On behalf of Tour Lévnon -
SMU, the Syriac Maronite Union, allow me to express my gratitude to each
one of you. Thank you to all those who travelled a long way to be here
with us today. Thank you to those who worked hard to make this event
happen, and thank you to each and every friend who came to support us
and encourage us, and for believing in our cause, the cause of the
Christians of Lebanon and the Middle East.
Today we are launching Tour
Levnon: the Syriac Maronite Union. As our friend and founder Henry (will
explain to us in a while), the SMU was born as a result of the union of
many groups, individuals and organizations all working for the same
purpose and beliefs. Some of us are teaching Syriac language, others are
spreading Syriac culture and history, while others founded the Aramean
center for research and reviving Syriac. But all of us are aware of the
importance of language as the nucleus of all. This is the starting point
and the most solid expression of identity.
Today, Lebanon is in
danger, Maronites are in danger, Christianity in the Middle East is in
danger since it was denied its own true identity. By losing our
language, we lost our culture, our heritage, history and awareness; the
awareness of being part of this land that is also part of us. We became
foreigners in our historical land. Our people started emigrating from
countries to which they could not identify anymore.
To save Christianity in
that part of the world, the region where it was born, it is necessary,
there is no doubt, to provide help and assistance in the fields of
security and economy. But these very important elements for survival are
still somehow secondary. Because the main issue here remains the ability
to exist as free human beings and to practice this full existence in
everyday life. The ability to transmit our culture and heritage from
generation to generation is what will make us hold on to our country.
In fact, we can find
security and economical wealth in Western countries, but we will never
find there the expression and traces of our heritage and identity. So
what if this heritage and identity where already lost in the land of our
forefathers? In that case why should we stay?
No wonder, the empires that
invaded us did everything in their power to choke our language and push
it to the grave. As Bat Yeor wrote in her book on Dhimmitude, about the
last days of the Ottoman Empire; she says: at that time Serbs,
Armenians, Hebrews and Greeks started working on reviving their dying
languages. And from there, and only from there, were they able to
rebuild their nations.
Unlike them, the Syriacs
(especially the Maronites) did nothing to revive their language and
identity. Instead, they even gave their best to others language, culture
and literature. The result, says Bat Yeor, was amazing and as wonderful
and beautiful as the last swansong. The song the swan offers just before
So let us today correct
this historical mistake. Let us sing, compose and create in our own
language. The swan of Middle Eastern Christianity will not die. We owe
this to our forefathers, Martyrs and Saints.
We owe this to you and to
the Western World. We owe this to every people or society that is in
danger today somewhere around the world. Because we are fighting for our
rights and for the Truth. And in that matter, we happen to be at the
forefront of democracy, freedom and human rights.
Allow me here to mention
the great Charles Malik (President and Chair of the United Nations
Commission on Human Rights 1952) (responsible for the drafting and
adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948) wrote in
his two letters to the Maronites:
“Who is more worthy then
the Maronites to respect, honor, admire, study and perpetuate the Syriac-Aramaic
language? It has been given to them. It is living in their quintessence.
They –not others- are primarily accountable for it, and not only to
study it historically, theoretically, and with the same curiosity as
Europeans and Westerners. They are accountable for it; thus, tying them
both culturally and spiritually to remaining elements of the Eastern
civilization and living Diaspora around the world”.
This shows us that reviving
Syriac is not a way back to the past. It is our future and our strongest
link to our Diaspora and to the world.
And Charles Malik insists
and goes on in his two letters to the Maronites. He says:
“Language is the most
significant phenomenon of civilizations, because it is life in its
deepest meanings… Why have the Maronites preserved their Aramaic
heritage? Was it preserved simply by coincidence? …
“The believer is not
satisfied with any of these explanations. He lives in the presence of
something real beyond nature and the mind, something that rejects
coincidences in principle and practice. At least the believer wonders:
does not Providence have a hand in this matter?
“If God existed and His
Providence concerning everything in existence, also existed, including
beyond and above all Man and his destiny, is it not possible and even
expected that the survival of the Maronites and their ancient Syriac-Aramaic
heritage has an eternal purpose especially in these special times and in
this special region…?”
We are talking here about
the reason or purpose of existence, or what we would call the “raison
d’être” of the Maronites, and their existence on the eastern shore of
So, dear friends, our
struggle to revive our Syriac language is a battle for survival and
existence. Because we insist on staying, living and flourishing in our
land. Yet, this mission is not directed against anyone. As much as we
want our neighbors to accept us as we are, we also need to, and have to,
respect them as well as their culture.
Strengthening our identity
is in no means a way of isolating ourselves from our surrounding and
environment. On the contrary, it should be the starting point from which
we will approach the Other and get to know each other’s in full honesty
away from all sorts of hypocrisy. Strengthening our identity is our
cause and faith that we will always accomplish with true love to our
people, for sure, but also and above all, to our neighbors, because this
is the true value of Christianity.
Ladies and gentleman, we
promise you to never stop this combat until we succeed. We promise not
to count on anyone else, on any existing political party in Lebanon or
on any local organization or association. We will collaborate with them
but we will never count on them. With the help of Philos Project and all
of you, the SMU will provide by itself all the necessary means to
accomplish its mission by fully collaborating with the people and the
Church. It will always be independent and able to say what others cannot
denounce because of their local and regional ties and engagements.
Today, our action is
already taking place on all levels. We are providing Syriac language
courses, we are spreading our knowledge on social media (Facebook,
Instagram, Twitter…) We are giving conferences and interviews on several
TV channels. We are using our Diaspora all over the world because this
Diaspora is our power; and to demonstrate this fact, we are launching
the SMU from here in New York.
The SMU will continue in
publishing books and articles the way it did in the past. We will
continue in teaching and giving interviews and conferences in schools,
churches, universities etc... We even started providing help to
Christian families in need all over Lebanon. We will continue in
extending and in expanding our network of friends, allies and supporters
in the West beyond our Diaspora to reach all Westerners who believe in
our common cause.
We believe in Lebanon. We
believe Lebanon has to regain its natural place and close ties with the
West. It is, and should always be, a predominantly Mediterranean country
attached to its Judeo-Christian roots, culture and values. We believe in
our people in Lebanon, in our Diaspora, and especially in you (Americans
and other Westerners) and in your devotion and faith. You are our power.
Thank you for being here.
Thank you for your support.