On Tuesday, November 7th, at the residence of the Lebanese Ambassador in Washington D.C., over 100 guests gathered for a cultural event to celebrate the author and poet, Kahlil Gibran. This event was a collaboration between Ambassador Carla Jazzar, Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of the Embassy of Lebanon in Washington D.C. and the Kahlil Gibran Chair for Values and Peace, and was crystallized out of a deep love for Lebanon and respect for Gibran and his work.
The theme of the night was Gibran and his dear Lebanon. The event opened with remarks by Ambassador Jazzar, who spoke on the importance of Gibran’s message of peace, cultural interconnectedness, and her appreciation for the arts, specifically music. To Gibran, melodies form a wordless language of the spirit that supports self-reflection and dialogue with others. Gibran's first book in Arabic, Al-Musiqah, published in 1905, was about music.
Ambassador Jazzar concluded her remarks by paying her respects to Professor Emeritus Suheil B. Bushrui, a “beacon of cultures and languages”, in recognition of his outstanding services to world peace and his contributions to both Gibran and Arabic literary studies. The Ambassador dedicated the event at the Lebanese Embassy to his memory.
Director of the Gibran Chair, May Rihani, echoed Ambassador Jazzar’s sentiments on Gibran, adding that “Gibran is international because of his message of the Oneness of Humanity”. “This message”, she said, “resonates with individuals and communities around the world.” Rihani then shared her expert perspective on those disparate elements that influenced Gibran's life, noting that Lebanon, nature, tragedy, women, and the intersection of East and West were among those influences that deeply marked him.
Great figures from the East and the West inspired him and shaped his vision, these include: Nietzsche, William Blake, Tagore, Auguste Rodin, Henri David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ameen Rihani, Ibn Al-Farid, and Abdu'l-Baha. Rihani concluded by stating that due to Gibran’s universal message, the University of Maryland established a Chair in his name. The University holds the only Chair in the world crowned with the name of this universal figure and “Lebanese giant”. The Chair pays homage to Gibran's legacy, and as Rihani notes, it furthers the study of Values and Peace, “two international aspirations so relevant in these turbulent times of the 21st century”.
Featured at the event was Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler, founding president of CARAVAN arts and author of In Search of a Prophet. Rev. Chandler spoke about his book and the journey he ventured through via the all-embracing spirituality of Kahlil Gibran. Rev. Chandler explored how Gibran, an “East-West figure can be a much-needed guide for our time”. He also related peace and harmony to building bridges between creeds of the Middle East and the West.
The presentation was followed by a live performance of Gibran’s poetry put into songs, and performed by two Lebanese-American vocalists-- Cynthia Samaha and Raymond Ghattas. Members of the choir of Our Lady of Lebanon, a Maronite church in Washington D.C., were present to accompany the melodies sung that night. Among those melodies were: Kan Li Bil Amsi (Yesterday, I Had), A’tini Elnay (Give Me the Flute), Lamma El Watan (When the Country), and Ya Bani Oummi (Citizens of My Country), as well as Sakan El Layl (The Silence of the Night) which was inspired by Gibran’s writings. Snippets of the live performances from the event can be viewed at this link.
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