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University of Balamand > Administration > Presidency > President Salem > Speech12-01-04

A Speech by




on 12 January 2004

          I take this opportunity to thank His Beatitudes, Patriarch lgnatius IV for honoring me. I thank the Committee in charge of this Ceremony for its extensive efforts, with special thanks to Dean Michel Najjar, Mr. Ali Ahmad, and Ms. Suha Kabbarah for their kind words on my behalf. The Oriental Choir, under the direction of Ms. Gina Matta Razzouk did a great job in the Ceremony with music and songs.

          l am honored, Your Beatitude to wear the medal you awarded me. The importance of the medal stems from the importance of the awarder. Hence, this medal must stand out as occupying a special place. I carry several awards from states in the region. so far I have not worn the insignia of any of them. The insignia of this award, however, I shall wear and never discard. Awards from nations depend on the ups and downs of nations. As for the award of the City of God Antioch the Great, it shall endure for ever.

          lt is a great privilege to hold the Medal of Saints Peter and Paul. The two saints established the Church of Antioch, and carried home there good tidings of Christ to the rest of the world. From the time of Peter and Paul to the present, one hundred and sixty four Patriarchs, have occupied the throne of Antioch. In 1979 Ignatius IV succeeded to the throne. In historical terms he ranks No. I65. In Orthodox lore he is “the Father of Fathers, the Shepherd of Shepherds, the President of Presidents, and the Thirteenth of the Holy Apostles”. For us at Balamand, he is not a number that may be classified, but a pulsating force deep in our hearts. It is enough for us that of all those who sat on the throne of Antioch over the past two thousand years, only one founded a university, and this one is Ignatius IV.

          Our Founder chose Saint Ignatius as his namesake. Ignatius the First was known as Ignatius ''the embroidered by God''. His Beatitude admired in Ignatius his love of God, his passions and his fired for this is what his name means in Greek: airers. Ignatius the First was martyred in Rome. He was thrown to the lions in the Colosseum. The lions tore him to pieces and devoured him. He wanted to be devoured to leave this world and to join the Beloved for whom he longed.

          Martyrdom at the dawn of Church history represented affirmation of the Faith. Martyrdom is the ultimate stand in the face of ultimate truth. To each age its martyrdom. There is a martyrdom in the jaws of lions, a martyrdom in crucifixion, a martyrdom in jail, a martyrdom in exile and a martyrdom in confronting history and molding it. Ignatius IV chose the martyrdom of confronting history (witness). He chose to delve into the Church in order to revitalize it; he chose to live with the people in order to uplift them. He translated Orthodoxy into acts. He translated it into churches, schools, institutions, hospitals, and associations of all kinds. Then he looked far into distant horizontals and founded the University of Balamand.

          The Founder conceived of the University as the gift of Antiochian Orthodoxy to Lebanon, to the Mashriq, and to our emigrants around the Globe. He conceived of it as an instrument of light, of brotherhood, and of love. He wanted it to serve as a catalyst in the rise of a civilization in our region steeped in the spirituality of the Mashriq and open to the science and technology of the West.

          In its Balamandism, the University has a spiritual depth, a historical anchor, and an aesthetic dimension.

          The spiritual emanates from a Monastery that continually pulls us upwards; the anchor is in a church which dates from the times of the Savior, and aesthetics from a hill blessed by nature with a spectacular formation of rock and oak.

          Your Beatitude, we are on this hill and in this University because you are here. Had it not been for you, this hill would not have spoken and its voice would not have echoed from East to West.

          l have written extensively on the University and its philosophy. I forged for it an identity called from the spirit of Lebanon, from the values of the Mashriq, and from the basic principles of Orthodoxy. As Orthodox Arabs we do not view ourselves as majority or minority. Majority does not dazzle us, and minority does not frighten us. We are not defined in numbers. We are in the Mashriq, as Patriarch Ignatius IV says ''a ferment'', an agent of conciliation and creativity.

          I wrote on Lebanese identity and on Arab identity. For me, Lebanon is an integral part of the Arab World. And as an Arab counts it is far more Arab than most of the member states of the Arab League. It is more Arab by virtue of its knowledge of and commitment to the Arabic language, to Arab culture, to Arabic poetry, and to Arab national spirit. Lebanon, however, has indigenous characteristics that distinguish it from its neighbors. These characteristics are Liberty, the symbiotic ties between Church and Mosque, openness towards others, pluralism in language and tradition, and the passionate search for the humane and the humanistic.

          The question is not as is usually phrased - how do we Arabize Lebanon? Rather how do we Lebanize the Arabs, for the urgent need of the Arab World lies in its ability to accept and activate the very characteristics that distinguish Lebanon.

