In Lebanon, Scouts learn loyalty – to a political movement

Lebanon's Scout groups do many of the same things that US Scouts do, but they also learn loyalty to political leaders and movements to someday join their ranks.

Sarah Lynch
Young boys at a Scout meeting in Saida, Lebanon.

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Children crept, crawled, and cackled as they took part in games at a recent Scout meeting in Lebanon. “In Scouts, they take us on trips to the snow and to the funfair,” a young boy yelled as he ran to catch his bus. “And we learn that Rafik Hariri is a very good person,” added 10-year-old Myriam Ibrahim as she shaded her eyes from the afternoon sun. She spoke of Lebanon’s late prime minister whose 2005 death sparked a period of political turmoil in a country already deeply divided.

Scouting organizations around the world teach children about unity, service, and country. While they also do so in Lebanon, Scouting groups here perpetuate sectarian divisions under one unified entity.

Myriam belongs to the Future Scouts of Lebanon, one of more than 30 Scout associations in the country. Like others, it has a political affiliation. “Each political party has Scouts because, to continue their party, they need young people to grow up with the spirit of their group,” says Sami Abou Jaoudi, former president of the Lebanese Scouting Federation, which oversees the associations.

He and Scout leader Tony Frangieh joined the Scouts before Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war. Back then, campfires and outdoor excursions attracted adventurous youths. Now some join when they know a group is aligned with a particular organization, Mr. Frangieh says.

Lebanon’s first Scout association was created in 1912, just five years after British Lt. Gen. Robert Baden-Powell gathered boys on an island in England for a week of camping and woodcraft. While the various associations that have been established since then sometimes work together, the children usually meet separately in their politically or religiously affiliated groups. “We try to coordinate together to a point where everyone in Lebanon is No. 1,” Mr. Abou Jaoudi said.

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