LAU lecture explores question: Was Jesus a Phoenician?

(NEW YORK) — The Lebanese American University held a lecture Wednesday exploring evidence compiled by author Karim El Koussa, which suggests Jesus may be a Phoenician, according to his private studies.

The university hosted the Lebanese author at the LAU New York Academic Center, where university officials frequently host public forums and hold Arabic language courses, among others.

El Koussa said 40 people attended the lecture, which included a book signing for his publication “Jesus the Phoenician.” He admits the results of his studies often spark controversy because they contradict conventional beliefs that Jesus was a Jew.

“Some people are used to the traditional way of thinking that was imposed on them throughout their life and are definitely afraid to open their minds to controversial ideas in matter of religion and history,” El Koussa said, referring to points discussed in his book. “They usually react in a very fierce way as if they are threatened, although many of the reference I am using are coming from the New Testament itself.”

El Koussa, who has a degree in communications from NDU, said he spent years researching the origins of Jesus. He said he was inspired by a mentor, Father Youssef Yammine, the author of the Arabic book, “Christ was Born in Lebanon.”

“Many others understand and accept the logic behind the material used in the lecture and find it truly consistent and holding,” he said.

Lebanese author Karim El Koussa signs a copy of his book, "Jesus the Phoenician" at the Lebanese American University New York Academic Center on Sept. 30, 2015. (Photo via Lebanese American University Communications Office)
Lebanese author Karim El Koussa signs a copy of his book, “Jesus the Phoenician” at the Lebanese American University New York Academic Center on Sept. 30, 2015. (Photo via Lebanese American University Communications Office)

The Phoenicians were ancient tradesmen largely credited with creating the first widely used alphabet. Historians believe the Phoenicians were centered on the coastline of modern Lebanon, with some ports reaching the Western Mediterranean.

Some Lebanese historians believe the Lebanese speak a distinct language and have their own culture, separate from that of the surrounding Middle Eastern countries.

El Koussa said he hopes Lebanese nationals consider researching the origins of Jesus, especially readings that point to geographical evidence along the Lebanese coastline.

“Lebanon is one of the oldest countries in the world and is full of history, going back to more than 7,000 years BC,” he said. “Lebanese should be proud of their cultural heritage and should not at all forget that their ancestors played an important role—if not the most important one—in the formation of the human civilization.”

For more information about El-Koussa and his books, visit

LAU to host Model UN conference in New York

(NEW YORK, NY) — The Lebanese American University in New York will host 60 students from 11 different nationalities during a Global Outreach and Leadership Development Conference on July 21.

The nine-day conference brings together aspiring diplomats for a series of Model United Nations educational simulations, which teach students about diplomacy and international relations.

According to LAU officials, participants are high school, undergraduate, and graduate students from Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

A group of scheduled speakers will discuss international relations and diplomacy, including presentations from the Maxwell School Of Citizenship and Public Affairs, National Council on US-Arab Relations, and Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, among others.

“Bringing in experts from reputable universities and professional centers to share their leadership experiences, methodologies and perspectives has undoubtedly enriched the GOLD experience,” said Elie Samia, assistant vice president of university outreach and civic engagement.

"LAU has offered me the best experience: to be part of a global program that introduced me into the world of diplomacy,” said Anwar Tarabay, a student who participated in last year's program. (Photo via Hariri High School II)
“LAU has offered me the best experience: to be part of a global program that introduced me into the world of diplomacy,” said Anwar Tarabay, a student who participated in last year’s program. (Photo via Hariri High School II)

Last year, LAU hosted officials from UNICEF, the World Youth Alliance, and Georgetown University. The students were also given a tour of New York City, including visits to the Financial District, UN headquarters, and Brooklyn Bridge.

70 students participated last year, according to university officials.

“It has made our future as motivated leaders more tangible and real,” said Marianne Azar, a high school student from the 2014 program. “The perspectives from all speakers have been of most prominence as an inauguration for our future.”

