In Lebanon’s Shatila refugee camp, Syrian and Palestinian children are learning to express their feelings in group therapy. Counselors say that after years of witnessing the brutalities of war and violent conflicts in their home countries, many of the children are left with lingering psychological issues. “These kids have been through a lot. They’re traumatized in many different ways,” says Elio Gharios, one of the group’s counselors. “They’re agitated, maybe introverted, aggressive at times.”
Children between the ages of seven and fourteen attend classes called “peace education.” Each class starts with the children deciding on rules for how they can and cannot treat each other. “They need to know that finding peaceful ways to resolve conflicts is a very important matter,” comments Mr. Gharios. “They are reminded every time that violence is not the solution, it’s not the way…. Many have witnessed things where someone would hold a gun against someone else’s head.”
“We don’t hit each other. We don’t say bad things about each other. Boys don’t hit girls,” says 11-year-old Hala who fled Syria with her family and is now living in the refugee camp. She said that her favorite part of class is “playback,” where each child tells a story or describes a situation that is bothering them and other children act it out.
According to Reuters, “Lebanon is home to more than one-million Syrian refugees, half of them are children. In 1949, it opened the Shatila camp in Beirut to host Palestinian refugees fleeing Israel’s founding in 1948. As a new wave of Syrian refugees joined the ranks of the displaced, Shatila has grown…”