Hiwarouna project is an Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue initiative that aims at contributing to cultural and religious pluralism, tolerance and peaceful coexistence in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The project is funded by the European Union. Hiwarouna, Arabic for «Our Dialogue» is a 3-year project that has been implemented in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon by the three partnering organizations; Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue (FDCD), Iraqi al-Amal Association and Danmission. Our intervention logic took into consideration the assumption that any sustainable change in behavior begins with a personal transformation through awareness and understanding which eventually leads to acceptance and promotion of coexistence. Also, interaction between people on a personal level, relationship building and actual collaboration can actively breakdown prejudices, stereotypes and fears. This would create a fertile ground for trust to grow and then peace to be built.
Practically, Hiwarouna project was able to facilitate dialogue within safe spaces, provide capacity and skill-building which led to increased understanding, skills and willingness of leaders and opinion-makers to promote dialogue and peace, preventing and resolving conflicts and facilitating joint initiatives at institutional and local levels. Targeting key high level religious, scholars and community leaders; these people all embody influence, power, and legitimacy across the region either through the institutions they are representing or through their individual status. Hiwarouna also emphasized on establishing peace education in four universities in Iraq through implementation of peace building curriculum and building capacity of teaching academics in the four universities and Islamic sharia college to teach the curriculum in a facilitating and dialogical way, as well as providing access to research grants to generate new knowledge. Hiwarouna helped strengthen the capacity of selected universities, academics and researchers as well as religious institutions and scholars to foster cooperation among academic and educational institutions in Iraq and Lebanon, build bridges among ethnic and religious groups as well as promote interfaith and intercultural understanding through academics, scholars and students. Hiwarouna also targeted youth leaders, activists, journalists and social media influencers from different religious, geographic and political backgrounds. Aiming to address young and motivated leaders who want to build up their local communities and want to shape their own future. This target group gained technical and management capacities in interfaith and intercultural dialogue with a specific emphasis on fighting negative prejudices and preventing and countering violent extremism.
The final beneficiaries, estimated at 25,000, were first and foremost the people directly in touch with and benefitting from the numerous local initiatives facilitated by the project target groups, with or without a small project grant to support them. They were especially people affected by conflict, minorities, youth and women, as the initiatives aimed at easing the life for these vulnerable groups. All the targeted groups have influence downwards through their platforms and followers, and influence horizontally to their peers, as well as upwards through advocacy at policy and government level. They all have the potential and are now equipped to contribute significantly in building new social structures, repairing the affected relationships and preventing a relapse into conflict. The project is at the long-term contributing to cultural and religious pluralism, tolerance and peaceful coexistence in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.