The Lebanese empire

Celebrating the diaspora can help the country unite

Earlier this week the Lebanese were struck by the news that only 6,733 members of the country’s estimated 15 million diaspora had registered to vote in the general elections, scheduled to take place this summer.

For many this was a genuine surprise — long had we assumed that those Lebanese outside the country felt close ties to their homeland but were simply waiting for the opportunity to rebuild the country. The thought that the invitation to vote would be snubbed barely crossed our minds.

The government reacted by blaming everyone but themselves, with Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour criticizing the “sluggishness” of the expats. But perhaps the problem is more fundamental – a growing disconnect between Lebanon and its diaspora.

As the years have passed and the country has bounced from crisis to crisis, maybe the country’s sons and daughters have become frustrated with Lebanon. Perhaps they visited the country and no longer felt at home, aliens in the land of their ancestors. Maybe, just maybe, they have given up on Lebanon.

But that does not mean that we should give up on them. The people of Lebanon long ago outgrew the small stretch of land that bears its name. Those in Sao Paulo, Toronto or Boston are no less Lebanese than those in Saida, Tripoli or Beirut.

As we go through 2013, Executive will seek out Lebanon’s merchants all over the world. Whether it be farmers in Latin America, diamond traders in West Africa or financial experts in London and New York – the Lebanese have left lasting impressions across the world, and we intend to show them to you.

Such a process has two aims. Firstly we want to inspire Lebanon’s youth by showing them the successes of their people – how hard work, ingenuity and a sense of adventure have always been the Lebanese toolkit.

Secondly, and more optimistically, we want to start the process of building a Global Lebanon – a community based on the recognition of worldwide success. Then perhaps they will want to vote.