Sajil, Ma Tajil/ Sandra Kaltoum

Every year, many migrants return to Lebanon to celebrate life with their families abroad and rejoice again in the culture and vibrant hospitality that the Lebanese spirit encapsulates. My recent trip to Lebanon reinforced my love for the country that has influenced my values and contributed to my understanding of culture. However, on this trip more than others, I was also alerted to the controversies that have plagued Lebanon’s past and create fear about Lebanon’s future. 
My recent trip was supported by the Maronite Foundation in the World. The trip was organised in honour of the late Mr Antoine Choueiry and was overseen by the trip’s patroness Mrs Rose Choueiry. The Maronite Foundation has adopted a mission of service to the Lebanese communities. Their objective is fulfilled by programs aimed at ensuring that those that migrate from Lebanon do not forget their mother country. A continued connection between Lebanon and its diaspora is encouraged by ensuring that migrants register for Lebanese citizenship. Registering in Lebanon enables effective political, social and economic successes to continue in Lebanon with the assistance of Lebanon’s global citizens. 
Twelve youth from Australia, chosen by the Maronite Foundation, were given the opportunity to travel to Lebanon to reconnect with their Lebanese heritage, enjoy and appreciate the beauty of Lebanon and truly understand the importance for Lebanon of our continuing connection with it. We were joined by a further 52 Maronite young people from 19 different countries. For two weeks we toured Lebanon and formed strong bonds between each other and the mother country. 
Upon arriving, we were informed that the first day of the tour, which had originally included a trip to Zahle and Baalbeck, had been rearranged. Due to political instability, we were to visit Tannourine for the day instead. I found this news very confronting. ISIS had come into Lebanon and the Lebanese army were employing great efforts to ensure the safety of the Lebanese people. This event, which occurred so soon after our arrival, opened my eyes to the continuing political struggles that Lebanon faces; struggles that are perhaps exacerbated because Lebanon is one of the few Middle Eastern countries with a high Christian population. This set an interesting tone for the rest of our trip. It reminded us that Lebanon is in need of foreign assistance. I also observed theincreasing apathy of the Lebanese people in the face of turmoil, as a response to the growing political tensions both within and surrounding Lebanon. 
Our trip consisted of very beautiful travels around the country. No expense was spared to ensure we were truly immersed in a once in a lifetime cultural experience. We visited so many places includingTannourine, Kfifan, Batroun, Beirut, Jeita, Harissa, Faraya, Chouf, Jezzine, Annaya, Diman, Becharre, the Qadisha Valley and Byblos. Each place stirred in us feelings of both religious affinity and cultural attachment. 
There was also an educative element to the trip. We were privileged to hear from a wide array of respected and highly knowledgeable speakers, all of whom expressed their passion for Lebanon and the role that the diaspora can play in shaping Lebanon’s future. The ideas that resonated most with me came from Mr Michel Edde, Mr Samir Brikho, Mr Pierre Choueiry, Mr Marcel Ghanem, Mr Michel Mouawad and Mr Laurent Aoun.
 Mr Michel Edde, previous Lebanese Minister and founder of the Maronite Foundation, spoke of the challenges Lebanon faces as a result of its position in the Middle East. The discussion shed light on Lebanon’s historical context and the current geographic influences that subtly affect Lebanon’s policy and development.
 Mr Samir Brikho, CEO of AMEC, discussed the natural resources that Lebanon is yet to take full economic benefit of. I was particularly intrigued to learn that Mr Brikho did not believe Lebanon should fully utilise its natural resources at present, as the political climate in Lebanon was too shaky and profits from the natural oil and gas may end up in the wrong hands.
 Mr Pierre Choueiry, the late Antoine Choueiry’s son, spoke about the legacy that his father had left behind and the empire that his entrepreneurship, love of Lebanon and dedication built.
Mr Marcel Ghanem spoke about the Arab Spring and consensual democracy.
Mr Michel Mouawad spoke about the current political climate in Lebanon and the various incidences throughout history that have influenced this climate.
Mr Laurent Aoun spoke about the contribution that many members of the diaspora make to the Lebanese economy. He commented that Lebanon’s economy is helped substantially by the money that migrants inject back into the nation. Laurent lamented that, although this money did assist many in Lebanon, the wealth we contribute does not have a lasting effect because it is not invested. He suggested that the money should be invested in Lebanese projects, particularly in the villages, to create jobs and generate a sustainable and continuous income for Lebanese residents. 
All the speakers had very inspiring and unique ideas.
On our trip we also had the privilege of being addressed by the Maronite Patriarch, Mar Bechara Boutros Al Rai, who further emphasised the necessity for the diaspora to register in Lebanon and the role that youth should play in the Maronite Foundation’s mission. 
The trip was truly an unforgettable experience. I would like to thank Professor Fadia  Ghossayn, the President of the Maronite Foundation in Australia and Mrs Hiam Boustani, Director of the Maronite Foundation in Lebanon, for their efforts and hard work in ensuring the project’s success. I would also like to thank Father Hady Mahfouz and Father Fadi Kmeidwho hosted us while we stayed at the University in Kaslik (USEK). 
On my last trip to Lebanon I was reminded of all the reasons I love Lebanon. I was also told that this love should manifest itself in a greater interest in Lebanon’s political, economic and social affairs. For that reason I have registered in Lebanon. Sajil Ma Tajil. 



Post a Comment