Remarks, at the Northern Ohio Lebanese American Association (NOLAA), Cleveland, November 2014

November 19, 2014
Gilbert R. Chagoury
Awards & Recognition, Philanthropy
Flag of Lebanon

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.