The university said the conference aims to “expose students to the work of the UN and to the world of advocacy, empowerment and leadership.”

LAU runs two flagship Model UN programs: the Global Classrooms International High and Middle Schools Model UN Conferences, which have been run by United Nations Association of the United States since 2005.

The university will host a closing ceremony on July 30, expected to be attended by Caroline Ziade, deputy representative of the Permanent Mission of Lebanon to the UN, Dr. Muhammed Baasiri, vice governor of the Lebanese Central Bank, and Joseph Jabbra, LAU president.

LAU runs a satellite campus in New York City and operates under a charter from the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York. The university had more than 8,200 students enrolled in Fall 2014.

Machnouk meets with U.S. officials to discuss regional security concerns

(WASHINGTON, DC) — Lebanese Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk is visiting Washington D.C. this week to meet with U.S. security officials about Lebanon’s ongoing efforts to defeat the Islamic State.

Machnouk has planned meetings with CIA director John Brennan, Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Homeland Security Advisor to President Obama Lisa Monaco, and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.

Machnouk met with Monaco on Tuesday to discuss the U.S.-Lebanon partnership and regional security concerns. The meeting followed a gathering of Lebanese-American lobbyists led by Lebanon’s ambassador to the United States, Antoine Chedid.

Monaco commended the performance of the Internal Security Forces and the Lebanese Armed Forces in safeguarding Lebanon’s security and sovereignty in the midst of ongoing regional challenges.

She also reiterated the need for all Lebanese parties to “implement the policy of dissociation” from the Syrian conflict, in a White House press statement.

Machnouk also met with James Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to The Daily Star. Comey reportedly “praised Lebanon’s January crackdown on the Islamist block of Roumieh prison,” according to the Beirut-based newspaper.

In a statement to the Lebanese National News Agency, Machnouk said U.S. officials had “confirmed (their) readiness to provide (Lebanese Security Forces) and the General Security, all the necessary equipment and training.”

Machnouk’s visit to the United States comes a few weeks after the United States donated $25 million worth of weapons and ammunition to the Lebanese Army.

PHOTOS: NY Consulate Reception for Philippe Aractingi

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(NEW YORK, NY) — The Consulate General of Lebanon in New York hosted a reception welcoming Lebanese filmmaker Philippe Aractingi, who was in New York for the screening of his film “Heritages.”

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Lebanese film director Philip Aractingi visits NY to promote latest film

(NEW YORK, NY) — Lebanese film director Philip Aractingi visited New York this week to premiere his latest film, “Heritages.”

The autobiography film narrates the exile of his own family across four generations and a hundred years of history, according to Aractingi’s website.img-9215-custom2015-01-17-080415

The film was screened at the City University of New York Graduate Center on January 15, followed by a Q&A session with Aractingi.

“People didn’t stop laughing while seeing the film. They laughed and cried,” Aractingi said. “The New York crowd was so light and so responsive. Lebanese and non-Lebanese identify themselves with the film and it’s themes.”

Consul General of Lebanon in New York Majdi Ramadan also hosted a private reception for the Lebanese film director at his home.

Ramadan says this was an opportunity to support the independent film industry in Lebanon.

Aractingi is also the director of several other films, including “Bosta” and “Under the Bombs.”

WATCH the trailer for “HERITAGES”:

Lebanese-American named dean of MIT School of Architecture and Planning

(CAMBRIDGE, MA) — Hashim Sarkis — a prominent scholar of architecture and urbanism, a practicing architect whose works have been built in the United States and the Middle East, and a leading expert on design in the Middle East — has been named the new dean of MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P), effective in January.

Sarkis is currently the Aga Khan Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urbanism in Muslim Societies at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (GSD). He has been on the Harvard faculty since 1998, and has been a full professor since 2002.

For the last dozen years, Sarkis has also served as director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at the GSD. The Aga Khan Program is located jointly at Harvard and MIT, and is a leading program for the study of architecture, urban issues, and visual culture in Islamic societies. He has taught courses and design studios in architecture and urban design that emphasize the importance of design in its cultural context across a broad range of geographic locations.

