On the Life of Toufic Labaki, Founder of this Website
Toufic Antoun Mansour Labaki was born in Baabdat in the district of Maten (Lebanon) in 1938. He is married to Saada Menhem Touma Charabati, and he has three children: Rita, Ramez and Carmen.
He is known for his active involvement with the Diaspora, his activities in the field of construction, his social and humanitarian activities, as well as in other miscellaneous works. Toufic is also planning on executing other future projects ensuring benefit and advantage to the entire community of his town.
His Involvement with the Diaspora
On March 2, 1959, Toufic travelled to Brazil at the age of twenty-one, in a visit to his uncle Hanna Mansour Labaki in the city of São Paulo. This visit turned out to be a steppingstone in Toufic's life due to the difficulties and hardships that stood in the way of his one-month maritime journey. Such voyage awakened in Toufic a sense of compassion for the Lebanese emigrant in general and for the Baabdati emigrant in particular. The idea of bringing the large Baabdati family members together, be they residents or emigrants, was born from this very experience.
After that life changing visit, Toufic travelled again on many occasions to various countries in South and Central America, in addition to the United States and Canada. During his numerous visits, he established very strong connections with most of the immigrants from Baabdati origins. He visited them, listened to their concerns, devoted his attention to their cases and shared their nostalgia and yearning for their beloved mother town. This is how he developed the idea of writing a scientific and documented book about those Baabdati immigrants including their names, information about their work, their immigration countries and addresses along with live relevant evidence. Toufic also spent years and decades interviewing many of the immigrants and taking various photos with them. Such efforts helped him add new names to each and every Baabdati family tree and he endeavored to evidence family ties and kinship degrees with pertinent documents.
Then, emerged the modern technology along with the internet, and they both offered Toufic a hand in making his task easier, faster and more comprehensive. Instead of publishing a book, Toufic launched this website "Baabdat.com" which gives an honest portrayal of the extended Baabdati families' affairs and deepest concerns.
In pursuing his mission, Toufic received and is still receiving many descendants of emigrants from Baabdati origins, in a bid to introduce them to their relatives residing in Baabdat, and to the features and heritage of their mother town. He remains, to this very moment, in contact with a large number of Baabdati immigrant descendants through visits and different ways of communication.
His Work in the Field of Construction
In 1974, Toufic designed and supervised the construction process of a new cemetery for the Latin Community in Baabdat. In his efforts to replace the old crumbling cemetery, Toufic formed a committee that gathered donations from members of the Latin community themselves and from a number of good Samaritans.
Toufic also succeeded in facilitating the construction of new neighbourhoods in Baabdat, mainly Al Shammis and Al Wadi ones. In doing so, Toufic started the initiative of paving new roads leading to these two areas and linking them to the main road. He also helped in solving many real estate problems, mostly involving the first generation of Baabdati emigrants, which facilitated and helped increase constructions guaranteeing prosperity and development for Baabdat.
As for the Aaraar spring, that vital and essential spring having a privileged place in the heart and mind of every Baabdati, Toufic put in a great deal of personal effort and overcame many obstacles to replace the old water pipes with new ones furnishing the homes of all beneficiaries with fresh spring water. Therefore, he preserved the owners' inherited rights by virtue of a rule applied for long time ago. The spring was flowing again pumping life through Baabdat after that he helped define its three sources and put an end to its water wastage. He is currently planning on developing a modern water distribution plan in line with the requirements of future development.
In 1984, upon the request of Father Athanasius Sawaya from Baabdat, priest of Saint Michael Church for the Greek Catholic, Toufic donated lot number 871, located in Baabdat Square, to the construction of a shrine dedicated to Saint Elias. The shrine was built thanks to the efforts of said priest, but after his passing away, Toufic donated it to Saint Elias Church, part of Baabdat Maronite congregation, on June 19, 2001. The shrine still belongs to the congregation to this day.
In the field of private construction, Toufic built a polyclinic medical centre including various specialisations in 1994. The centre is currently managed by Toufic's son, Ramez.
Following talks about establishing a new Maronite Church that would measure up to the level of modernity in Baabdat, and given the fact that the location of the initial site allocated to the construction of said church was not appropriate in terms of surface area and available parking lots, Toufic answered the Baabdati call of duty once more and submitted a letter to Beirut Maronite Bishop Boulos Matar on 15/07/2009, a year prior to the start of construction works. Toufic offered, by virtue of that letter, to donate lot 3941, measuring 1700 square meters, to the construction of the new church. The new land was to be more spacious and closer to the Maronite cemetery.
But unfortunately, he found no response to his gesture and not even a "thank you"...!
His Social and Humanitarian Activities
After the Lebanese civil war broke out in 1975, many displaced people escaping from nearby villages such as Damour, Hasbaya, Salima, etc. resorted to Baabdat for refuge. In order to respond to this urgent humanitarian need, Toufic founded the Baabdat Social Committee in collaboration with a number of women volunteers. This committee provided the displaced with help in various ways. He thus embarked on his humanitarian activism journey following the words of Jesus Christ: "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me..."
