Recognizing the Lebanese aboard the Titanic
They have gone, and the world commemorates the disaster without mentioning them. 125 Lebanese emigrants lost their lives and 29 survived the sinking of the “unsinkable” boat. They are the men and women of the historical land of Lebanon, who would be remembered as heroes of the Titanic disaster.
Each life saved contains a lesson for humanity; survivors needed strength to move on with their lives after such a tragedy. For them, it was a night to forget and not to be remembered.
Not too many knew about Lebanese and the Titanic, not too many took any interest, but when the wreck was found in 1985, the “unsinkable” spirit of the Titanic surfaced.
In James Cameron Movie 1997-1998, the words “Yalla, Yalla” awakened the Titanic story in Lebanon and the Lebanese Diaspora. Questions arose: How many Lebanese were on board? How many survived? How exactly did they die? Where exactly did they come from?
Who jumped in the water to save themselves and who stayed in the boat?
Stories start to be found that make anyone feel the pain and the anguish, the heartache; stories that even after over a century still feel fresh and “wets the eyes”.
And why did the Lebanese Republic never pay tribute to these emigrants?
Other existing examples of recognition for the Titanic disaster:
USA: Senator John Kerry introduced a Federal Law, passed by Congress in 2012 aimed at creating an international agreement to transform the shipwreck into an International Maritime Memorial.
UNESCO: The Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage was adopted by the UNESCO General Conference on 2 November 2001, 15 April 2012 marks the moment when the Titanic wreckage will be protected under the convention.
We are part of the International Maritime Memorial, and the underwater cultural heritage through the sacrifice of 125 Lebanese emigrants…
British Columbia, Canada. I presented a proposal to the British Columbia Council of WLCU, for the necessity to create an International Committee to recognize the Lebanese abroad the titanic and to learn their stories, to recognize them as Lebanese nationals, and to commemorate their memory. With the cooperation of Dr Guita Hourani, director of the Lebanese Emigration Research Centre (Notre Dame University Beirut) and Mr Guy Jones (Younes) the head of the Irish-Lebanese Cultural foundation, The “International Lebanese Titanic Committee” was founded with the following objectives:
- Collect as much information as possible on them and their descendants;
- Correct their names without the Anglicization or phonetic approximation that shrouded their true identity for a century;
- Ascertain their Lebanese-ness;
- Add material to the already established collection on the Lebanese aboard the Titanic at the Lebanon and Migration Museum of the Lebanese Emigration Research Centre at Notre Dame University in Lebanon.
- Create a webpage that is dedicated to the memory of the Lebanese aboard the Titanic to share our findings and to encourage the Lebanese diaspora to contribute to this effort.
- Commemorate annually the Lebanese who perished with the Titanic.
- Encourage the municipalities of the villages where these Lebanese originated to erect monuments related to the Titanic.
- Create sculpting and painting contests on the subject.
Today the steering committee members of the International Lebanese Titanic Committee (ILTC) is composed of the following persons (in alphabetical order):
- Mrs. Carla Zarifeh, President Lebanese Canadian Society of British Columbia, Canada
- Dr. Josyann Abisaab, M.D., FACEP, USA
- Dr. Guita Hourani, Director of LERC, Lebanon
- Mr. Guy Jones, Chairman of Irish Lebanese Cultural Foundation, Ireland
- Dr. Nick Kahwaji, DDS, President WLCU–BC council BC, Canada
- Mr Raed Charafeddine, First Vice-Governor of the Banque du Liban, Lebanon
- Mr. Sid Chedrawi, Founder Lebanese-Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Nova Scotia, Canada
Last Activity of the ILTC: Titanic Exhibition at the Lebanese Diaspora Energy 2016 Conference
A joint project between the ILTC, Vestiges D’Orient (art studio in Beirut), and LERC (NDU), under the patronage of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, contributed to a successful painting exhibition at the Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference in May 2016, (Habtour Hotel Beirut) aimed at paying tribute to the brave Lebanese whose courage, hardship, resilience, and determination continue to echo in the current migration from Lebanon.
We thank H.E Gibran Bassil, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants for his support in adopting the exhibition. He also recognized the organizers:
Dr. Nick Kahwaji of WLCU-British Columbia, Canada; Dr. Guita Hourani, Director of Lebanese Emigration Research Centre (LERC), Notre Dame University, Lebanon; and Artist Bernard Renno (founder and owner of Vestiges D’Orient).
And also H.E Minister Gibran Bassil, recognized the Artists:
Bernard Renno, Hussein Joumaa, Hayat Haddad, Rosy Krikorian Hankach, Nathalie Jbeily, Rima Kibbe, Jean Zammar, Ghazi Riman, Ghinwa Radwan, Marie Khoury, Lucie Torkomian, Rita Daccache, Mountaha Chouity Saikali, Adlette Tarraf, Lolita Haroun Abou Samah, Malak Matta, Simone Boulos, Mary Haddad, Sylvie Alam, Akram Bouassi, Lea Waked, Nicolas Skaf, Colette Haddad, Nabil Radwan, Pascale Tarraf, and Joumana Bou Mattar.
Minister Bassil chose one painting (drawn by artist Marie Khoury) to be displayed at the Museum of the Emigrant Village in Batroun.
The rest of the paintings are bequeathed by the artists to the Lebanon and Migration Museum at NDU, and will be on display at NDU as of spring 2017.
The ILTC is grateful to all those who have contributed to the realization of this event.
Today the WLCU British Columbia and the International Lebanese Titanic Committee, with the Lebanese Emigration Research Centre, started the preparation for the celebration of the 105 years of the Titanic in two ways:
First, to inaugurate a Titanic section at the Migration Museum (NDU), during a future celebration that includes a slide show presented by Dr Josyann Abi Saab (Great granddaughter of Gerious Abi Saab, Titanic victim from Thoum).
Second, with the support of the Honorary Consul of Lebanon in Halifax, H.E. Wadih Fares, and the coordination of the President of the Lebanese Chamber of Commerce in Halifax, Mr. Norman Nahas, we hope to be able to plant a Lebanese cedar tree (donated by the WLCU- BC Council) at the Halifax cemetery (Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery or Fairway Lawn Cemetery), and to place a commemorative bronze plaque dedicated to the Lebanese abroad the Titanic who shared the pain but never shared the glory.
Dr. Nick Kahwaji, DDS, Vancouver, 4 Jan 2017 BC Council President of WLCU, Co-Founder of the ILTC