“As the longtime director of the Aga Khan Program at Harvard, Hashim Sarkis is well-known and widely admired in our School of Architecture and Planning community,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif says. “Through his collaborations at this end of Mass. Ave., he begins this new role with a strong sense of the culture, values, and aspirations of our School of Architecture and Planning and of MIT. In the best MIT tradition, he is a person of bold ideas who likes to test them in the real world of practice. I look forward to working with him to build upon the tremendous progress made by former dean Adele Naude Santos.”

“The energy and forward-looking attitude I have encountered at one of the oldest schools of architecture and planning in the country makes it feel like the youngest,” Sarkis says. “Educators of architects and planners worldwide are emulating the MIT research-based model, and it is a true honor to build on Adele’s legacy and to guide this model forward. MIT at large provides an ideal setting for such an undertaking, especially as it invests in the future of education and in initiatives like energy, environment, and innovation that are at the core of SA+P. It is especially invigorating to see the scientists and engineers reach out to the designers and to see how much they value their contribution to the One Community.”

Cross-disciplinary work

As a scholar and designer, Sarkis has moved across boundaries and disciplines: He has published works on architecture and urbanism in Lebanon, in addition to writing about leading 20th-century modernist architects. His architectural practice, Hashim Sarkis Studios, has won numerous competitions and designed now-completed civic and commercial projects, as well as private houses, from Massachusetts to Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.

Sarkis’ publications include “Circa 1958: Lebanon in the Pictures and Plans of Constantinos Doxiadis” (2003). He has edited or co-edited volumes about several leaders of modernism, including “CASE: Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital” (2001) and “Josep Lluis Sert: The Architect of Urban Design” (2008). Sarkis also co-edited “Projecting Beirut” (1998), about the modern development and more recent reconstruction of Beirut.

Completed or under-construction buildings designed by Hashim Sarkis Studios include the new town hall of Byblos, Lebanon; a housing project in Tyre, Lebanon; a park in downtown Beirut; urban design guidelines for several Middle Eastern cities; and a variety of residential and commercial buildings in the metropolitan Boston area.

Sarkis’ architectural work has been published extensively and has been displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, as well as at Biennale exhibitions in Venice, Rotterdam, and Shenzhen/Hong Kong.

SA+P’s 10th dean

As SA+P’s new permanent dean, Sarkis succeeds Santos, who served from 2004 until this year, announcing in January that she would step down. Santos remains on the faculty as a professor of architecture, and is also a practicing architect.

Architectural historian, critic, and theorist Mark Jarzombek, a professor of the history and theory of architecture, has served as SA+P’s interim dean since July 1. Sarkis will become the 10th permanent dean of the school.

SA+P encompasses five departments, programs, and centers: the Department of Architecture, the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, the MIT Media Lab, the Center for Real Estate, and the Program in Art, Culture, and Technology.

Some 40 percent of the current SA+P faculty has been hired within the past decade; during the same time, graduate applications to many programs have soared. The school has also consolidated and renewed the physical spaces in which its scholars and practitioners work, in part to encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration.

Sarkis received his BArch and BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1987, his MArch from Harvard in 1989, and his PhD in architecture from Harvard in 1995.

Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office

Samar Nader: UN Correspondent

Lebanese-American journalist Samar Nader has worked in many scopes of storytelling over the course of her career. As a broadcast reporter, newspaper publisher, and filmmaker, she has viewed and reported on national and global stories through multiple different lenses.

Born in Lebanon, the New York-based journalist has remained connected with her native Lebanese roots, often traveling to her home country for family visits and international assignments. She travels frequently, and has become fluent in Arabic, English, French, and Spanish.

Today, Nader serves as an official correspondent for United Nations Security Council Meetings and other high-profile UN events, a position she’s held since January 2007. Since 2008, she’s also worked as newspaper reporter for El-Nashra newspaper, and as a TV correspondent for New TV, Al-Jadeed, a 24-hour Pan-Arab station based in the Middle East. She previously worked as an international correspondent for Radio Canada International.

