The Anouar Hatem Collection
Aleppo 1909-Fribourg 2003
Born under the Ottoman Empire into a Melkite Christian family of merchants, he became known for his sharp mind and playfulness while studying French, Italian and Arabic at the Holy Land College with the Franciscans.
At the age of 19, he went to study at the Sorbonne in Paris on a government scholarship. At the age of 24, he graduated with a law degree and a Ph.D. in Literature where he published Les Poèmes Épiques des Croisades, which would go on to receive an award from the Académie Française and be reprinted in 1973 at the request of European and American universities.
He returned to Syria in 1933 and settled in Damascus, where he taught French at Damascus University and in various secondary schools.
The servant of the state (1941-1953)
In 1941, eager to serve his country, he joined the Syrian administration. This period of his life was exceptionally successful.
He began his career under the French mandate as manager of the Youth and Sports Ministry. He was then successively appointed secretary to the presidency of the Cabinet of Ministers, General Director of the Presidency, General Secretary of the government.
He took an active part in the negotiations that would lead to Syrian independence and the creation of the Arab League.
The Ambassador (1953-1964)
As a newlywed in 1952, he decided to embark on a diplomatic career.
With The Holy See
He served as ambassador of Syria to the Holy See for two terms, the first term from 1953 to 1958 and the second term from 1961 to 1964. He established a close relationship with Popes Pius XII, John XXIII and Paul VI during their exchanges on ecumenism and Islamic/Christian relations.
He presided over the Syrian mission during key events, including the opening of the Second Vatican Council in 1962 and the enthronement of Paul VI in 1963.
Alongside his duties as ambassador, he published several articles on Syria's influence in the Roman Empire, including his work Souvenirs Syriens à Rome.
After the union of Syria and Egypt, as ambassador of the United Arab Republic in Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador, he was active with the Mexican government in promoting the movement of the non-aligned countries. Through his book Les Légendes du Mexique, published in Arabic, he contributed to making Mexico better known among the Arab world.
As the Syrian ambassador to the Swiss Confederation and Austria, he contributed to bringing the Arab world and Switzerland closer together through his lectures and book Suisses et Arabes à travers les Siècles.
During this period, he was assigned as Permanent Delegate to the United Nations in Geneva and served as chairman of the Syrian delegation at the UNESCO Conference of Paris in 1962. In 1964, he resigned as an ambassador and decided to remain in Switzerland.
The Teacher and the Retiree (1964-2003)
After spending time in Geneva and Berne, he moved to Fribourg in 1966 to teach French literature at the Institut de Français at the University of Fribourg.
He collaborated with Henri Laoust, a professor at the Collège de France and member of the Institute, on his project for interreligious dialogue with Muslims. In 1974, he was part of the Muslim delegation to The Riyadh Symposium.
He wrote several books and gave many lectures on Arab culture and Islam, while at the same time indulging in his favorite pastime of poetry. He published three collections of poetry: Bétyles, Andalouses and Atargatis, or, descents to the lake, whose themes relate to Middle Eastern culture.