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Al-Haraka Baraka - Change is a blessing

Mike Thanner joined the Lebanon team as Country Director - Bernhard Hillenkamp left this position. Lucia Ehrler, together with the photographer Omar Sfeir, conducted an interview with and without words.

B + M final
© forumZFD/OmarSfeir

During the handover of position of the Country Director in March 2020, our colleague Lucia Ehrler had the opportunity to ask some questions to the old and the new Country Director of the forumZFD Lebanon office. Replying without words, they were captured by Omar Sfeir. Learn how to recognise them easily and what they have to say about transforming conflicts.

Above you see Mike as Bernhard and Bernhard as Mike.


Bernhard Hillenkamp, Country Director of the Lebanon office from 2015 until 2020



Mike Thanner, Country Director of the Lebanon office from April 2020 onwards


Although a picture is worth a thousand words, Bernhard and Mike also answered some of our questions in a more traditional way.

Bernhard, looking back at the past years in Lebanon, what is the achievement you are most proud of?

That the team at forumZFD Lebanon has established such a creative and innovative work environment: in our office, the work within and between the team(s) and with our partners. 

Mike, which ideas do you already have in mind for the Lebanon programme?

For the team I would say: Let's do more of the things that worked well and continue being creative and inspiring. For me personally I want to provide the environment for synergies within the team.

Bernhard, do you have a secret hint for Mike to get things going more smoothly in the office?

Leave your office door open, be patient and flexible, as time lines change and (not only during the last 6 months but always) unexpected developments challenge plans and your expectations.  

Mike, is there a destination in Lebanon you really want to visit?

There are many more than just one.

Bernhard, which places should one visit to understand Lebanese history better?

To be honest, Mleeta - where "land talks to heaven" - the tourist lankmark of the (islamic) Resistance in Lebanon between Jezzin and Nabatiyeh. Showing how identity of one specific conventional group, in this case, Hizballah, war with and resistance against Israel and its disneyisation is interlinked (which is not specific to Hizballah). The personal approach when you are lead by a (tourist) guide through a concrete landscape with spoils from the battles with the Israeli army, the film about the history of the resistance (leaving out the first General Secretary Shaykh Subhi al Tufayli), the tunnel with the living quarters of fighters, the weapons of Hizballah, used by children and families to take photos, to the museum-like hall, where Israeli weapons, garbage and huge charts with intelligence on the Israeli army are exposed. History between emotions, fetish, fake history and tourism, and again, this is not specific to Hizballah.

Mike, what are you most excited about when thinking of the years to come in Lebanon?

On a personal level I want to make this place a home for us. On a social level I am particularly curious to see how the regenerative forces bring about positive social change.

Bernhard, what will you miss most being back in Germany?

The dynamic atmosphere with the colleagues in our office, besides driving the car in Lebanon, the food, the mountains and the beach (in Sour).

Mike, what have you brought with you to Beirut?

I brought lots of curiosity, openness and family support.


Here a final answer without saying a word:

Bernhard, how is Mike as a person? And Mike, what is Bernhard like?

As we can not celebrate the change in the current situation, we wish both of them all the best for their future.

Change is a blessing - al-Haraka Baraka.


Learn more about the whole Lebanon team here.

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