Conflict is a dynamic, living process that is not only linear in progress, but also in curved and multi-directional lines. In order to understand the history of violent conflict, of wars, we need to grapple with the complexities and evolution of conflict dynamics. 

How does conflict develop? How does conflict escalate into violence? How does it deepen our understanding of the past to understand historical conflict dynamics? 


  • Understand the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) through the evolution of conflict dynamics

Time and Materials

90 mins

  • Flip-chart papers
  • Markers (different colors)

Print Handout 13: Conflict Like Fire Model. Sufficient copies should be printed depending on the number of groups (each group gets one set). Each paper should be cut into five sections according to the five paragraphs and the five names of the stages. After cutting them, shuffle the stages and distribute them to the group.


Warm-up (10 minutes):

We ask the participants to share fire phrases or references that are used to describe conflict (in daily conversations, news bulletins, popular proverbs…), such as “pour fuel on the fire”, “match that lit the fire,” “spark/ignite a conflict”. We ask about the similarities between conflict and fire (positive or negative).


Group Work (15 minutes):

We divide participants into 4 groups, and each group takes the cut out papers from Handout 13: Conflict Like Fire Model. Each group goes through the papers and discusses each stage, its definition and its significance, and they arrange the stages on the wall according to what they consider is the sequence of development, and put a name for each stage.


Group Presentation (10 minutes) 

Together, we go through each stage and the suggested sequence, and give participants space to raise any questions of understanding. 


Group Work (45 minutes): 

We continue with the same groups. Each group projects the model of “conflict like fire” on the Civil War in Lebanon to visually relate the stages of the fire to the stages of the war in a drawing on the flip chart paper and answers the following questions:

  • What are the causes that accumulated as firewood for the fire of the Civil War?
  • What event sparked  the ignition of this fire?
  • What factors fueled the fire? How did this happen?
  • To what extent was the fire put out? What might leave embers still  smoldering under the ashes?
  • To what extent have the root causes of the conflict been extinguished, i.e. resolved ?

Each group posts their drawing  on the wall, and we walk around each of the fires.


Plenary Discussion (15 minutes): 

We facilitate a discussion about what we can learn from using this tool, and how it is different from tools more commonly used by historians?

Guiding Questions:

  • What does this model tell us about conflict in general? 
  • What are your reflections about commonalities and differences between the drawings?
  • How can we link this to multi perspectivity?

Notes and Tips for the Facilitator

  • “Conflict like fire” is a tool that helps with analyzing conflict and identifying the stages of its evolution until its current state. While fire is considered a hazard that could cause destruction and disasters, it also contributes greatly to human civilization. The same applies to conflict. Despite being a cause of massive harm and destruction for humanity, it is also a catalyst for creativity, progress, and human prosperity. 
  • Just as fires have stages that begin before we see them and continue after we believe they are extinguished, preparation for the conflict may take time before it appears in public, and the apparent end of the conflict does not mean that its causes have disappeared, and it may reappear at any moment, when a new spark is available. In light of this, the tool shows conflict interactions and dynamics.
  • This session is related to Chronology.

Sources and Further Reading