by Xinhua writer Liu Zongya
BEIRUT, June 1 (Xinhua) -- Antoine Ephrem Al-Boustany, a Lebanese UNIFIL employee, and his three young daughters attended a Chinese language and culture course held at the headquarters of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in Naqoura, southern Lebanon, on Wednesday.
Al-Boustany told Xinhua that he had traveled to China for one week in 2017 and was amazed by what he saw there. "I fell in love with the peaceful country and its rich culture," he said.
The Chinese culture fan was so thrilled that the Chinese language training course is coming back to the UNIFIL headquarters after a long suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Donglin Duanmu, chief of the Integrated Mission Training Centre of UNIFIL and the organizer of the Chinese language training course, stressed the importance of learning Chinese for UN peacekeepers.
"Chinese language is one of the six official languages of the UN. As one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, China ranks top 10 troop-contributing countries of the UN peacekeeping operations," he explained.
"In UNIFIL, there are three Chinese peacekeeping units, totaling 410 personnel. By learning the Chinese language and culture, UN peacekeepers can better communicate with each other and make a greater contribution to the world's peace and security," Duanmu noted.
More than 30 UNIFIL peacekeepers and employees from over 10 countries, such as Lebanon, Brazil, Nepal, France, India, Germany, Austria, Kenya, Spain and Azerbaijan, took part in the four-hour course.
Four Chinese language teachers from the Confucius Institute of Saint-Joseph University of Beirut gave lectures on Chinese Pinyin learning, a brief introduction to Chinese characters and simple daily Chinese conversations.
On the sideline of the lectures, Chinese peacekeepers demonstrated some traditional Chinese cultural activities, including calligraphy, painting, martial arts, tea art, and lion dance. Simple Chinese meals were also served to the participants.
"Thanks to the Chinese peacekeepers for bringing us vivid Chinese lessons, which made me more interested in learning Chinese and Chinese culture," French staff officer Captain Erika Pilati, who worked at the COE Unit of UNIFIL, expressed her joy when communicating with Chinese peacekeepers.
"Serving as a bridge of communication between China and the world made us feel excited and proud," said Chinese Director of the Confucius Institute Liu Li.
The UNIFIL, established by the UN Security Council in 1978 to monitor the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon and whose mandate was expanded following the 2006 Lebanon War, has now around 10,500 peacekeepers coming from 48 troop-contributing countries.
According to Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin, from 2006 to early 2023, Chinese military peacekeepers disposed of over 15,000 landmines and unexploded ordnance in Lebanon, which has been widely commended by the Lebanese people and the UNIFIL.