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World Lebanese Cultural Union
of Sydney Incorporated

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Accredited with ECOSOC

The Inaugural Dr Charles Malik Award

By Paul Shalhoub

The vision of WLCU Sydney President, Dr Shane Geha, to hold a literary contest named after Dr Charles Malik, finally became a reality on 8th December 2022. Dr Geha’s vision was to advance the understanding and appreciation of Lebanese culture through a world-wide literary competition open to people of at least 15 years of age. The only requirement was that the articles must include a Lebanese theme, be non-political and non-partisan. The intention was to allow the author maximum creativity and scope to express an aspect of Lebanese culture.

Dr Geha raised the idea with his WLCU Sydney Committee members back in 2021. Rules were drafted by then WLCU Youth Committee member Stephanie Wigan and a panel of judges was assembled, headed by Joe Rizk AM. We then designed a flyer and spent all of 2022 promoting the award through multiple channels, including the WLCU International website. We were pleased that the WLCU World Youth President, Ms. Christina Salamy publicised the award through her channels and the Australian Lebanese media kindly promoted it.

The competition opens on 15 January each year and closes on 30 September, with the judging panel meeting soon after to decide on the award recipients. An awards ceremony is then held, with winning articles published on the WLCU Sydney website and in our newsletter to ensure wide access to the articles. In 2022, our inaugural competition, the close was extended to 31 October to encourage additional entries. This was an unusual year, being our first, and entrants did not have a guide on what type of articles were of interest to the judging panel.

Interestingly, despite wide circulation, most entries were Sydney based and the final six were exclusively from Sydney based writers. The positive side is that while some were WLCU Sydney members, others were not and so we have expanded our reach. WLCU Sydney will look for new ways to broaden the reach of the award for 2023 as we feel that the monetary awards are not insignificant, especially for those living in less wealthy countries. We do hope that the publishing of the articles will also encourage more entries in 2023.

We were pleased with the diversity of the submissions which ranged from memories around Lebanese food, a return to Lebanon, a history of St. Michael’s Cathedral, inspiring poetry, ideas around how data could help Lebanon and reflections from childhoods. The winning entry Food for Thought by John-Pierre Kiraz was appreciated for its centring around what is usually the most important aspect of all Lebanese families – food! John-Pierre takes us on a journey of him growing up in Sydney and the dishes his mother cooked and how that contrasted with western food at the time, and even his dietary shifts over time.

The 2022 prizes were: 1st prize A$1,500 and a Montblanc pen worth A$2,000; 2nd prize A$1,000 and a Montblanc pen worth $1,000 and third prize was A$500. Each prize winner also received a certificate. In 2022 we also awarded three Highly Commended awards due to the strength of their submissions, which consisted of a certificate. The full details of the award winners and links to the articles is on the WLCU Sydney website: https://wlcunsw.org.au/dr-charles-malik-award/

We encourage all readers to review the final submissions and consider your own views. Please feel free to forward details to friends and family, especially where the themes resonate with you – the more publicity we receive the greater the likelihood of a broader selection of articles going forward. We have also uploaded photos from the event. Over the course of this year, we will interview the authors to allow you to gain greater insights into their background and culture as we continue to promote this worthwhile award. Our continued publicising of the awards has several objectives. We hope it promotes the wonderful Lebanese culture of which we are all so proud and introduces new information and ideas throughout the diaspora. We also hope it continues to promote the many achievements of Dr Charles Malik, one of Lebanon’s greatest citizens who has left his mark on the world in many fields.

One of the benefits of having all Sydney based finalists was that they were all able to attend the Award ceremony in Sydney on 8th December. The function was held at the offices of EG Property Advisory & Funds on a beautiful Sydney evening. The venue and delicious Lebanese food were donated to us by WLCU Sydney President, Dr Geha, who is the Managing Director of EG Property Advisory. We were pleased that EG’s Executive Chairman, Dr Michael Easson AM was in attendance and made one of the speeches on the evening.

The event served three purposes: the announcement of the awards, a re-union for our HSC Distinguished Achievers and a thank you to our sponsors who have made all of this and more possible. The evening went for a few hours as guests mingled and new friendships were created. As well as presenting the awards, Dr Geha spoke of the origin of the award and his perspective on education. Dr Michael Easson AM, one of our largest sponsors spoke of the value of education and Ms. Mia Chaaya, Vice President of the WLCU Sydney Youth Committee and a former HSC Distinguished Achiever award recipient also spoke. Mia spoke of the value placed on education within the Lebanese culture.

The evening finished with Dr Geha providing gifts of Lebanon’s world-renowned Chateau Musar to sponsors that were able to join us for the evening. After continuing to enjoy the company of our members and guests Dr Geha handed out large trays for guests to fill from the abundant and delicious left-over food. Dr Geha, in a most typically hospitable Lebanese manner had way-over catered for the event. This was of course deliberate, as plenty of large take-away trays were secured ahead of time.

Finally, we ask our readers to continue to spread the details of the Dr Charles Malik Literary competition. This will allow us to continue receiving wonderful articles that can be circulated, encourage and reward entries and promote the memory of Dr Charles Malik, a true humanitarian and genius of which we can all be so proud.

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