worked on morality plays. All saw the week as an opportunity to break out of what is a very staid and rigid education system (think Britain in the Fifties and Sixties) and learn in an exciting and vibrant way.

Giving such youngsters a voice, and an opportunity to let that voice be heard, is essential if the anger is to dissipate and their undoubted energy is to be channelled towards positive community and inter-community activities. I hope The Independent’s appeal is a huge success.