Written by Katia Chamoun
Translated by Rana Hajj
"Who doesn't have a Lebanese friend should go and look for one," this is a famous quote in Latin American countries uttered by former Mexican President, Adolfo Lopez Mateos. This quote has long portrayed the distinctive status enjoyed by the Lebanese in those countries.
It is the vibrant Lebanese people who refused to kill their dreams and succumb to war, famine, and persecution. They refused to submit to the reality of the destructive war, but went and explored God's spacious lands where they planted success wherever they went. There they built houses and families but kept dreaming of returning to their homeland.
A hundred years have passed since 1915, the anniversary of the beginning of the Lebanese migration and displacement. What has changed? The causes of migration have not changed, but the means of transport and communication have evolved and facilitated connection with loved ones.
Because the Lebanese immigrants deserve to be placed on top of the Lebanese state's priority and diplomacy, the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry is endeavouring to put this vision into practice, in a number of important steps, in order to strengthen relations between Lebanon and Lebanese expatriates. This effort is being carried out by the ministry under Minister Gebran Bassil's guidance since assuming office back on February 19, 2014.
In a letter addressed to expatriates on the occasion of the "Day of the Lebanese expatriate" back in March, Minister Bassil said, "Our approach concerning the affairs of Lebanese immigrants is based on our conviction in the fact that this Diaspora is Lebanon's energy and treasury. We believe that the establishment of institutional and sustainable bridges between the Lebanese in Lebanon and the Lebanese abroad is a common need and a source of strength for both sides."
Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference
One of the most significant steps undertaken by the Foreign Ministry is organizing the "Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference 2015" for the second year in a row, which will be held in Beirut from the 21st till the 23rd of May, at the Hilton - Habtoor Grand Hotel.
Foreign and Expatriates Minister Gebran Bassil's adviser, Elie Turk, one of the members of the Organizing Committee of the Conference, told the "National News Agency" that the conference "will attract a group of bright Lebanese descendants living abroad, who enjoy a common will to awaken and deepen their ties with their homeland and with each other, and exchange experiences for the benefit of Lebanon."
Touching on the conference's central issues, Turk said, "It will basically focus on a number of issues related to Lebanese expatriates who seek effective means to maintain close ties with their mother country. This event aims to create an opportunity for trade and business. In addition to the national emotional side, the conference is an opportunity to exchange experiences and strengthen relations and explore new possibilities, through the establishment of trade and social links. "
He added: "We want to tell the expatriates that we love them and ask them to think about their homeland through their influence in the countries they reside in, thus help their country and raise its morale. We ask them to get to know each other and work together, and thus, create a distinctive and successful network of Lebanese expatriates who communicate with each other from all over the world in order to expand their business and their influence at the local and international levels."
Turk pointed out that the goal of this event is to "revitalize efforts to promote economic diplomacy in Lebanon, to market Lebanese products abroad and to encourage investment in them, and most importantly the promotion of cultural and social ties with the motherland."
A thousand Lebanese figures of more than fifty countries are expected to participate in the conference. On the first day after the opening session, there will be a first session which tells businessmen successes stories. The second session sheds light on the Ministry's projects.