Sarah Shmaitilly - Lebanon


Summer 2010 - Study of the U.S. Institute on Religious Pluralism in the United States

"I was only 19 when I attended SUSI. I was enthusiastic and, like many people at that age, I wanted to change the world! I’m 25 now, and I’ve learned to channel my enthusiasm to more realistic and goal-oriented outcomes. And I can safely say that SUSI had played a role in this, especially with the workshops on leadership and management that I participated in that summer. SUSI inspired me in so many ways and had a great impact on my life. I certainly have a better understanding of others and a greater interest in their traditions. When I returned home I took a few elective courses on Eastern and Western religions. I’m also a better listener, and I’m more empathetic. This helps on all levels."

Sarah returned home to Lebanon after SUSI to finish her studies in psychology and political science at Haigazian University in Beirut. She graduated in 2013 and went on to start, along with her colleague, Kareem Chehayeb, Beirut Syndrome—a self-funded online forum which covers a range of political, cultural and socioeconomic topics in Lebanon, as well as arts and culture. Content ranges from commentary and analytical pieces to feature stories and reviews.

Partly inspired by the dialogue training Sarah received during the DI's SUSI program, Beirut Syndrome now hosts an ongoing series called "Beirut Syndrome Discussions," trying as often as possible to take the online conversation offline, inviting people from different backgrounds to discuss a certain issue within the Lebanese community.

Sarah and Kareem visited the DI in March of 2016 as part of a multi-city, multi-college U.S. tour sharing their work with Beirut Syndrome. They led a discussion at Temple University on Lebanon's uprising, its socio-political impact and the ensuing emergence of grassroots journalism. Click here for details.