Beatitude,

Mostly Respected Abati,

Excellencies the Holy See Nuncio and all Ambassadors,

Excellencies Members of the Parliament and the Cabinet,

General, Commander of the Armed Forces,

My very dear friends Tom Barrack and Riad Salamé,

Representatives of the Lebanese Diaspora all over the world,

Dear friends,

I would like to welcome you all to the country of your ancestors.

Our people have been in war to keep this piece of land, for nearly their whole history.

First, let me introduce myself:

I am like you, a member of this Diaspora.

The only difference between you and me is that I am from Nigeria, Africa, with its closeness to Lebanon with whom we’ve been always in contact, contrary to the Diaspora that immigrated to the Americas and to Australia.

You heard before me three speakers: My friend Charles Hagge, President of the Maronite Foundation in the World, who was kind enough to dedicate this year’s Academy Final Ceremony to the memory of my late son Ramez. Thank you Dear Charles for this consideration. But I thank you more for what you do to bring back the Diaspora. Charles, I think you are a blessing for Lebanon and for the Maronites.

Then, you heard my brother Tom Barrack who is a leading member of the old Diaspora. Tom has been and will always be a crucial promoter of the Lebanese presence in the world in general and in the United Sates in particular where he has the ear of every influential decision maker.

At last, you heard one of the best Central Banks Governors in the world, Riad Salamé. Riad is part of the new Diaspora because he’s had all his life outside Lebanon, until he was called back to take over the Lebanese Central Bank destiny. Since the day he decided to come back to serve his country, he has been of greatest help to the survival of Lebanon.

Friends,

Our ancestors sailed to discover a new world, they crossed the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean many many years before the Europeans knew how to sail. The Greek Gods and the Roman Gods were actually the original Phoenicians Gods that were transported to those lands where their names have been changed.

There are certain moments when we might wish the present and the future were build by those men of the past who settled everywhere.

The Diaspora has become integrated into every country where it is part of the society; the majority of our Diaspora is indeed a very successful part of that society.

We would love to bring back to Lebanon your knowledge, what you have learned, what you have discovered, what you have become. That’s why we think the Diaspora is the future of Lebanon because it can make Lebanon what it’s always supposed to be: the jewel of the world. It’s God’s land:

Lebanon has been mentioned so many times in the Bible.

Jesus Christ visited it and did his first miracle in Lebanon. Virgin Mary’s father home is located in Lebanon.

Lebanon is one of the oldest countries in the world, yet we are still acting like we were born seventy years ago, simply because of the different occupations by diverse cultures for most of the last two thousand years; we still haven’t learned how to be independent, we still look for neighboring countries or for Europe or America to come and solve our problems for us. This is what us, the Diaspora, would be able to remedy.

You’re in countries that count on themselves, that have industrialized themselves, that have civilized themselves. We don’t have any natural resources, we don’t have mines, we don’t have oil, but we have got the most beautiful and renewable resources in the world: we have beauty, we have a hospitable people, we have mountains, we have the sea, we have snow, we have everything that is necessary for the whole world to come on holidays and spend its money here.

All what we need is to create the necessary infrastructure and the political climate. In every country in the world and in those countries where you’re in, you might have between your families and the people you know someone who had participated in creating those infrastructures.

No country’s public sector can afford doing its infrastructure on its own today because of the high demand on infrastructure. Nothing stops you the Diaspora, us the Diaspora, from coming back to Lebanon in order to invest in the infrastructures that are required: doing hotels, doing tourism, doing small factories, doing technologic industry because one thing no one can deny is the intelligence of the Lebanese. But while a Lebanese is extremely successful internationally, he fails locally to achieve all his potential, simply because he is always counting on someone else.

I dream about the future of our Lebanon, a future in which the Diaspora should become its architect. I want to be proud when I have dreams about our future. Our ancestors’ success must be a foundation of our future success; that’s why today all together, headed by our successful Diaspora, we should take the good decisions about our future.

This is why we need to place our country where it is supposed to be, in the first and best place, in the Mediterranean and in the whole World.

By the way, before I close, I am aware I’m speaking with a group of young boys and girls, but I am speaking to you as ambassadors of the future of our ancestors’ country, to spread this message to your parents and all members of the Diaspora that you know or meet while preparing yourself for the future to fulfill our dreams.

May God help you achieve the future you wish for.

God bless you all.

 

You may watch videos of the event here.

Ronald and I are proud to have contributed to the publishing of the special edition of Historia.fr (December 2016 – January 2017) that describes the history of our beloved country, Lebanon. From the Phoenicians to the here and now, this is a great read. Look for it at your book store or buy a copy online.

historia magazine

Your Majesty, Your Royal Highnesses, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,

I regret being unable to make the trip from Los Angeles to Marrakech to be with you. I had a prior engagement that I was unable to alter.

At times like these, one is expected to express gratitude and humility at receiving this special recognition and sharing it with all of you.  And I am truly grateful and humbled. This is a moment in life when I reflect and discover that there is not enough time to thank all those who have contributed to making my journey such a successful one.

