Active since 2007 but formally launched in 2012, Freethought Lebanon is the only humanist organization in the country. Since 2019 it is an Associate of Humanists International. In 2021, Freethought Lebanon aims to expand its staff, strengthen its organizational skills, organize a series of thematic workshops for Lebanese humanists while creating a “Protection Team” to assist humanists at risk in the country.
“Freethought Lebanon” is an initiative that aims to empower freethinkers in Lebanon in order to promote humanism, encourage critical thinking, and disseminate secular values as a solution for intolerance and sectarian violence in Lebanon. Freethought Lebanon’s vision is “Expanded Horizons with Minds Liberated from the Tyranny of Custom”. Soon after becoming an Associate of Humanists International, Freethought Lebanon organized a Café Humaniste in Beirut on the theme “Secularism in Lebanon“, which has been also live streamed on Facebook.
A photo from the Café Humaniste on “Secularism in Lebanon” organized by Freethought Lebanon in December 2019 with the support of Humanists International.
The founders of this initiative have been highly involved in the Lebanese activism scene for more than 10 years, particularly in the struggles related to civil marriage, electoral reform, LGBT rights, abolishing the death penalty, secularism and nonviolence. Freethought Lebanon is entirely volunteer-based and it is active both as an online platform and as a youth entity that organizes events, conferences, gatherings, film screenings, etc. on a regular basis. Through its work, Freethought Lebanon seek to promote:
About the project
Freethought Lebanon carries out an important and necessary work for the progress of the Lebanese society, as testified by the recent series of reports published under the name “Atheists in Lebanon – Human Rights Violations Report“. However, the organization has a promising potential that is, as of yet, unrealized, mainly because of its lack of organizational development and dedicated staff.
In this project Freethought Lebanon proposes an ambitious plan to advance its organizational growth and transform Freethought Lebanon from a group that is currently characterized by informal volunteerism into an institution with well-established internal governance procedures, clear membership guidelines, and increased effectiveness in promoting the humanist mission.
Freethought Lebanon plan to achieve the above through carrying out the three following components.
Organizational development: Freethought Lebanon will dedicate its staff to focus on developing and rolling out internal governance procedures, decision-making processes including internal elections, recruitment processes, membership fees policy, volunteer management processes, clear job descriptions, establishment of committees, etc. The goal of this effort is to truly institutionalize the group and ensure the sustainability of the organization.
Thematic workshops for Lebanese Humanists: The most prominent platform for humanists in Lebanon is a private Facebook group, which currently has 4,000+ members. These members come from different backgrounds and many of them do not possess positive communication skills. As such, there are often fierce online fights between members (many of them have never met in person) over topics that are of no significant importance to the Lebanese context (for ex: debates about issues in Western countries such as what bathrooms trans-women are entitled to use). These fights often boil over to name calling, grievances about political correctness, etc. Effectively, they hinder community building, trust building, and developing common goals for humanists in Lebanon. The goal is to offer Lebanese humanists a series of thematic workshops in order to: build their capacity, skills, and political literacy about humanist causes relative to Lebanon, equip them with the skills of nonviolent communication, and foster community building that will lead to working to achieve common goals. Freethought Lebanon will organize four workshops with the following tentative themes: “nonviolent communication”, “a road map to overcome sectarianism in Lebanese law and society”, “Media training for atheists who want to participate in TV talk shows”, “Activism in Lebanon: Strategies for Change”.
Development of “protection team” to assist humanists at risk in Lebanon: Freethought Lebanon currently plays an important role in assisting humanists at risk in the country, and has coordinated with Humanists International on several cases of humanists at risk. In 2021 Freethought Lebanon plans to expand this role and enhance the effectiveness of the organization in this field. The plan is to develop a hotline dedicated to humanists at risk, following up on cases through a case management specialist, increasing the technical capacity in dealing with humanists at risk, establishing an emergency fund for extreme cases of poverty/eviction/health emergency/abortion/etc. , and developing thorough referral mechanisms to other INGOs that can provide comprehensive care such as shelter and psychological support.