          Our University is Lebanese through and through, and its priority is to enhance Christian-Muslim understanding. We, Christian Arabs and the Muslim Arabs, live in one space, share one history, hold one position, and follow one God. As Antiochian Orthodox Arabs we assume great responsibility in attempting to bridge the widening gap between the Christian West and the Muslim East. As Christian Arabs we are proud of our region and of our place in it. We were here with the Savior and His Disciples. We were in al-Jahiliyyah (The centuries before the rise of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula) with their greatest poets. We were here with lmru’ Al-Qays, Hatim al-Ta’i, al Nabigha al-Dhubyani, and Zuhayr Bin Abi Sulma, We were here with the Arab Prophet in Mecca and Yathrib (later Medinah). We were here with the Arabian tribes as they burst forth from the desert carrying the message of Islam. We were here as conciliators and harmonizers. We were with al-Akhtal in the palaces of the Ummayyad Caliphs in Damascus. We were with Yahia Bin Adiy, with the scientists, the giants of literatures, the doctors and the translators in the palaces of the Abbasid Caliphs in Baghdad.

          We were here at the dawn of the Arab Awakening in the 19th and 20th centuries with Farah Antoun, Girgi Zaydan, Gibran Khalil Gibran, Iliyya Abu Madi, and Mikhail Naimy. We were here dialoguing with our Arab Muslim brethren Muhammad Abdu, Rashid Rida, Qasim Amin, and Taha Hussein. We were here because we are from here. Our position on issues is dictated by our national identity, by our liberationist commitment, and by our responsibility in forging the future of our resign.

          Our University exists in an age where distance has been eliminated and cultures have been brought closer together than ever before. In these early years of the Third Millenium the World is rapidly globalizing. The World has been brought to us through new technologies. lt surrounds us. The news we receive through the radio and TV. Science and technology reach us through books and journals. Information on everything is readily available on the Internet. satellites circling the Earth monitor our every move and probe into every nook and cranny of our lives. This is the way things are. We live in a global world. To process one must first know where he is, and from there plan his future moves.

          Globalization does not threaten us unless we are unprepared to engage it. Indeed, globalization challenges us to delve deeply into our identity to confirm the basic values that are ours, and to truly know ourselves. Only those who know themselves and who are confident in themselves are capable of successfully engaging the global wave that engulfs us. We engaged others most successfully during the Umayyad age, the Abbasid age, and the Andalusian age. And we are attempting now to better engage the new techno-sciencific civilization.

          We prepare our students for the global world and run a program of high international standards. We cooperate with leading universities in Europe and North America. Rarely does a week pass without our welcoming a distinguished professor from these universities. And those who come once, wish to come again and again. They appreciate in us our seriousness, our noble objectives, and our hospitality.

          While we prepare our students for the techno-sciencific age, we are aware that the techno-scientific age, as Henry Bergson put it, is a body without a soul. We never forget that our university was founded by a Patriarch. All learning with us is under God. We hold firm to fundamentals that are not subject to changes in science and technology. We hold to faith, love, humility, values, and to our Eastern rites and traditions.

          I take this opportunity to salute all those who worked with His Beatitude in the founding of the University. I salute His Excellency Dr. George To’me, the first President of the University, 1988-1990. I also salute His Excellency Mr. Ghassan Tueni who served as President from 1990-1993. In December 1993, I undertook my duties at the University. I encapsulated the University as in baptism and it has equally encapsulated me. I gave it my all and it gave me its all. And as presidents must report to the Board of Trustees let me just report briefly. The state of the University is good. Indeed, it is excellent. The academic program is good and is continually improving. The financial situation is solid and the endowment is growing yearly. The Administration is transparent and frugal, The Campus is beautiful and is expected to develop fast. A new, Master Plan, the first of its kind, prepared in consultation with a prominent international firm, will be presented to the Trustees in March.

          When Your Beatitude honors me, you are undoubtedly honoring my entire team. I am one soldier among many. The Vice Presidents, the Deans and Directors, the faculty, the students, the staff and workers, all stand by me in the service of the great objective you set for us. In assessing them, l often quote al-Farazdak:


          These are my people, show me others who may claim to equal them.


          Your Beatitude, we know where we are and where we are heading. Our feet are firm on the ground, our eyes stare far into the sky.

          In the name of this fine gathering, in the name of the Salem family, in the name of my children and their families, my sister and brothers – Milia, Fouad, Antoun, Fawzi, Philip, Kamal, and their families; in the name of my children Lisa, Nina, Adib, and Paul and their families; in the name of my parents - Adib and Lamya; in the name of my beloved wife Phyllis who molded me; in the name of these three who are in Christ in the hope of Resurrection, I thank our Patriarch and wish him many years to come.


Thank you all for your participation.

Long live the Founder

Long live the University of Balamand

Long Live Lebanon


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