Khaled Al Bitar
Brief Abstract The role of the Syrian Orthodox Church in the Process of building peace and reaching a new social contract in Syria (Working title)
This project aims to explore different possibilities of peace building in Syria, specially the potential role of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (GOPA), and examine the Patriarchate’s cross-cultural peace-building performance in the past, present concrete contemporary examples of cross-cultural peace efforts in which the GOPA is involved, and to make practical suggestions of how this potential can be used in the peace and reconciliation work in Syria in the (hopefully) near future. The idea is to achieve a durable and sustainable peace on all levels, from the grassroots to the top political level. While the drivers of conflict in Syria must not be underestimated, this research will examine the cross religious efforts which could be performed by the GOPA on the local level, on the intermediate range, and on the top political level, and how this could be accompanied with political efforts, to support the peace process in general. A combined approach will be very important in the Syrian case to avoid the negative experiences we know from other conflicts around the world. The study will investigate some of the more successful recent peace and reconciliation efforts from other crisis areas (such as ….. South Africa … presently Tunisia), looking into the role religious groups played in these processes, and making suggestions of how to implement similar strategies in post-war Syria. This research project will take into consideration the history of the GOPA in Syria; it will discuss the hierarchy of GOPA and its position among other Christian churches in Syria; it will examine this hierarchy and the power relations inside the GOPA itself; and it will look into the relations between GOPA and the Syrian government security institutions, and with the Russian Orthodox Church as well. Additionally, it will take a look at leading and less known Christian political and civil society figures, actors, and movements and assess their achievements during the history of Syria as well as during the current crises. It will also view the role of the GOPA in relation to the social, economic, and political roots of the current Syrian crisis. Moreover, it will cover the role of the GOPA in the issues of building and promoting a healthy political culture, and in generating an atmosphere of mutual political trust between the political actors. The proposed dissertation project will concentrate on the following key questions:
• What role did and can the GOPA in Syria play in the peace-building process in Syria?
• What are the hindering and supporting factors for GOPA to play a positive role in resolving the conflict in Syria?
• How could this role affect the shape of the expected political solution?
• What is or could be the position of the other Christian Churches in the peace-building actors map in Syria?
• How can personality and attitude of individual religious leaders play an active role in producing social cohesion beyond their affiliation with a specific religious group?
Khaled Al Bitar
Tel.: +49 (0)381 498 8462
Was born in 1974 in Syria, studied Economics at Damascus University, and have an MBA from Arab Academy for Science Technology, and Maritime Transport, and worked in the field of Human Resources Management, on 2008 joined UNDP for 5 years as National Project Director for the project of "NGO platform in Syria", to establish a network for developmental NGOs in Syria. From 2011 start working on peace initiatives on both local level, and political level, and then managed a project to establish peace building blocks in different locations and areas in Syria, also worked on establishing the Syrian Network for peace.
In 2013, joined UN-ESCWA as consultant for the project (National Agenda for Future of Syria) and was responsible for the Cross Cutting themes (Human Rights, Civil Society, Gender, Sustainability and Environment). Did many additional trainings and courses that serve political and peace building objectives like: Democratic Development (Stanford University), Global Diplomacy-Diplomacy in the modern world (University of London), Facilitating Dialogue and peace processes (Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA)).