Abdullah Jbour

Produced by: Sharq.Org
Part of the Curated Collection: Multi-ethnic and -religious cooperation,
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Interview Location: Jordan
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Abdullah Jbour works with the Citizenship Center in Jordan. Here he speaks about the agenda and aims of the citizenship and diversity management program implemented in 2020:

This is a program dedicated to building the capacities of civil society organizations and youth initiatives. It aims to make the values of citizenship, plurality, and diversity fundamental to all the programs and activities these groups might offer to beneficiaries in their communities. It seeks to achieve three important shifts. First, a cognitive shift from the concept of religious conflict to difference in religious backgrounds. Second, a shift from the concept of coexistence to the concept of living together, which is both a procedural and cultural transition toward plurality. And third, a shift from the concept of the other to recognizing the other’s difference, which is also a transition related to the culture and practices of civil society organizations.

On the importance of participatory work within a pluralistic cooperative project:

Participation with stakeholders is extremely important for the exchange of experience and expertise as well as to be able to evaluate the efforts that have been made. Particularly also because the program works on promoting diversity and coexistence, which consequently requires diverse forms of expertise to represent the map of diversity that is the Arab region.

On the logistics of choosing partners with whom to implement the projects and their roles:

At the Citizenship Center in Jordan we work with youths and with women. These two social groups are the cornerstones of all our various programs. We started working with the UNESCO offices in Paris and Amman because of our interest in citizenship, youth, and combating extremism. We developed training programs related to issues of citizenship and combatting extremism, and afterward we were introduced to the Adyan Foundation, partnering up with them in Lebanon.

He goes on to the issue of the difficulties they faced:

In terms of difficulties related to implementing our partnership with Success House of Yemen or with other institutions, there was nothing of note except for minor logistical difficulties that had to do with time differences in the Maghreb as well as differences in dialects and holidays, which are not the same as those in the Mashreq.

As for the negatives:

A vast number of civil society organizations in the Arab region suffer from “religious illiteracy,” that is, they have no knowledge of those who differ culturally or religiously from them. This throws up obstacles before us sometimes when we’re trying to implement some activities.

In terms of the impact on people’s ways of thinking:

Honestly, from the moment I began work this project I started caring much more about issues of identity and multiple belonging. My experience in both the Maghreb and the Mashreq, as well as with Yemeni youth, fostered my interest in reading analyses on the subjects of Arab identity and multiple belonging. It became clear to me that we have an identity crisis, and that this plays a role in how we deal with the other, whether the other that resembles us or the other who is different to us.

On a personal level, I became closely acquainted with cultures I had no knowledge of before, and I also got to know their particularities. This instilled in me the culture of appreciating difference even more deeply, and it also strengthened all my values related to human dignity. In turn I became more invested in researching and writing about these issues.