When I left boarding school in Tripoli, north Lebanon to go back to my country of birth Nigeria, I was only 12 years old. I remember praying to God and telling him: “Dear God, use me, guide my life.” I never imagined what the future would hold for me. But I knew there was a vision for my life that was greater than I could imagine.

That dream, that desire, that prayer directed me toward the world of business, civic life and humanitarian purpose.  My dream was to be able to raise a family; the only giver is God, He gave me beyond what I dreamed of in all levels, family, business and my standing in society. For this, I consider it a duty to give back to help others who are less fortunate.  This is not only for me; it is also for my companion, my soul mate, my wife, Rose-Marie.

This is a story of human progress, the hope of each and every one of us. At this moment of particular challenge in the Middle East, human progress must be our collective work. We must all struggle to engage and transform reality as a force for good.

I receive the TAKREEM Lifetime Achievement Award with deep humility. It recognizes that man can face the adversity, cruelty and hardship of our world and succeed.

We are not slaves of our fate. Our actions matter, and can turn history in the direction of justice.

Thank you very much.

Thank you, my friends, for this tremendous honor.

Many years ago, I was asked to address a group of Lebanese leaders. It was among my first public speeches. at that time there WAS GREAT disunity among the Lebanese. I spoke from the heart then, to CONDEMN DISUNITY among the Christians. Much has changed in the years since and much has remained the same. In many ways, we have allowed ourselves to remain hostages to the politics of the past. We can no longer allow ourselves to be trapped by this history.

In the scriptures, Lebanon was called “the white one” by the prophet Jeremiah for its snow. It was a profound tragedy that this white was stained red with blood – even Christians spreading the blood of other Christians.

Even today, we find it difficult to shake free from tragedies in our own history. But we must.

What will future generations think of us, if while our brothers and sisters were being slaughtered we were consumed with fighting amongst ourselves? Enough. We must evolve beyond the politics of past generations, where the interests of Christians have been undermined because of personal interests and of personal agendas. Lebanon’s Christians – in the Middle East and here in the Diaspora – cannot be divided. they must be like the cedars, a symbol of strength, resilience and perseverance.

Brothers and Sisters,

We have many things in common here today, one of which is being part of the Lebanese Diaspora. The Christians still exist in Lebanon today thanks to this Diaspora.

In 1906, during the great famine when our colonial masters thought that hunger will be enough to kill all of us, it was the Brazilian Diaspora that saved our existence.

Today, we face a danger worse than the 1906 famine. Most of our leaders have put their own interests before the interests of the Christian community as whole and are consequently threatening our existence in Lebanon.

It is time for the Diaspora to react. It is time for the diaspora to organize itself and to influence the political decisions affecting the future of the Christians in Lebanon and hopefully of the christians in the whole middle east.

It is time for change. It is time for the new generation to build a new consensus that will keep the christians united no matter what.

Let me make one thing clear. Neither me, nor any member of my family is interested in any kind of political or governmental position in Lebanon. So please, I don’t want to be misunderstood and I don’t want people to think that i am campaigning for any position. I am calling upon the diaspora to take its responsibilities and to act in order to preserve the existence of Christians in lebanon before it is too late.

1906, it was Brazil.

Today, it is the Americas, in particular the United States of America.

I see among our people in this Diaspora many who have achieved successes that go beyond leading a country like Lebanon. We all have families and friends in Lebanon. We have to raise consciousness. they have to make the right choices. They have to make the leaders accountable.

So please take that responsibility on your shoulders, pass it along to your families and friends

Let us achieve unity.

We have always led and we have lost that role simply because our leaders are divided and busy killing and destroying each other.

We believe in democracy, WE believe in freedom.

I am asking you to help in maintaining our freedom and to democratically restore our role.

For us to achieve that, we have got to be united to be able to defend our existence.

Lebanon is a multi-confessional society. We very rarely have a problem selecting a Speaker of the House. We very rarely have a problem selecting a Prime Minister. Yet we are never able to select a President, we allow foreign countries, outside of our borders decide who is going to be our next President.

shame on us: a people that claims to be intelligent and attached to freedom and democracy .

Two months ago, we held in Washington a summit In Defense of Christians that is still an issue and that is still a necessity. This could be an organization that we can gather around, create our unity in the Diaspora, push it into Lebanon because we have the capacity to do it, try to create that unity in Lebanon and work toward saving the existence of Christianity in the Middle East and particularly in Lebanon.

We have a duty to educate every Lebanese irrespective of his religion or confession. our country comes before anything else because it gives us what we believe in: freedom, democracy, the right to practice any religion we want and the right to live the way we want within the law.

So my dear Brothers and Sisters, irrespective of our religion and confession, we all have a duty to save Lebanon.

There is a temptation for us to believe that Christianity is over in the Middle East. This is not so. This will never be so.

Our ancestors have fought for hundreds of years for this not to be so and it is our duty to carry on this heritage.

