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On November 11, 2023, the World Lebanese Cultural Union (WLCU) convened its 23rd World Congress at the Palais de la Culture in Puteaux, culminating the WLCU World Congress in France. This assembly was marked by a series of speeches, strategic planning sessions, elections and the development of action plans.

The WLCU’s primary mission is to unite individuals of Lebanese descent, expatriates and friends of Lebanon within an organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Lebanese culture and heritage for future generations. The 23rd Congress in Paris, presided by Professor Nabih Chartouni, international president, lawyer and innovator of a new method for learning dialectal Arabic in Mexico, embodied this commitment.

Throughout the congress, the WLCU reiterated its convictions: the younger generation represents the future of the union and connection with Lebanon, both externally and internally. This involves revising and proposing legislation to integrate this new generation, enhancing democracy in various spheres, advancing technical and digital aspects and ensuring Lebanon’s independence amid regional conflicts. This stance relies on the Constitution and military and international resolutions, particularly Resolution 1701, to maintain security and address refugee issues, seeking solutions under international community protection. The WLCU is committed to synergizing the efforts of its residents and expatriates.

The conference began on the first day at the Town Hall of the 16th arrondissement in Paris and was inaugurated by National Council President Younan Nassif. It featured a welcome address by Mayor Jeremy Raddar, who emphasized the fruitful cooperation with the Lebanese community. On November 11, at the Puteaux Town Hall, the public session also included guests from Lebanon. Nassif greeted the attendees and expressed gratitude to Puteaux Mayor Joël Ceccaldi-Reynaud and Deputy Musa Ghanem for hosting the WLCU.

In his opening address, professor and lawyer Nabih Chartouni posed a critical question regarding Lebanon’s future and identity, highlighting the urgent need for Lebanese politicians to prioritize national interests over personal gains. He stressed, “Lebanon is in peril, as is our identity. Our presence and strength are crucial for Lebanon. We must unite and intensify our efforts to serve the entire nation and those proud of their Lebanese identity. We represent not sectarian or internal differences, but the very conscience of the nation.” Appreciation certificates and medallions were distributed by the President, who also presented the Emigrant Statue to Ambassador Shakib Rammal and the Diaspora Statue to Dr. Mai Rihani.

The session focused on reports from various committees, continental reportage, roundtable discussions, administrative, financial, social and national recommendations, as well as potential solutions. The report by Christina Salameh, President of the World Youth Council, garnered significant attention, highlighting diverse activities and meticulous planning. Christina Salameh, expressing her heartfelt emotions, stated, “From my journey, I will retain the strength of the youth, their determination, courage and perseverance, as well as their profound love for Lebanon, which is unyielding. I will keep in my heart the networks I have built and all the extraordinary people I have encountered, who have become family to me. They have shaped me into the person I am today.”

The event was complemented by a rich Lebanese buffet. Attendees shared stories among each other, and discussions were high in emotion.

Following this enthusiastic interlude, the electoral body convened at the conference, in accordance with the fundamental law and statutes, under the administration of General Secretary Fadi Farhat. Acclaimed elections resulted in the appointment of Roger Hani from France as the Global President of the Union and Juan Saliba from Argentina as the Global Vice-President. President Roger Hani then chose Georges Abi Raad from France as the General Secretary, who subsequently selected Christian Nasr from Ghana as the Deputy General Secretary. Suleiman Asmar from Los Angeles was also named the Secretary of the Global Fund. Christina Salameh, President of the World Youth Council, announced the council election results, with Miss Guadalupe Po Nuys Dobos from Argentina winning the presidency and Miss Vantina López Estephan from Colombia being elected as the General Secretary. The Board of Directors also convened, unanimously electing former President Michel al-Duwaihy as President and former General Secretary Fadi Farhat as Vice-President.

Echoing the statement of the Minister of Information, Ziad Makari, President Roger Hani advocated a return to roots, affirming Lebanon’s capacity for independent existence free from external influences. President Roger Hani is known for his humility and approachability, despite his high rank. He is respected for his commitment and responsibility, steadfast in his love for Lebanon, grateful to his predecessors for their support in this project and loyal to his close ones and family: “I would like to express all my gratitude to my wife Rita for her unwavering support throughout my years of commitment to the WLCU. Without her understanding and support, this success would not have been possible.” Subsequently, the newly appointed officials took an oath to adhere to the laws of the WLCU globally, with a vow of accountability to God and society in case of failure.

Participating in the WLCU congress brings each expatriate or resident into deep introspection about their ideological and personal beliefs in a dynamic environment where each individual contributes their part to the collective effort. From leaders to companions, the group mirrored the image of a structured yet familial organization, where each member wholeheartedly works to aid today’s Lebanon while striving for a better future for the country, with fervor and unwavering loyalty.

Marie-Christine Tayah