Sheikh PIERRE GEMAYEL
Founder and leader of the Lebanese Kataeb Party and father of two Presidents of the Lebanese Republic, the late President-elect Sheikh Bashir Gemayel and the former President Sheikh Amine Gemayel.died August 29, 1984 of a heart attack in his home in Bikfaiya. Just hours before, he had returned from a morning Cabinet meeting. Sheikh Pierre, as he was respectfully known, spent his life struggling for the independence and sovereignty of his country. Hardly a page of the political history of modern Lebanon has been written without his name appearing. He represents the belief in the coexistence of Muslims and Christians in one state.
Sheikh Pierre Gemayel was born in Bikfaiya on November 6, 1905. Since his family openly expressed hostility to Ottoman rule in Lebanon, his father and uncle were sentenced to death by the Ottoman authorities. To escape, the family was forced to settle in Mansourah, Egypt from 1914 until the end of World War I.
Sheikh Pierre studied at Jesuit schools and graduated from the French Faculty of Medicine in Beirut with a degree in Pharmacology.
He founded the Kataeb Party in 1936 with four other young Lebanese:
Charles Helou ( who later became a President of Lebanon ), Shafic Nassif, Emile Yared and Georges Naccache. Sheikh Pierre was chosen to head the organization because he was not a political figure. In the early days of the Kataeb Party, the Party opposed both the attempts by the pan-Arabists to dominate Lebanon and the French efforts to dominate Lebanon under the mandate.
Sheikh Pierre and the Kataeb Party have always believed in an independent and sovereign Lebanon free of all foreign influence.
During their first year, 300 persons joined the Kataeb Party. In a 1937 demonstration, defying a French order to disband their party, the Kataeb clashed with the Senegalese French colonial police near Gemayel's Pharmacy. Sheikh Pierre was wounded and arrested only to be released shortly afterwards. Sheikh Pierre and his Kataeb followers clashed again with the French Police in November 1943 following a joint demonstration with the Najjadah Party to protest the arrest of the Lebanese President and other Lebanese leaders by French authorities.
By 1943, the Kataeb membership reached 35,000 due to their increasing popularity and a change of rules which allowed women to join the party.
Several times a Cabinet Minister and a member of Parliament since 1960, Sheikh Pierre has been an active leader in Lebanese politics. He was Minister of Post and Telecommunications and Minister of Health and Social Affairs.
On October 11, 1978 after the 100-day war between the Lebanese resistance and the Syrian Army, he strongly denounced the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. He participated in the Geneva and Lausanne conferences for national unity in November 1983 and March 1984.
Sheikh Pierre played an outstanding role as a leader of the Lebanese Christian community. In 1976, he formed the "Lebanese Front", a political alliance of mainly Christian parties, with former President Camille Chamoun and other Christian leaders.
He has survived several assassination attempts, one in 1962 and one on June 5, 1979.
Sheikh Pierre was a loyal nationalist of an independent Lebanon. His life was dedicated to this goal. He represented the belief in a multi-confessional, democratic Lebanon.
The wisdom and statemanship he demonstrated throughout his life will certainly be remembered with pride and distinction.