The Bus Takes The Podium…

Lebanon has a love-hate relationship with buses. As anyone with a shred of knowledge about Lebanese history realizes, the “bus massacre” (the Ain ar-Rummaneh “incident”) that occurred on April 13, 1975 became the casus belli for the calamitous violence that raged for nearly two decades in what became the Lebanese “civil” war. Clearly, there was nothing civil about that conflict….

The iconic image of that dilapidated Fargo bus is never far from the minds of Lebanese citizens, and since that April day, references to the bus as an omen of good or evil have never ceased. Yet, while any incident likely to degenerate into a violent sectarian or partisan rift is referred to in the Lebanese parlance as a “bus incident,” buses are often used as vehicles by peace activists and civil society organizations.

As part of its effort to broaden its outreach by publicizing its work and reaching out to new sources of documentation (whether physical documents or people willing to share their testimonies), UMAM and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) partnered in 2012 to create a bus-based road show called The Bus Takes the Podium.

Thanks to UNDP, the project began by procuring a suitable bus and configuring it as UMAM’s mobile office. That refurbished bus enabled us to present samples of our collection to citizens in a number of areas within the country. Additionally, we were able to introduce our Memory At Work (www.memoryatwork.org) website and facilitate the collection and exchange of memories.

As part of the overall project, UMAM created a schedule of destinations and activities intended to engage audiences of all ages, especially youths.

During its service, the bus traveled along two primary avenues. The first, an “away route,” was a series of “memory stops” made throughout the country. At each stop, UMAM staff members engaged in cultural activities conducted in partnership with schools, NGOs, municipalities and other salient social bodies. The second was a “home route.” In that case, the bus transported youths to UMAM’s headquarters in Haret Hreik, where they were introduced to many of the same topics that were addressed on the road. Regardless of the avenue taken, however, the activities included components intended to sensitize visitors to UMAM D&R’s efforts to collect, preserve and disseminate documents related to Lebanon’s tortuous history and spur debate over the country’s violent and confusing past.

The final stop made during The Bus Takes the Podium program took place on April 17, 2013 in the village of Mishmesh in the Akkar region located in Lebanon’s far north. Since then, the bus has been waiting patiently to take the podium again….

The Bus Takes The Podium…

MTV news report on the official launch of the “peace bus”
which took place on April 12, 2012 in The Hangar (UMAM D&R).