Iskandar’s dedication to philanthropy, while quiet, speaks volumes. Under the radar, he has built churches in Lebanon, in the south of France and in the Dominican Republic, where he has a home with his spouse. He also sponsors and heads the Special Olympics in Lebanon and countless other charitable causes. He does this not to check the box for “corporate social responsibility,” but because he brings the same determination to his philanthropic causes that he does to his business leadership and commitment to quality shipbuilding.
But Iskandar rarely talks about his contributions or his impact. Not even when he played a key, behind-the-scenes role in seeking the release of five French citizens held hostage in Lebanon during the civil war in the 1980s. As negotiations between France and Iran continued, and French officials sought his involvement, he reached out to his network of contacts in Lebanon, Syria and Iran and flew between Paris and Middle East capitals to meet personally with those who could help arrange the release.
“I accepted out of patriotism,Iskandar Safa
as a Lebanese, and because it was a human problem also. I was horrified that some French citizens could thus be hijacked.”
Explaining this unofficial role, he told the French newspaper Le Monde, “I accepted out of patriotism, as a Lebanese, and because it was a human problem also. I was horrified that some French citizens could thus be hijacked.” As The New York Times reported, he was a “major figure” in winning the release of three of the hostages and was singled out for special praise by French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac.
Iskandar also is credited with helping to release the other two hostages, French journalists. Whether leading one of the world’s most respected shipbuilding enterprises, harnessing the power of philanthropy to make a difference, or employing quiet diplomacy to reunite hostages with their families, he epitomizes determination with a human touch.