A man, if he is blessed, may develop many loves over the course of a lifetime. I love the country of my birth, Nigeria. I love the land of my parents’ birth, Lebanon. And I love the nation in which I speak to you now, America. And I have a great love that I know you here share with me – for Christianity and for the Christians of the Middle East.

Thank you.


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Your Holiness, Beatitudes, Eminences, Excellencies, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen, good evening. Thank you for joining us here today. The occasion is marked, of course, by both urgency and sadness following recent events in the Middle East. But it is also an occasion for us to be hopeful, for though our brothers and sisters far away suffer much for their Christian faith, we are in solidarity with them this day. I believe much good will come from this Summit and ask you to carry forward today’s work when this historic gathering has concluded.

We have watched of late as extremists across the world have terrorized the INNOCENT, from my homeland, Nigeria, to the home of my ancestors, Lebanon. In Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, Christianity is attacked in its very birthplace. And the world is silent – silent in the face of terrorism and barbarism. These are the enemies of civilization, the enemies of people of good will in every land and of every creed, the enemies of freedom and human rights. They are the enemies of reason itself. And as Christians, we understand that human reason which naturally condemns violence in a special way: for that faculty of reason was given us by our Creator, as a reflection of His Truth. It is not a coincidence that these extremists, who do violence to order, to justice, and to truth, target those of their neighbors who bear Christ’s name. We are here today to discuss the violence against the followers of Christ in the world – in particular in the Middle East, the descendants of the first Christians who today are targeted for their faith, Christians who have been living in this land centuries before even the arrival of Islam and have been living in peace and harmony. Over the last couple of centuries, a war of Islamist extremism was declared to exterminate the Christians from their land of origin.

As the leader of Al Qaeda says in the video we have seen here tonight, “Our enemy is the cross.” What he added immediately after revealed the truth I speak of here: “Our enemy is the cross and the bearer of the cross is America.” Now, America’s government sometimes might be slow to react. Its people are not. We believe that its people stand not only against the terrorists, but with the Christians of the Middle East.

Our Moslem brothers and sisters in the Middle East fear extremism as much as we do and complain that terrorists have hijacked their religion. That is not enough. They must be aware that if Christians are to be exterminated today, tomorrow it will be their turn. So, they have to take immediate action by helping to stop the flow of funds and arms to those criminals to be able to stop their crimes and expansion.

The West must no longer be reluctant – or, perhaps I should say, ashamed – to protect Christians. Let’s face it: today, Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world and the Christian countries do nothing about it. While scores of churches are burned to the ground in Egypt, the West is silent. While Syrians are crucified and beheaded simply because they are Christian, the West is silent. While the Christians of Iraq are driven from their homes and cling to ancient monasteries in the mountains without food and water, the West is silent.

The Christian is told to turn the other cheek, to endure offense with the humility of Christ. We are taught that this is a Christian virtue. But a Christian has other duties as well. When one sees harm done to the defenseless, to women and children, he must defend them. There is no group more vulnerable and more persecuted today than the Christians of the Middle East.

Tomorrow is September 11. For as long as freedom perseveres, that day will be remembered. On that date in 2001, America was attacked. But the target was the whole civilized and free world, people of all religions, all believers in freedom, all believers in human rights, all believers in civilization, what America represents. That is why America was chosen. This is why I have invited to America the leaders of ancient Christian communities – to come to this center of freedom. To have their voices heard, to rally America’s great people to action in order to save Christianity where Christianity was born. For our brothers and sisters in the Middle East today, the struggle is not merely for freedom, but for survival. America has led before. It can do so again.

Two decades ago, America, a predominantly Christian nation, came to the defense of Muslims in Europe. It did so out of the very best attributes of America, to protect the weak, to promote peace, to stop the eradication of a helpless people in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

America is still a beacon of freedom across the world, and America’s great people must awaken to what is happening in the Middle East. We in this room must break this terrible silence – a silence that only invites more violence. Those who attacked America continue to attack Christians, for they are, in the mind of the extremist, one and the same. This is the evil that we face – together.

Christianity can and must survive in the Middle East. I believe this, and with the Grace of God and the help of all of you here tonight, I make a solemn promise that my colleagues and I will do everything in our power to support the survival of Christianity in its place of birth. I ask you to join me in this great pursuit.

Thank you.


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It was my distinguished honor, on March 31st, 2014, to have been present at the inauguration of the Gilbert and Rose-Marie Chagoury Health Sciences Center.

The inauguration ceremony witnessed the participation of the President of the Republic of Lebanon General Michel Sleiman and the Council of Ministers Tamam Salam were represented by Mr. Nazem Khoury and the Speaker of the House Mr. Nabih Berri was represented by Mrs. Randa Berri. Among those who were also present are my mother, Mrs. Alice Ramez Chagoury, LAU President Dr. Joseph G. Jabbra, Provost Dr. Georges K. Najjar, LAU Executive Officers, Deans and faculty members of the Schools of Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy.

You may learn more about the event here.