São Paulo – The Arab immigrants that live in Brazil and their descendant marked the life stories of many Brazilians. A series of personal and professional testimonies on this influence were presented on Thursday, March 25, the Arab Community Day in Brazil, during an online event hosted by the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce (ABCC) and its cultural agency Arab House.
Few people know it, but Brazil’s deemed best basketball player Oscar Schmidt (pictured above) used to play for the Syrian Sports Club, which was founded by the Syrian community in São Paulo, before gaining national recognition. In a recorded video Schmidt talked about that and how the Syrian Sports Club was the best team he played for. “Some of my greatest friends came from there,” he said. “I really miss those times,” he finished.
The testimonies from people who had their life stories marked by Arabs, immigrants or the Middle Eastern culture were moderated by ABCC secretary-general Tamer Mansour, who’s an Egyptian immigrant who moved to Brazil in his youth. “When we planned this part of the event, we wanted to understand how far the Arab influence had reached in Brazil,” he said. The idea was showing that the Arab presence in Brazil goes far beyond its immigrants.
The event’s host, journalist Marina Sarruf, gave her own testimony. She’s the ABCC communication coordinator but was one of the first reporters of the Brazil-Arab News Agency (ANBA) and did media coverage in several Arab countries, including Iraq. I’m so proud to have worked at ANBA for seven years,” she said. Dr. Alvaro Sarkis, a Urology professor at the University of São Paulo (USP), talked on video about his Arab background and mentioned the colony’s contribution for the creation of institutions that bring wellbeing for the Brazilian peoples, such as the children-oriented Lar Sírio and Mão Branca, for the elderly, as well as HCor and Sírio-Libanês hospitals.
The event was opened with a brief history on the Arab immigration to Brazil and the size of the Arab community in Brazil, which reaches 11.6 million people. A survey commissioned by the ABCC and carried out by Ibope Inteligência and H2R Pesquisas Avançadas research firm found out this figure, first made public last year. In a brief video, Ibope Inteligência CEO Márcia Cavallari addressed the survey’s making.
An expert in studies on the Middle East, Arab World and Muslims, Salem Nasser talked about the Arab Community Day, which is celebrated on March 25 in honor of the 25 de Março Street in São Paulo, where many Arab merchants lived after moving to Brazil. He said that, before the Arabs settled, it was a key commercial street in the city of São Paulo. “At some point, the Arabs took over the street,” said Nasser. The Arab Community Day was created based on a bill by senator Romeu Tuma.
During the event, the immigration was also addressed from other perspectives such as the solidarity that has brought together Arabs and Brazilians in these COVID-19 pandemic times. The ABCC, which called on the community to help hospitals and institutions with protective equipment during the pandemic and did the same to send relief to Lebanon last year, has launched a new campaign to raise food baskets and distribute them to struggling Brazilians. Find out more in another story.
The viewers were also called to collaborate with the Digitization Project of the Memory of Syrian and Lebanese Immigration in Brazil. The initiative is carried out by the ABCC in partnership with the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK) in Lebanon to document and digitize the history of this immigration to Brazil. The project’s coordinator Heloisa Abreu Dib Julien talked about the work progress and asked people to submit any materials they have. For more information, please send an email to email@example.com.