|Monday, 20 November 2006|
WORLD LEBANESE CULTURAL UNION
Office of the World President
November 3, 2006
The World Council of the World Lebanese Cultural Union (WLCU) convened on the 27th and 28th of October 2006 in the city of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The meeting was led by the World President, Engineer Anise Garabet (Los Angeles) and was attended by the World Secretary General, Engineer Georges Abi Raad (Paris) and 32 members of the World Council who came from the various continents.
The meeting started with a moment of silence in honor of the martyrs of the Lebanese Army and the innocent victims of the July 2006 war in Lebanon and was followed by the Canadian and Lebanese national anthems.
After a word of welcome by the Vice President of the North America Regional Council, Mr. George Murr (Victoria), the President opened the meeting by reading letters of support from members of the World Council unable to attend. The letters included suggestions on some items on the meeting’s agenda. Letters came from:
President Garabet then spoke about the need of the mother country for the assistance of the Lebanese living abroad and their descendants, especially with the rebuilding effort taking place now following the July 2006 war, asking all to assume their responsibilities and rise to the challenge. Then he spoke about his and the Secretary General’s visit to Johannesburg in June 2006 (where the Lebanese community numbers around 25,000) in what was the first visit ever by a WLCU World President to South Africa. He also spoke about the participation of the WLCU in the TechLeb06 conference held last May at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the United States, to promote Lebanese exports and the Lebanese technology sector, and also the WLCU’s participation in the signing ceremony of the Sister City project between Beirut and Los Angeles.
The President shared with the Council the various activities undertaken by the WLCU and statements released during the recent war in Lebanon, including the Secretary General’s tour in Lebanon and his visits with Lebanese officials, which demonstrated the WLCU’s support for the Lebanese government and for the international resolutions on the conflict.
Secretary General Abi Raad updated the Council on the latest since the previous World Council meeting held in Los Angeles in March 2006 regarding internal organization, noting especially the founding of new WLCU chapters in New Jersey, Burkina Faso, Mali, and South Africa, and the boost to media and public relations through the new WLCU website http://www.wlcu.com/. The Secretary General reported also on the WLCU suggestions brought before the Lebanese committee that studied a new electoral law for Lebanon, especially as they relate to the right of the Lebanese emigrants to participate in Lebanese elections at the Lebanese diplomatic missions throughout the world. The Secretary General concluded by speaking about the campaign launched by the WLCU to fund the project of equipping the Ain Ebel’s hospital as the WLCU’s contribution to rehabilitating South Lebanon.
The meeting was marked by the presence and participation of a delegation from the Ghana National Council composed of Messrs Eid Shadrawi, Bakri Mawass, and Shakib Rammal. Mr. Rammal addressed the Council via live phone conference because he was unable to attend for urgent reasons. The African delegation emphasized the necessity of the WLCU’s independence and the alleviation of all interferences in its affairs by the Directorate of Emigrants at the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, calling at the same time for the unification of the efforts of the Lebanese Diaspora. This gesture was met with enthusiasm by the participants who agreed that further discussions on the subject should take place in future gatherings.
Deputy World Secretary General Dr. Nicholas Kahwaji (Canada) emphasized the necessity of adhering to the WLCU’s laws and regulations, especially the rules of conducting meetings and elections in the chapters. He was followed by Antoine Ghanem, Chairman of the Cultural and Heritage Affairs Committee, Alain Ayache, Youth Coordinator in Montreal who read a report from the President of the World Council for Youth and described the recently launched WLCU contest on Lebanese history intended for Lebanese Youth worldwide. Then it was the World Vice President for Australia and New Zealand’s turn, Mr. Michel Doueihi, followed by Said Yazbek, President of the Europe Regional Council, then Ibrahim Dagher, Regional Secretary General for North America, then Ms. Mara Hanna, President-elect of “WLCU on the Hudson”, the youngest WLCU chapter founded recently in the New York / New Jersey area in the United States. Beshara Beshara, President of Hispanic America Regional Council spoke via live phone conference from Argentina where he was participating in a meeting for the Regional Council and in the annual conference for Youth. Mr. Beshara informed the World Council of a fund raising campaign organized by the WLCU in South America to assist the people of South Lebanon, which has raised $120,000 to date. Ms. Henriette Kassis, representing the Greater Boston Chapter, read a letter on behalf of the chapter’s president David Abichaker and another on behalf of Dr. Alfred Saad, Chairman of the Commission on Internal Communications, and presented Ms. Siham Azouri, President of the Victoria chapter, with a commemorative gift in gratitude for hosting the meeting.
