Community Leaders Take Stock Of 95th Genocide Anniversary


By Andy Turpin
Mirror-Spectator Staff

WATERTOWN, Mass. — The commemoration of the 95th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide resonates differently with those in the Armenian-American community.

To some, the anniversary signifies another dirge unanswered, to others it stands for the commonality of a bond that surpasses partisan politics and ecumenical aisles.

Marc A. Mamigonian, academic affairs director of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) in Belmont said of the Genocide’s 95th year of remembrance and struggle for acknowledgement in the US Congress that, “Time is passing. Very few survivors of the Armenian Genocide are still with us. Yet even before they are gone, we hear that Genocide recognition will do nothing for anyone who is alive today, and that what happened in 1915 is, in effect, ancient history.”

“Yet it is not ancient history,” he added. “There is such a thing as responsibility towards the living, the dead, and towards truth in history. This is a responsibility we all bear — Armenians, Turks, everyone. The responsibility will not die with the survivors but will continue as long as truth in history is not respected.”

Rev. Gregory V. Haroutunian of the First Armenian Church in Belmont likewise said that the significance of this year’s commemoration lies not in the number of years the Genocide is memorialized, but in the small number of Armenian Genocide survivors alive today who have always stood as living testaments to the events.

“I think what is most significant is not so much the number of the commemoration — the 95th or 96th anniversary — but the fact that we’re closing in on one century and how few survivors there are now,” Haroutunian said.

“As they pass on, our efforts to gain recognition of the Genocide will not slow down. But to see the relief and look of vindication on a survivor’s face, telling them that the United States has officially recognized the Armenian Genocide, from my perspective as a pastor, that would be a great privilege and a joy,” he said.

The Very Rev. Raphael Andonian of Holy Cross Armenian Catholic Church in Belmont said that the search for acknowledgement by the Armenian-American community is ongoing and that “It is still at stake and the fact that it is the 95th year doesn’t change anything substantial.”

Though he noted, “95 years is a long time to wait and shows that we are still waiting for justice.”

Holy Trinity Armenian Church in Cambridge and St. James Armenian Church in Watertown meanwhile will hold a weekend of prayer and commemoration for the Armenian Genocide on April 25. The congregations will worship together at Holy Trinity with the service presided over by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Armenian Church of America, Eastern Diocese. In the afternoon at the Charles Mosesian Youth and Cultural Center, Keljik Hall the Antranig Dance Ensemble and renowned cellist Ani Kalayjian will perform in commemoration of the Genocide, preceded by memorial remarks by Gov. Deval Patrick.

Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, spoke about the commemorative activities planned by the organization to be held in Washington, DC on April 21 and hosted by Representatives Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Frank Pallone Jr. (D- NJ), the co-chairs of the Armenian Caucus.

“We’re also pushing for floor action on HR 252,” he added, “and looking for Senator [John] Kerry (D – MA) to hold a senate vote in the Foreign Relations Committee.”

Bryan Ardouny, executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America, said, “We are having a national fly-in day, of activists and advocates of Armenian-Americans on April 21 to make sure our voices will be heard which coincides with the Armenian Caucus commemoration event on Capital Hill.”

Both organizations’ events will coincide with each other but are not being organized or implemented jointly. “We’re all united in pushing the Genocide recognition resolution forward and are all united in our determination to secure US affirmation of the Armenian Genocide,” Ardouny noted of the ANCA’s commemoration.

Speaking to the dwindling amount of Genocide survivors left living to attend many of these ceremonies as we reach 95-year mark, Ardouny cited a spirit of solidarity and globalism in the recognition cause, stating, “There’s no question that we owe a great debt to the survivors that have served as an inspiration to us all. Obviously recognition is a very core issue to Armenians but really to all humanity.”

Noted Ardouny: “I think back to my own grandparents and I think that what we can do as Armenians is carry forth the torch and the promise of a secure homeland that we share with them and that the Genocide is universally affirmed.”

“It’s sad. I think every Armenian feels it’s sad that it’s the 95th year of commemoration,” said Haig K. Deranian, Grand Commander of the Knights of Vartan fraternal service organization and Vice President of the Armenian Heritage Foundation of this year’s significance.

Deranian stated of the Knights of Vartan’s memorial preparations that, “Over many years we have been sponsoring the commemoration ceremony in New York City in Times Square and that will continue this year. We build a stage and have prominent politicians speak.”

“There are five lodges in the Mid-Atlantic Inter Lodge and they all come together,” Deranian noted.

Turning to speak to the Knights and Daughters of Vartan’s work contributing to the fundraising for and upcoming construction of Boston’s Armenian Heritage Park, Deranian stated, “We’re obviously working very hard as the initial committee of the Armenian Heritage Park. We’re hoping to break ground early this summer and we’re very pleased with the progress. It has shown true unity in the Armenian community around the Armenian Heritage Park project.”

As the days march ever forward to April 24, the number 95 as a year of patience in waiting for US Genocide recognition seems forever dwarfed in the hearts and minds of Armenian-American community leaders when compared with the 1.5 million numbered body count of remembered lost family members who perished in the Genocide.

But significance is in the eye of the beholder and Ardouny noted that vigilance, too, can also be a form of communal spiritual vigil, by stating, “During this 95th anniversary we reflect and remember and recommit ourselves that the destructive campaign of denial by the Turkish government is put to a stop once and for all.”