Lebanon deserves better

Caux Peace and Leadership Program (CPLP)

Sara Taleb


Sarah Taleb square

On 4 August 2020, the world was shocked to learn of the explosion which had torn through Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, claiming lives and property. Messages of love were sent to the people of Lebanon from all over the world.

The Caux Peace and Leadership Programme (CPLP) has a strong alumni presence in Lebanon. One of them, Sarah Taleb (ST), was in Beirut at the time of the explosion. She is a producing director, project manager and grant writer who specializes in cultural management. She took part in a virtual discussion with a representative interviewer (RI) from the CPLP.


RI:     As difficult as it is, would you be happy to share with us your initial experience in the aftermath of the explosion in Beirut?

ST:    My friend and I went to sleep elsewhere that night: our home was damaged and we didn’t want to stay there. I was numb for days, all of us were numb. I had to be there for my friend, even though I was still in denial. I kept saying: ‘No, this did not happen’. I felt it was the beginning of the end. I felt sad, and I stood with this sadness, refusing to be lifted up.

The thing that made this explosion different from others in the past wasn’t just how big it was, but what it took with it: a whole city. It was as if our collective memory had just been wiped out. People’s homes reduced to point blank, lives shattered along with the glass. Everyone knew someone who had died or been injured. A couple of days after the blast, we started cleaning houses of the rubble, dirt and shattered glass.

To this day, every time a door slams or when we hear a loud sound, we all jump. Our thoughts take us back to 4 August, when the clocks in Beirut stopped, literally, at around 6:00 pm.


RI:     What was your initial reaction, and that of the people in Beirut?

ST:    Everyone was angry. I was angry. The protests were built around our anger and frustration that our corrupt government could leave that amount of ammonium nitrate unsupervised and cause us to lose lives, homes and our city. During the protests, the army kept throwing tear gas at us: hundreds of people were injured every day.

For three days, I was personally angry at Lebanon. I insulted soldiers while driving, the parking lot concierge because he wouldn’t let me park in my spot, and two men for just looking at me the wrong way. I got to a point where I knew that I needed to walk away from those feelings of anger: my friends and family were worried I might end up in prison for it! I got hung up on my PlayStation for days, playing a video game and shooting at the soldiers. I guess that helped too.


RI:     I have seen your Facebook feed and it shows that you have recently been painting houses?

ST:     I felt I needed to be on the ground. We needed to do this to be able to move forward. It was not about inspiration, but about need. We all saw a huge need and we had to respond to it in one way or another. All Lebanese people found themselves contributing to rebuilding their neighborhoods, helping their injured neighbours or donating. I was painting houses. It gave me a chance to sit together with affected families, share a meal or a beer together and simply talk. It created a fun environment, built new memories – which is what a home is about, more than just bricks, paint and some utensils in the kitchen.


RI:     That is powerful. What are your feelings about Beirut and Lebanon three weeks after the explosion?

ST:    The pain will never go away. The mere fact of existing in Lebanon has become painful. Lebanon deserves better. But meeting families, helping people and knowing that these people care for you and love you genuinely, and vice versa, eases that pain. That’s the reason I’m able to stay here for a few months to come. I also chose to paint homes because it’s a thing I love to do. I find it’s a bonding activity, a symbolic act in itself. I have to admit that if I had not worked so much on my own personal growth, I would never have been strong enough to see people in their pain and suffering, and feel ready to serve and empathize with them.


If you want to be part of an online follow-up conversation with the CPLP alumni on Saturday, 10 October 2020 at 14:00 CEST, you can sign up through this link. You will find the terms and conditions here.

Find out more about the Caux Peace and Leadership Talks here.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.



Featured Story

related stories

CPLP Talks 8 square article 2

Remaking the World: Experiences from Mexico, Germany and Colombia

Discover inspiring initiatives of Caux Peace and Leadership alumni from Mexico, Colombia and Germany....

CPLP Talks 8 Tema

Remaking the World: Experiences from Eswatini and Colombia

The eighth edition of the CPLP Talks recognizes the courage shown by CPLP alumni in responding to the challenges that the world is facing. Below alumni from Eswatini and Colombia describe intiatives t...

Zeindab Dilati

A journey, not a destination

One year after the devastating explosion in Beirut, we meet Zeinab Dilati (also known as Zee) who took part in the Caux Peace and Leadership Programme in 2017, 2018 and 2019 as a participant, practiti...

Valentina CPLP Talks 6

'How do I talk about peace?'

'How do I talk about peace in what feels like the most unequal country in Latin America? How to generate social and sustainable development in a country with an internal war lasting more than 60 years...

Manuela Garay 2021

'I could see that my contribution was meaningful'

Manuela Garay from Canada was part of the Caux Peace and Leadership Programme in 2017 and reflects on the impact her participation has had on her and her perspective on life and other people ever sin...

We love from Packages

We Love From: Making a difference in someone else's life

'I wouldn’t have imagined that with a piece of paper, a pencil and a little bit of your time and effort, you can really make a difference in someone else’s life!' - Georgina Flores and Lorena Mier y T...

All I could think was ‘Am I safe?’

'I wish the world had more safe spaces for women and for men, to work together to build safe communities', says Temantungwa Ndlangamandla in her article about gender and safety and explains how her cu...

Men, Paula Mariane 2019.jpg

A conversation between men around gender and safety

How can we all contribute to building a sense of safety for everyone within our communities? The CPLP Talks team convened a dialogue space where they asked men for their perspective on the topic of ge...


Getting comfortable under my skin

'I now look at myself in the mirror differently. I am slowly getting comfortable under my skin.' - Tinotenda Dean Nyota from Gweru, Zimbabwe, took part in the CPLP in 2018. He is an Economics graduat...

CPLP Charlotte Rémié

The best of both cultures

'I realized that having two cultures is not a burden but a richness and that I am lucky to be able to take the best of both.' - Charlotte Rémié discovered Initiatives of Change through her parents in ...

CL Maria Romero Project Colombia hut

Find your own style of leadership to change the world

'I realized that I could make a difference in the world.’- Find out how Maria set up a library in a remote community in Colombia to fight illiteracy and help children write stories which transmit thei...

Abeda Nasrat CPLP

‘Afghanistan gave me roots, Denmark gave me wings’

Abeda Nasrat came to Denmark as a refugee from Afghanistan at the age of two. She now studies Law at the University of Copenhagen and works as a student assistant at the Danish Institute for Human Ri...

Sebastian Hasse CPLP

Culture, origins and freedom

"Time and again, encounters with people who have different cultural roots from me have challenged and often overwhelmed me. But it is these encounters that have allowed me to keep growing, both in my ...

Harshani Bathwadana Sri Lanka

The courage to offer hope

Harshani Bathwadana from Sri Lanka describes how she found the hope to bring hope through education to thousands of girls. ...

Redempta CPLP Talks 1

Freeing girls to study

"One act of compassion continues to have a great impact on my life." - Redempta Muibu from Nakuru, Kenya, describes how taking part in the Caux Peace and Leadership Programme in 2015 inspired her to s...