In 2013, Nader owned the copyrights to Al-Mohajer newspaper, an internationally recognized news outlet, and the oldest known newspaper for the Lebanese diaspora. Nader revived the publication more than 100 years after its distribution ended with assistance from the World Lebanese Cultural Union and her colleagues Walid and Frances Mourani. World-renowned philosopher Gibran Khalil Gibran wrote in the newspaper in the early 20th century. Nader admired Gibran’s work and reintroduced the newspaper in honor of her father, who was battling cancer at the time.

Nader highlighted diaspora successes, activities, and social dilemmas, quickly growing the publication as a source of research for the Lebanese Foreign Ministry and its Consulates and Embassies around the globe.

As a lifelong storyteller, Nader prefers to work behind the camera. Growing up in Lebanon, Nader dreamed of becoming a movie producer and director, but her family urged her to enter a profession outside of the arts. Her mother, a retired Arabic literature professor, influenced her career choice and storytelling talents. Nader also credits her grandfather, a city-wide school director, Lebanese poet, and famed English translator, for impacting her career.

Nonetheless, as she matured, Nader returned to her early passions, writing and producing her own film which chronicled historic stories of Lebanese-American emigration. Nader created a docudrama where she interviewed elderly figures, over 100 years old, who narrated their arrival to America and the challenges they faced. The film, called Olympia, is named after Nader’s grandmother, who immigrated to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1920.

In her free time, Nader is an avid volleyball player and swimmer. She also enjoys serving the Lebanese communities as an event organizer and emcee for special ceremonies. She previously hosted the annual Miss Lebanon competition for two years, and more than 20 pageants recognizing women in various Lebanese cities.

Nader is also the founder of three non-governmental organizations, including two in Lebanon, and one part of the United Nations. She launched the UN Arab Ladies Club along with fellow journalist Khawla Nazzal and Her Excellency Saja Majali, Permanent Representative of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the U.N. Geneva. Until now, the organization ahs honored more than 10 Lebanese and Arab poets and writers.

Today, Nader is working to document the stories of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. She has worked on a series of stories, which highlight the plight of refugees in the Lebanese public school system, and human rights violations against women and girls. She is also working with high-profile officials within the church to shed light on the dilemmas of Christians in the Middle East. Nader said these issues have made her emotionally drawn to participate in more advocacy work.

Lebanese-American Muslim to play Jesus in Bill O’Reilly film

(NEW YORK, NY) — Lebanese-American Muslim actor Haaz Sleiman will play Jesus in a new National Geographic Channel film, an adaptation of Bill O’Reilly’s book “Killing Jesus.”

The Lebanese actor will join Kelsey Grammer, Stephen Moyer, Rufus Sewell, Emmanuelle Chriqui and John Rhys Davies in the project, according to The haaz-sleiman---photoHollywood Reporter.

Sleiman, who was born in the United Arab Emirates, was raised in Lebanon and moved to the United States when he was 21 years old. He previously starred in the 2008 indie drama film, “The Visitor,” where he played an undocumented Syrian immigrant.

Most recently, he had a recurring role in USA Network’s Covert Affairs, and in CBS dramas “Person of Interest” and “Reckless.”

“Traditionally Jesus has been played by a white man and I think the fact that this is a Middle-Eastern actor is significant,” Matthew Belloni, executive editor of The Hollywood Reporter, told ABC News.

One blogger called the selection of Sleiman “shocking.”

“I mean, if you were filming a Martin Luther King, Jr., miniseries, you wouldn’t cast Jim Caviezel or Diogo Morgado in the lead role. It’d be ridiculous and racist and insulting,” wrote blogger David Henson.

O’Reilly, who will serve as executive producer of the film, says “Killing Jesus” is a history book about Jesus the man, not the Messiah.