Toufic's everlasting concern for the people of Baabdat along with his love and devotion for his town, led him to accomplish many more achievements that proved to be beneficial for a large number of residents and many others. He founded the Baabdat Social Centre for the needy with the collaboration of Caritas Lebanon and the Maronite Development and Planning Authority for the distribution of food and other types of aid in a more effective and organized way based on equality.
In this same framework and facing the lack of public services following the civil war, Toufic challenged difficulties and dangers and employed great effort in contacting officials and activists to guarantee the continuity of Baabdati people's affairs, even if only at an acceptable level. Toufic offered many services, namely temporary homes for the displaced of the war, the reactivation of a bakery, and the provision of important missing food supplies. His persisting efforts helped setting up more than 50 telephone lines linking neighbouring Broumana Telephone Centre to Baabdat Telephone Centre, and he provided the Centre in Baabdat with an electricity generator. By doing so, he alleviated the impacts of telecommunications crisis due to the humanitarian matters and public services conditions that were prevalent during that difficult period.
Toufic continued his humanitarian activities and in 1976, he founded the Baabdat Social Dispensary, rented a location for it, and managed it for 24 years. This dispensary provided everyone and without any discrimination, with medical services in various specialisations offered by volunteer physicians such as GPs, dentists, consulting and minor surgery. In addition, the dispensary distributed children's milk and medicines offered by some companies or even purchased...It is worth mentioning that this dispensary was the only one of its kind in the region at that time, and it made great contributions in healing the wounded inside Baabdat and its neighbouring villages during the civil war. The dispensary also organised first aid workshops and civil defence trainings given by professionals, in addition to providing ambulances to carry the wounded and patients.
In order to guarantee the stability of work in the dispensary and the continuity of all the social services it provided, Toufic was able, despite all obstacles, to convince the Jesus and Mary Sacred Heart Order, by virtue of a letter sent to them on 16/12/1977, to establish a foothold in Baabdat. On January 11, 1978, he rented the house of Brigadier Ghattas Naoum Labaki and donated a sum from his personal money to build a small chapel named after the Lebanese Saint Charbel Makhlouf, to be affiliated to said house. The nuns used the location to teach craft works, but then, and upon its sale, the house was turned to a big building including an orphanage.
His Miscellaneous Activities
Seeing that Toufic's acquired experience in establishing the roots of Baabdati families abroad is unmatched, he wanted to expand his knowledge to include Baabdati families who left Baabdat to elect domicile in other parts of Lebanon. He met with families who had left the town since 1860, after the unfortunate clashes between Christians and Druze, which affected Baabdat in a way or another. These conflicts are, for instance, behind the existence of the Labaki family in the villages of Qosaya and Deir El Ghazal in the Bekaa Province, in Sid El-Bauchrieh and Sabtiyyeh in the Maten, and in Marjaoun in the South. The family Baabdati, a family originally known as Obeid, existed in Zahle and Ablah in the Bekaa. The Lahoud family, originally known as Labaki, exists in several villages on the coast of the Metn and Beirut.
In 2009 and in the town of Anfeh in Batroun, Toufic met with descendants from the Labaki family also known as the Khabbaz family. Some of the members thereof emigrated to Brazil and are currently known as the Capez family.
He is still carrying his research on in order to find members and ramifications of incomplete Baabdati families whose locations are still to be uncovered in a bid to complete the Baabdati Family Trees as much as possible, and publish them on this website.
In order to guarantee integrity in documentation and completion of his work and research, Toufic did not hesitate to resort to modern medical technologies to demonstrate and evidence certain historical information and achieve tangible and trustworthy results. He used DNA testing to reveal the origins of one Baabdati family known as the sub-family of El Khoury Abdallah.
Hanna Naamtallah El Melki indicated in his book "The history of Baabdat and its Families", published in 1947, that he held evidence proving that this sub-family comes from the Syrian region of Houran and has no links to the Labaki family, knowing that all of its members go by the last name of Labaki!
Therefore, Toufic insisted on running DNA tests between Ramez Toufic Labaki belonging to Fares sub-family and George Tannous Nissan Labaki belonging to El Khoury Abdallah sub-family. The scientific results of the tests conducted at Saint Joseph University laboratories in Beirut on September 15, 2009, were a 100% complete match, which means that El Khoury Abdallah sub-family is in the heart of the Labaki family and does not originate from Houran in Syria..!!! And thus the mystery of this issue which lasted for decades, has been removed.
His love for Baabdat
Toufic Labaki was always enthusiastic in creating activities for Baabdat, and he kept donating to his town. He always wished to donate lands to Baabdat’s Municipality, and right before his passing in May 2013, his wishes came true as he granted the town three lands:
- Property number 1496 in Hamay, with an area of 2653 square meters, donated to create a sports and intercultural club in Labaki’s name. The municipality is working hard on building it.
- Property number 3506 in Wady al Chammis, with an area of 1620 square meters, donated to create an equipped park with all expenses paid by him. The park, that features contemporary heritage that was used for the extraction of grapes molasses, will be named after Toufic Labaki. His family already started building it.