In the evening, a dinner reception hosted by George and Elaine Murr at their residence, brought the participants together with the Canadian Member of Parliament and Federal Minister of Public Safety, Mr. Stockwell Day, who thanked the Lebanese community for its vital role within Canadian society, describing the Lebanese as “enhancers of the world around them wherever they happen to live”. In his speech, the Minister also indicated that the Canadian government had decided to support Lebanon to the tune of $35 million Canadian.
The WLCU World President thanked the Canadian government for its efforts in evacuating tens of thousands of Lebanese-Canadians during the recent war in Lebanon, and symbolized the WLCU’s deep appreciation by presenting the Minister with two commemorative plaques, one for him and the other for the Prime Minister of Canada.
The next day of the Council’s meeting started with a conference call with Antoine Zahra, member of the external affairs committee in the Lebanese Parliament, who spoke on the phone from Los Angeles, which was a stop on his tour to visit the Lebanese communities of the United States and Canada. MP Zahra affirmed that the Diaspora is a treasure for Lebanon and that he urges the Lebanese and their descendants, wherever he meets them abroad, to join the WLCU, which he considers a non-political, non-confessional organization working in the interest of Lebanon. In answering some questions, he affirmed that he is working in support of the independence of the WLCU from the Directorate of Emigrants that, under the pro-Syrian dominant authorities, had turned into a partisan entity intent on doing away with the free Diaspora voice embodied in the WLCU.
The participants then split into working committees to study and report on the various agenda items. Afterward, the coordinators read the recommendations of their respective committees and these recommendations were discussed by the World Council and confirmed unanimously as follows:
1. Urging members of the Lebanese Diaspora to learn the Lebanese spoken language as a way of preserving their identity and culture, emphasizing that the home and the family are the first and most important mediums towards achieving this goal. It was resolved that the WLCU website should be used in that effort.
2. Emphasizing the necessity of organizing annual Lebanese festivals in each Diaspora country.
3. Encouraging the Diaspora to participate effectively in the societal affairs of their adoptive countries.
4. Calling for the participation in commemorating Gebran Khalil Gebran on the 75th anniversary of his departure through cultural events organized by the WLCU at the chapters’ level.
5. Continuing to prepare for the following future projects: Producing a CD on the Lebanese Diaspora, summer camp for the Lebanese Diaspora Youth, and the establishment of the “Emigrant City” in Lebanon.
6. Continuing the campaign for alleviating the interference of the Directorate of Emigrants in the affairs of the WLCU and asserting the WLCU’s status as an International Non-Governmental Organization (INGO). Such effort shall serve as a unifying force for the Diaspora that had been subjected to vicious attacks by the pro-Syrian dominant authorities.
7. Renewing the call for lowering the prices of travel tickets to Lebanon via Middle East Airlines (MEA) as a way of encouraging emigrants to visit Lebanon, especially after the discouraging recent events, and also calling for the opening of additional air routes to serve additional Lebanese emigrant communities by the national airline.
8. Effecting and energizing the role of the World Council for Women.
9. Launching a competition on the history of Lebanon intended for the Lebanese Diaspora Youth (between 18 and 30 years of age) in three languages through the WLCU websitehttp://www.wlcu.com/ through November 12, 2006 with the results announced on the 22nd of the same month on National Independence Day and awards distributed to the top ten winners.
Charitable and Humanitarian Affairs:
10. Launching a fund-raising campaign to assist in the financing of rehabilitating and equipping the Ain Ebel Hospital, which plays an essential role in this border region made ever more evident during the recent war.