“The film (Killing Jesus) will break new ground in chronicling the life of the most famous human being who ever lived. The superb cast and script reflect much thought and research. Viewers are in for something very different and very special.”

Killing Jesus will premiere globally on the National Geographic Channel in 2015 in 171 countries and 45 languages.

Watch ABC News’ report about O’Reilly’s new film:


PHOTOS: Lebanese American University leaders visit Detroit

(DETROIT, MI) — Lebanese American University (LAU) officials visited Detroit this week to network with local Lebanese-Americans and potential scholarship donors during planned banquets and private gatherings.

LAU Vice President for University Advancement Marla Rice-Evans and LAU Assistant Vice President of Development Robert Hollback visited St. Sharbel Maronite Catholic Church on Friday, touring the church and joining potential donors for a dinner at La Saj Lebanese Bistro.

LAU operates a $20 million scholarship budget, which requires corporate and individual financial contributions and grants.

“Any student who has the credentials should be able to come to the university regardless of their income,” said Robert Hollback, LAU Assistant Vice President of Development.

The Lebanese American University is a private American university and research institution located in Lebanon. The university is chartered by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York.

The university receives financial assistance from the United States government and other educational aid organizations.

In a past news release, the U.S. Embassy in Beirut said LAU gives students a chance “to pursue American-style education that promotes tolerance, gender and social equality and challenges students to develop leadership skills, critical thinking, and initiative.”

According to Rice-Evans, LAU has over 8,200 students in their Beirut and Byblos campuses and around 2,300 graduating students each year.

IMG_2093(Left to Right) Prominent Lebanese-American Attorney Joumana Kayrouz, LAU Vice President for University Advancement Marla Rice-Evans, and Chorbishop Alfred Badawi of Saint Sharbel Maronite Catholic Church.

IMG_2087(Left to Right) Dr. Wissam Shaya, LAU Vice President for University Advancement Marla Rice-Evans, and Chorbishop Alfred Badawi.

IMG_2112(Left to Right) Local businessman George Habbouche, LAU Vice President for University Advancement Marla Rice-Evans, and pharmacist Pierre Boutros.

IMG_2105(Left to Right) LAU Vice President for University Advancement Marla Rice-Evans, La Saj Lebanese Bistro owner Alex Awada, and LAU Assistant Vice President of Development Robert Hollback.



Afghanistan’s new first lady is a Lebanese Christian

Rula Saade Ghani(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — The election of Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai as Afghanistan’s new president makes the country’s new first lady, Rula Saade Ghani, a Lebanese Christian.

Ghani Ahmadzai made history after being elected president on Sunday, winning 55.7 percent of the vote.

Saade Ghani and Afghanistan’s president-elect met in Lebanon during the late 1970s, where they both attended the American University of Beirut. Ghani was a Muslim from a conservative Muslim country, and Saade’s was a Greek Orthodox Christians from a liberal Beirut.

Saade Ghani made her political debut after she spoke at an “International Women’s Day” event in March 2014, when she accompanied her western-educated husband to a political event.

The electoral campaign team said “during the event, women’s rights activists applauded her presence as a positive gesture and called upon other potential first ladies to follow her lead.”

The American-trained anthropologist reportedly helped her husband gather female support, with some women professing their backing because he is a Western-educated, former World Bank official.

Ghani Ahmadzai studied in the United States where he earned a doctorate in Cultural Anthropology from Columbia University in 1982. He worked outside of Afghanistan in academia for several years, before returning to Kabul in 2001.

The couple have two children together — Mariam and Tarek. Mariam is a writer and photographer who studied in New York. Tarek studied computer programming and worked for his father when he held the position of Minister of Finance.

According to the children, their mother did not convert to Islam upon her marriage and their father often accompanied the family to church when they lived in the United States.

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PHOTO: Rula Saade Ghani is Afghanistan's new Lebanese Christian first lady.
PHOTO: Rula Saade Ghani is Afghanistan’s new Lebanese Christian first lady.

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