- Properties number 1899, 1900, 1901, and 1902 in Hakleh, in the upper parte of Baabdat, with an area of 1146 square meters where an everlasting oak is found as well as archeological molasses. The property was donated for the creation of a park consecrated for prayer, meditation, and cultural, religious or social occasions. The fully equipped park’s expenses are covered by Labaki, and the park will hold the name “The garden of Jesus the Savior”, in memory of Baabdat’s deceased in Lebanon and the Diaspora. On Sunday the 4th of October 2014, the park was open to the public during a popular ceremony attended by the citizens of Baabdat as well as officials. The park was designed, executed, supervised and paid for by the son of the late Toufic Labaki, Ramez Labaki, on behalf of his family.
As for the religious donations, Toufic Labaki bestowed on the Congregation of young Capuchin Fathers properties 507 and 508 located downtown with an area of 350 square meters, in order to create a monument for the late Capuchin Fathers Leonard Melki and Touma Saleh, the martyrs who passed away in Turkey during World War I, both on their way to canonization
Testimony of the Kreim Father Boulos Antonios Nassif
I have met the dear friend Toufic Labaki in Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina, more than forty years ago. A deep-rooted friendship grew between us; it is a friendship of which I am proud and which I praise. I have closely followed his many interests and activities aimed at establishing connections between the Baabdati immigrants in Argentina and the residents of Baabdat. Despite the difficulties, hardships and high costs of the mission, Toufic has managed to gather immigrants with their families on several occasions and in various cities.
I attended a meeting in which Toufic depicted an elaborate explanation of his objectives and backed them with Baabdat accurate photos, maps and family trees dating back to hundreds of years. He described to attendees the reasons behind their ancestors' emigration under the oppressive Turkish ruling, under that era which had inflicted famine, torture, tyranny, murder and persecution on the people, and left them with no other choice but to abandon their families and opt for emigration. He stressed the dangers and hardships that stood in their ways as they emigrated by sea, and especially as they reached their destinations.
The meeting culminated when Toufic offered each person a small plastic bag containing a soil sample from Baabdat, the village of the ancestors. Attendees were asked to observe a moment of silence in honor for the souls of their ancestors with the intention of placing, ultimately, the soil samples on their graves, on the graves of those heroic ancestors who left Baabdat hoping that they would return to its embrace some day and plant a kiss on its ground. However, the difficult circumstances had different plans for them...and by placing the samples on their graves, Baabdat soil would have crossed the distance and finally met them even after decades.
It was a mere gesture to prove, once again, that nostalgia stays loyal to the very first home. At that point of the meeting, tears and emotions spoke for a million words, and hugs seemed to last forever as the bond between Baabdat residents and their expatriate brothers and sisters resurfaced...
I can undeniably confirm, through my long experience, that the Lebanese emigration has never witnessed, since its beginnings in the middle of the 19th century until now, such a person who has carried out a similar scientific and emotional mission in an effort to reunite Lebanese residents and immigrants! It definitely is a precedent to be added to my friend Toufic's endless list of accomplishments and works.
His activism in this field went even beyond Baabdat emigrants to cover the Lebanese emigration as a whole. Thanks to his connections with influential people including politicians, judges and activists of Baabdati origins, he launched the idea of establishing a street named after the "Republic of Lebanon" in each and every Argentinean city. The idea was very well received and it began with the first "Republic of Lebanon" street in Rio Gallegos city, capital of southern Santa Cruz province, on 05/12/2011. Attempts and efforts by some activists who are striving to implement the idea from one city to the other are underway.
Toufic tackled the emigration in Baabdat from a comprehensive perspective and addressed messages of affection to descendants of Baabdat via Lebanese diplomatic delegations, clubs, social entities and churches in foreign countries or through email, mail and direct calls.
Toufic had previously shared with me his wish to publish a documented book on the history of the Baabdati emigration, but luckily, modern technology offered a hand and he launched a website, baabdat.com, which turned out to be more effective in terms of rapidity and easiness in communication and update.
The love of Baabdat was transferred from father to son, from Toufic to Ramez. They completed each other so that the idea of the father could be translated with the modernity of the son's vision, he who is responsible for the coordination, planning and programming of the website so that it would reach the whole world in the finest appearance worthy of Baabdat and its families in Lebanon and abroad.
If you asked me about the motives and reasons that made these two determined honorable pioneers embark on such a long journey, I would simply and spontaneously say that it was all out of love and devotion for our brothers and sisters from Baabdat, be they residents or expatriates, and for our beloved Lebanon.
My dear brother and friend Toufic, I am proud to be part of your life and to witness your integrity and dedication to Baabdat and Lebanon, and I pray the Lord to bless you and give you the strength to follow your work and contributions through, and to fulfill more and more accomplishments...for you are among those who have lit a candle while others are cursing the darkness...
Father Boulos Antonios Nassif
Forty years in the service of the Maronite Mission in Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina.