The Creation of the Latin American Center for Lebanese Studies
By Sergio jalil
Since my early childhood, following my Dad’s footsteps, I have defended the Lebanese cause, its identity and culture within our own community and exposing it to the non-Lebanese, striving to advance the message and promote our heritage. Early on I understood that to achieve a lasting effect and serious impact, education and proper formation were instrumental to achieve success for the life mission that I imposed on myself.
I dedicated many years of my graduate and post-graduate studies, learning about Lebanon and specializing in Middle Eastern International Politics academically with scientific methodology, but also in the simplest way, by travelling to Lebanon many times, to get to know its people, language, expressions, customs and traditions and to understand its reality.
Throughout the years I established relationships with thousand of Lebanese emigrants and its descendants in different countries of the world, having been connected to the World Lebanese Cultural Union since my childhood through the active participation of my father and later on my own, by the founding of the WLCU YOUTH COMMITTEE and the organization of its first World Congress in Uruguay in 1986, and the second in the Dominican Republic in 1987, and also actively participating in the third (Brasilia 1991) fourth (Mexico 1992) and fifth Congress (Lebanon, 1993)
During 15 years I worked for Bank Audi in New York (one of the largest Lebanese financial institutions) which allowed me to better understand the economic and financial reality of Lebanon and the true influence of foreign investments and the economic participation of the emigrants in the Lebanese life.
I have also had the opportunity to interview and meet personally many of the political, social and religious leaders and personalities from the most diverse parties, groups and organizations and regions of Lebanon , which allowed me to understand their political ideas and psychology, their positions and ideological inclinations.
But more than anything, I met the Lebanese, from all sects and diverse towns, villages and regions, in the most pure expression. Those who emigrated, those who never left Lebanon, some who returned and some who are no longer with us, but left a lasting legacy and clear national identity.
I have not been very active in the WLCU for many years now, however I always stayed in touch with the many friends I have met through the many years in which I worked for the institution.
Lately in the past years since I returned to my home country of Argentina, after living in the US for more than 20 years, I had the opportunity to attend a couple of WLCU conventions and get in touch with many young Lebanese descendants who are active in the local branch. A mixed feeling stoke me, as I witnessed a great enthusiasm amongst the youngsters and discovered a highly organized structure full of energy and with very interesting growth potential, but alarmingly I noticed a grave lack of content, knowledge and clarity about what Lebanon means…I saw them proudly and beautifully dancing dabqe and waving the Lebanese flags…promoting the folklore and traditions… Partying and chanting Lebanese songs…but very few of them understand the meaning of the LEBANESE IDENTITY, and realize what our CAUSE really is about. They ignore the history, the complex political reality and most dangerously, who the enemies of Lebanon really are.
This situation , I not only perceived in Argentina, but also in Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia and many other countries that I visited quite frequently in the past 20 years. It is a regional problem, with grave perspectives for our future as a community.
This is what inspired me to call for the creation of the Latin American Center for Lebanese Studies, linked to the WLCU but independent in its organization, work structure, and functioning.
Why Latin America? Because it is the part of the world with the largest Lebanese emigration, because most of the Lebanese descendants are second, third or even fourth generation, and the links to Lebanon are becoming weaker and softer. There is very little material in Spanish and no easy access to books about Lebanon and research capabilities are limited and not easily available. Latin America is very vulnerable to the ideological penetration of the concept of “Greater Syria” and notions such as the Pan Arab Unionism and Islamic Fundamentalism that are a direct threat to the Lebanese identity, based on a multi-confesional, with religious freedom, multi-cultural, democratic, independent, sovereign and indivisible Lebanon.
Having received overwhelming support from the Latin Council of the WLCU and many personal friends and colleagues, we rapidly organized a meeting in Mexico City which was hosted by the Centro Libanes de Mexico and sponsored by the Latin Region Council of the WLCU. On July 21st, 2013, the CENTRO DE ESTUDIOS LIBANESES PARA AMERICA LATINA (CELIBAL) was founded and begun to function and work on the many activities and tasks that were established during the foundational meeting.
The main objective of the Center is the formation, promotion and education on all matters related to the Lebanese Identity, with an academic perspective and scientific thoroughness. We will produce our own written material, presentations, dissertations and cultural events.
CELIBAL will organize a yearly symposium, about a specific subject and with different speakers during a Continental meeting of the WLCU. The first of its kind will take place on November 9th, 2013 during the World Council and Regional Council meetings in San Jose, Costa Rica, and the subject will be “THE LEBANESE IDENTITY” .The presentations, will be printed and taped and then reproduced and presented throughout Latin America during the following year, until the new Symposium for the next year will be presented and the process will repeat year after year.
CELIBAL will have a base in Buenos Aires, Argentina and a second home in Mexico City for now, with the idea of creating new affiliates and chapters in other countries in the future.
Agreements and partnerships with universities and colleges will be sought and established in order to participate actively in the academic life of the Latin American countries, especially with those institutions that study the Middle East and that include Lebanon in any subject. We strive to be the reference for anyone seeking information and knowledge about Lebanon, its history, heritage and culture throughout our region. The Center will also establish partnership and associations with educational and scientific institutions such as the Centre for Lebanese Studies at Oxford University and Lebanese universities.
The Center will have an Executive Board of Directors composed of experienced and qualified professionals and a Consultative Council formed by personalities of the Lebanese Emigration in Latin America.
The founding and initial members of CELIBAL are: Antonio Trabulse Kaim (Mexico), Daniel Asade (Argentina) Jose Anuar Kuri (Mexico), Juan Jose Nassar (Costa Rica) and Sergio Jalil (Argentina)
I would like to express my gratitude to the Lebanese Heritage for allowing me the opportunity to write this editorial and convey my deep admiration and recognition to the wonderful job and amazing work the WLCU Council of British Columbia is doing for Lebanon and for all the Lebanese worldwide.
Sergio D Jalil – Founding Member of the Latin American Center for Lebanese Studies. Buenos Aires, Argentina