11. Seeking scholarship awards from various Diaspora governments and other organizations and re-distributing these awards to qualified students.
12. Supporting all UN resolutions related to Lebanon and taking practical steps towards speedy implementation of these resolutions.
13. Lobbying the various Diaspora governments to support Lebanon’s freedom, independence, and sovereignty. Also, encouraging the Lebanese emigrants to participate in the affairs of their adoptive countries and in their local and national elections.
14. Reaffirming the WLCU support for Lebanon’s freedom, independence, sovereignty, the rule of law, and respect for human rights and democratic practices.
15. Calling on all Lebanese leaders, political parties, and constitutional institutions, especially the Parliament, to recognize the WLCU as an INGO, independent of the Lebanese government, and serving as the umbrella Lebanese Diaspora organization, representative of this Diaspora’s vast resources.
16. Forming a special temporary committee within the WLCU to study in depth the proposed new Lebanese electoral law, especially as it relates to the right of the Lebanese Diaspora to participate in Lebanese elections. Such committee should be charged with defining who should have the right to vote among Lebanese emigrants and their descendants (registered and unregistered), and devising practical steps for the implementation of any recommendations as well as mechanisms for the voting process outside of Lebanon.
17. Forming a special temporary committee to undertake an internal WLCU effort dealing with clarifying the WLCU public message, based on the following: Since some statements have been released recently by certain entities, containing positions not authorized by the WLCU; and since such statements have been endorsed and signed by WLCU members, some of whom with official WLCU posts; and since some of these officials have, on occasion, falsely assumed certain WLCU titles; and since such statements have affected the image of the WLCU negatively and have caused confusion among the general public regarding the WLCU’s message; therefore, the World Council authorizes VP Mr. Michel Doueihi and Deputy Secretary General Dr. Nick Kahwaji to contact the persons concerned and request that they cease and desist making any false representation of the WLCU and to officially declare, in writing, that they shall no longer engage in such conduct. Mr. Doueihi and Dr. Kahwaji shall report on their effort to the World President within 45 days, along with recommended disciplinary action, if necessary.
18. Re-activating the Commission on International Relations and organizing its functions under the following guidelines:
a) The Commission shall have no monopoly on setting the WLCU international relations policies.
b) The Commission shall have a representative from each of the six WLCU regions, named by the respective regional councils.
c) Statements issued by the Commission or activities undertaken by it must, under normal circumstances, be cleared with and approved by the World President and World Secretary General. Under urgent conditions, an approval by either the World President or World Secretary General, even verbal, shall be sought, and in any case, eventually obtained at the earliest opportunity possible.
19. A committee was formed under the chairmanship of John Badr (Canada) to harmonize the WLCU world constitution with the various constitutions of affiliated organizations. The committee shall produce its report within 60 days.
The meeting was concluded by thanking all governments that assisted in the evacuation of their respective nationals from Lebanon during the recent war, especially that most of the evacuees were also Lebanese nationals carrying dual citizenships.
In addition to those who have been mentioned earlier, the following members also attended:
From the United States:
From Europe: Rita Helou (United Kingdom).
On Saturday evening, the Lebanese-Canadian community hosted a dinner in a Victoria restaurant in honor of the conferees who had come from four continents. The dinner celebration, attended by about 100 people, featured speeches by various leaders who called on the community to teach the new generations the Lebanese language and to register new births and marriages at the Lebanese diplomatic missions in order to preserve their Lebanese citizenships. The celebration included a special recognition for Mr. Najib Asfar, the Lebanese businessman who offered accommodations to all attendees coming from outside of Victoria. The WLCU’s 47th anniversary was also celebrated and special cakes decorated with the WLCU emblems were cut. The budding Lebanese-Canadian singer Nadina provided the entertainment, which included some traditional Lebanese songs.
World President of the WLCU World Secretary General
Anise Garabet Georges Abi Raad
Los Angeles Paris
Tel: +1-213-629-9282 Tel/Fax: +33-1-3072-0960