BEIRUT: A choir of 70 schoolchildren from different municipalities across Beirut’s southern suburbs performed a concert of traditional, Christian, Muslim and classic songs from the Lebanese repertoire at UNESCO Palace Tuesday evening as part of the United Nations Development Program cultural program.
The concert was the culmination of a project intended to bring together children from diverse backgrounds from the municipalities of Shiyyah, Furn al-Shebbak, Hadath and Burj al-Barajneh, and the municipality of Mrayjeh, which took a leading role in the project.
Speaking at the event, UNDP resident representative Robert Watkins said the project, entitled “Singing together, living in harmony,’ was the “fruit of [the UNDP’s] labor” in supporting youth groups and youth centers.
“In a relatively small area that is the most densely populated in Lebanon and hosts more than one third of the entire Lebanese population coming from different sects and backgrounds, [Beirut’s southern suburbs] is a perfect example of living in harmony and coexistence,” he said.
The children, aged between 8 and 13 held 25 practice sessions over the course of a year in preparation for the concert, at which they performed several songs including Christian hymn “Hananak ya Rab al-Akwan,” Muslim muwashah “Talaa al-Badro Alayna” and traditional Lebanese song “Heila ya Wase3” (Oh Wide Sea).
The project, which was funded by the EU, was part of the UNDP’s Art Gold program, one of the aims of which is to focus on the participation of youth as a way for communities to develop.
Marie Helene Kassardjian, the program’s area manager, said the impact of the project went beyond the children in the program.
“[The children] were saying it was the first time they had met children that were Muslim, Christian, that is from this or that area,” she said. “It created friendship between children of different backgrounds, and we know from them that this also transferred to the family.”