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History of the World Lebanese Cultural Union
The World Lebanese Cultural Union was conceived with the purpose of unifying the Lebanese émigré so they can help each other’s abroad and help their mother land. After 50 years of its establishment, there is a review among the membership about what took place over the last 50 years and where did the Union meets its stated goal while it weathering the storm of religious sectarianism that extended its reach from the forefathers land to taint the Lebanese abroad.
Stating the historical fact, the Union was the brain child of Pierre Elgemayyel and he was the first to use the terms Lebanese Abroad instead of the term Émigré in 1945. This term was approved by the Lebanese Cabinet during the presidency of Bisharah Khoury and added the term Lebanese Abroad to the foreign ministry so it became the “foreign ministry and the Lebanese abroad”.
The first convention was held in the City of Zahle in 1945. The second convention was held in the capital, Beirut in 1947 and the third was held in both cities in 1953.
After the success of these convention, the Lebanese government took a serious interest in these activities and worked to create a uniting organization to help the Lebanese abroad around the world. During the 4th convention in Beit Mery, there was a debate around the name of the organization, when someone suggested the “Lebanese Agency” as a name and after a debate, the decision was to call it the “World Lebanese Union”, but the Brazilian wanted a modification to the name so it meets Brazilian regulatory names that requires organization to have an identifiable purpose, so the suggestion was to name it “World Lebanese Cultural Union” and the name was approved.
The organization then applied for a presidential declaration to bless the Union, but the request was met by a strong Christian and Muslim opposition out of fear that the Union influence will disturb the delicate balance between the various religious sects and that was the argument that affected President Bisharah Khoury and held off the declaration. Following Bisharah Khoury presidency, came the presidency of Kamil Shamoun with a turbulent era that ended with popular uprising. That kept the Union declaration in the presidential files waiting to be approved. The next President Fouad Shehab was as by Pierre Elgemayyel who is a minister at this time, for a presidential decree announcing the creation of the University. President Shehab promised to do so and continued to say “Eventhough I firmly believe that the Union will not will not accomplish any of the hopes and far fetched dreams that you are hoping for reason that are known about the Lebanese abroad”, he then continued “And I repeat that even though I know that establishing the Union will not achieve anything, I will decree the establishment of the university just to get rid of your nagging and get some peace in the least.
In the summer of 1961, prime minister Rashid Karami announced the establishment of the university during a popular and governmental event at the UNESCO building. The first president to the organization was Mr. Jorge Traboulsi, a émigré from Mexico, and that was the beginning of the trip for the rest of us.
Mohammed Alaouie, Trustee of the World Lebanese Cultural Union in the State of Michigan and official speaker for the National Union in North America.