The Lebanese ambassador in Brazil, Fouad El-Khoury, is getting ready to publish a book about his social work in Brazil. "A Hut In Heaven" should be released in Lebanon and in the Arab world between August and September, and then in Brazil too.
Last Friday, March 16, the diplomat handed a copy of the publication, in Arabic, to the president of the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, Antonio Sarkis Jr., during a visit to the organization's offices in the southeastern Brazilian city of São Paulo. The publication has not yet been translated into Portuguese.
"The book is a testimony of life, of my experience as a missionary diplomat, of how I used my position to do God's work and help the poor," the ambassador said. In a section of the book, the ambassador writes about his devotion to the Virgin Mary.
El-Khoury founded five charity homes in Brazil, in the states of Piauí (Northeast), Maranhão (North), Pará (North) and Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais, both in the Southeast.
They are called "Virgin of the Poor Houses" and cater to impoverished people through actions such as distribution of food parcels, soups and meals at the price of 1 real (US$ 0.48). There is also a home in Lebanon.
Proceeds from the sales of El-Khoury's book will go to these homes. The ambassador plans on establishing one more home, in the northeastern state of Bahia and also to expand his work to other Latin American countries. In addition to the homes, other segments of needy persons, such as lepers, receive help from the diplomat.
He maintains the work using his own resources and donations from other people and groups. El-Khoury has been living in Brazil for ten years. Before being an ambassador, he was the Lebanese consul in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
The visit that the diplomat paid to the Arab Brazilian Chamber headquarters last week was motivated, according to El-Khoury, by friendship, as well as by a desire to strengthen ties between the Lebanese embassy and the Chamber.
"I came here to straighten the ties of friendship between Lebanon, the embassy, and the Chamber, which is doing an extraordinary work for the Arab world, and supporting the Council of Arab Ambassadors," El-Khoury said.
The ambassador calls attention to the fact that the relationship between his country and Brazil is unique. Brazil is home to eight million Lebanese and descendents, whereas Lebanon has four million inhabitants.
That is why El-Khoury believes that relations between the two countries could be much more wide-ranging. One of the ambassador's dreams is to be able to mobilize all Lebanese immigrants and their descendents who have important jobs in Brazil in order to straighten the ties between the two countries.
"The Lebanese have important positions in every field in Brazil, in medicine, tourism, industry, and as intellectuals. This country gave many opportunities to the Lebanese," he said.
According to El-Khoury, the relations between Lebanon and Brazil have already grown since the Summit of South American-Arab Countries, which took place in May 2005, in the Brazilian capital Brasília, and since the visit of president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to the Arab country in December 2003.
"Exports and imports have improved," the ambassador said. Nevertheless, according to El-Khoury, distance and transportation costs are still obstacles to the growth of trade and of reciprocal investments.
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