Uruguay received LDI with open arms on August 14, 2014. Dr. Luis de la Fuente Abdala, LERC/LDI Liaison Officer for Uruguay, His Excellency Jorge Jure, former Ambassador of Uruguay to Lebanon, and Ms. Sylvia Gulpio of the Sociedad Libanesa were the main organizers of Dr. Hourani’s visit. Dr. Hourani began her campaign in Uruguay at the Universidad Católica del Uruguay (UCU) where she introduced the LDI to over 70 individuals. Mag. Susana Mangana, Director of the Department of International Negotiation and Integration at the Faculty of Business, UCU, initiated the session with a general introduction to the topic. The event was attended by H. E. Jorge Curi of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Prof. Alberto González Ramagli, representing UCU President Eduardo Casarotti; Prof. Washington Baliero, Director of the Instituto de Derecho International Público of the Universidad de la República; intellectuals; researchers; and members of the public interested in LDI. An important event took place at the Instituto Artigas del Servicio Exterior at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also known as the School of Diplomats, which trains professional diplomats. The meeting with Dr. Hourani was attended by His Excellency the Ambassador of Lebanon to Uruguay Dr. Jorge Jury, several ambassadors and administrators from the institute, and Head of the Maronite Mariamite Mission in Uruguay Fr. Elie Tarabay. The efforts of Ambassador Jury and Dr. Abdala made this successful event possible.

The highlight of the campaign took place at the Uruguayan Parliament where Dr. Abdala organized an official meeting with the Uruguay-Lebanon Friendship Group of the Parliament. Parliamentarians Dr. Pablo Abdala and Dr. Daniel Radío Presta presence was noteworthy, accompanied by aids and administrators. Dr. Hourani presented the LDI, following a welcome speech delivered by MP Abdala,. Both MPs Abdala and Presta welcomed the LDI and pledged to assist in promoting it in parliament and within their circles of influence.

Representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested that Dr. Hourani make herself available for half a day to meet with diplomats, human rights officials, and analysts to discuss the Syrian refugee situation in Lebanon. She welcomed the invitation and shared her extensive knowledge on the subject. She also gave several interviews to various newspapers and newsletters on the topic of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Dr. Hourani gave an interview to El País, one of Uruguay’s most prominent newspapers (published on Saturday August 16th) on the topics of the LDI and the Syrian refugees in Lebanon. It is noteworthy to mention here that Uruguay offered to invite ten Syrian refugee families to settle in the country. The Asociación Libanesa Femenina organized a prestigious tea party to honor Dr. Hourani and her unique mission. The event was attended by the association’s President Nelly Abi Rizk, its board members, Dr. Abdalla, Ms. Fatima Abdul Ghani, President of the World Lebanese Cultural Union (WLCU) in Uruguay, and members of the association. Following a brief overview of the LDI, members began signing the petition with Dr. Abdala.

Dr. Hourani also met with the WLCU President Ms. Abdul Ghani at her office in the Uruguayan Parliament where she works with Parliamentarian Amin Niffouri Banco. Ms. Abdul Ghani signed the petition and fully endorsed the LDI. The campaign continued at a large gathering held at the Lebanese Club in Montevideo, where more than 100 individuals of Lebanese descent attended. Dr. Hourani presented both LDI and the petition, and then responded to various questions in the presence of various presidents of organizations, prominent figures, and members of the public interested in the topic. Following the presentation, presidents of these organizations were called upon to endorse the Initiative by signing a statement of support, and in turn, receive a Certificate of Participation. The event was complemented by a cocktail in a convivial ambiance. Prior to this event, the Lebanese Club organized a lunch with the community in honor of Dr. Hourani.

The visit to Uruguay was a resounding success. The Initiative was well received by both Lebanese-Uruguayans and Uruguayans who agreed that Lebanon is an ideal space for dialogue among civilizations and cultures, and the ideal host for an international center on dialogue. The work that Dr. Hourani launched will be continued by Dr. Abdala, Ms. Gulpio, and many friends of LDI. In fact, the enthusiasm generated during her visit and the hard work of Fr. Antonio Feghali who visited the Lebanese descendents in their villages and encouraged them to sign the petition greatly increased the number of signatories from Uruguay.

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