Bonn, Germany—A German husband and wife who have made their home in Lebanon shared their insights on that country with a Bonn audience.
Thomas Schellen, who works as a business journalist specializing in the Middle East, and his wife, Hermine, who does volunteer work with Syrian refugees, each gave a talk at the UPF Peace Embassy on August 7, 2016.
Thomas Schellen highlighted the political, economic and social conditions in Lebanon. He gave many insights into how political and social institutions function. With unvarnished words he spoke of the factors that complicate or hinder a lasting peace in the region.
He also discussed events in Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Iran, the Arab world and Israel, as well as the interests and influences of the United States or Russia.
Peace cannot be ordered nor enforced "from the outside," Mr. Schellen said. The people of the region must be empowered to seek reconciliation and to take the needed steps toward peace.
Before starting her report about UPF’s work with Syrian refugees in the city of Sidon, Hermine Schellen gave a declaration of love to the Lebanese people, whom she said she has learned to love deeply despite many challenging situations.
Three years ago, the Universal Peace Federation, which is officially registered and recognized in Lebanon, initiated aid for Syrian refugees in a camp in Sidon, south of Beirut. University students were recruited to help, as were some businesspeople, local politicians and volunteers.
UPF places particular emphasis on ensuring the dignity of people, encouraging and empowering them to be in charge of their lives. Providing them with only economic goods is not enough, Mrs. Schellen said.
With the help of donations from South Korea and Germany, through the International Relief Friendship Foundation (IRFF, www.irff.de), an affiliated organization, a small school was established for refugee children, giving them access to vital education which the authorities had not provided before.
UPF is also planning to bring about improvements to the refugees’ access to water and electricity. Refugee relief in countries neighboring Syria can be more effective and less costly than aid to refugees in far distant places, Mrs. Schellen said.
Donations collected at the Schellens’ lecture program will be used to hold a peace celebration in the Syrian refugee camp as part of the 2016 International Day of Peace of the UN in September.
Numerous questions from the audience and their comments, ideas and suggestions showed that solving the refugee crisis is at the heart of many people in Germany.