Gov. Patrick Speaks at St. James Program on Genocide


Gov. Deval Patrick accepted a proclamation from Archbishop Khajag Barsamian

By Daphne Abeel
Special to the Mirror-Spectator

WATERTOWN, Mass. — American presidents act with disheartening uniformity when it comes to the Armenian Genocide. In the past 30 years, each national leader, from Jimmy Carter to the present incumbent, in campaign mode, has promised the Armenian community that the Genocide would be acknowledged on April 24, and each year, whoever is president avoids the “g” word. Thus did President Barack Obama continue the monotonous obeisance to Turkey, America’s strategic ally, when he spoke in Asheville, NC on Saturday, April 24, calling the events of 1915 “one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.”

In contrast, here in Massachusetts, the highest statewide elected official, Gov. Deval Patrick, has made it clear that he fully supports the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

On Sunday, April 25, entering the Charles Mosesian Youth and Cultural Center of St. James Armenian Church, in tandem with Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate, Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), Patrick opened his brief remarks before a packed audience of nearly 600 people by saying, “I stand with you as family.”

Patrick noted that, prior to the ceremony, he had taken the opportunity to tour the church and to learn that the sanctuary was built during the Great Depression, a time of economic disaster, and remarked that its construction was “a symbol of the tenacity of the Armenian community. That a sanctuary that beautiful was undertaken when the country was on its back is proof of what the human spirit is capable of under the most difficult circumstances.”

He encouraged the audience to believe in a brighter future for the Armenian Cause and quoted his grandmother, who once told him, “Hope for the best, and work for it.”

He then presented a governor’s proclamation that named the day Armenian Martyrs Day.

In his introduction of the governor, state Rep. Peter Koutoujian (D-Waltham) showered praise on Patrick for his support of the Armenian community, and especially his support of Armenian Heritage Park, to be constructed on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. The Greenway project and the Armenian Heritage Park, in particular, have been the target of often-severe criticism from the local press, and Koutoujian gave full credit to Patrick for working quietly behind the scenes on behalf of the park. “He did this at some political risk,” said Koutoujian, “but he never hesitated.”

Koutoujian also recognized other politicians present at the gathering, state Rep. John Hecht (D-Watertown) and former Watertown City Councilor Marilyn Devaney, for their strong support of the Armenian community.

He singled out Patrick for his personal calls to The White House and to President Barack Obama urging the president to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.
James Kalustian, president of the Armenian Heritage Foundation, the non-profit organization which supports the park, also spoke prior to Patrick’s remarks and said, “Our obligation is to fulfill the promises, born of the sacrifices of the many we honor today. The Genocide does not define us, but we must remember them. Arshile Gorky, Alan Hovhannes and Youssuf Karsh are just a few of the Armenians who came to Massachusetts to contribute to this country and its culture and to exhibit the tenacity and the spirit of the Armenian people.”

Kalustian said that construction of the Armenian Heritage Park would begin this summer and added, “The park will stand as a further confirmation that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Boston will not forget the Genocide.”

Bids for the construction will go out in May, added Kalustian, and construction should commence by midsummer. A planned series of lectures on human rights, sponsored by the Armenian Heritage Foundation, is scheduled to begin in September at Faneuil Hall.

Of the $5 million necessary to fund the construction of the park and to provide for its maintenance, programming and lecture series, a bit more than half has been raised, thanks to the efforts and support of 37 Armenian religious, cultural and political organizations that have contributed to the project.

Kalustian singled out Koutoujian, former state Rep. Rachel Kaprielian (now head of the Registry of Motor Vehicles in the state) and Patrick for their unwavering support.

“Governor Patrick backed up his words with actions. Without him, our efforts would have been in vain. And Peter’s role began years ago. He was always there to help make things happen.”

In her introduction to the program, Lalig Musserian, master of ceremonies, set the tone for the event, titled “Remembrance and Commemoration: The 95th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.”

“We still feel the pain of that distant experience,” she said, “and we continue our martyrs’ march with tenacity and perseverance,” noting that 43 states in the US and 20 nations now recognize the Armenian Genocide, although the United States and Turkey do not. “We are forcing Turkey to face its past,” she added.

The afternoon was enlivened by several performances, notably a recitation by Aram Gurekian, an honors student at Catholic Memorial High School in Boston, of a speech given by Dr. Dennis Papazian in Times Square on the occasion of the 93rd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Gurekian also sang the United States and Armenian national anthems and was accompanied on the piano by Nune Hakobyan. Additional performances were by Ani Kalayjian, cellist, accompanied by Sofia Melikyan, pianist. The program concluded with a performance by the Antranig Dance Ensemble.

The benediction was offered by Barsamian, who had traveled from New York for the event.

A reception followed in Mirak Hall.

The day of prayer and commemoration was hosted jointly by St. James Armenian Church and Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Cambridge.

Earlier in the day, the parishioners of Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Cambridge and St. James Armenian Church gathered together for a Day of Prayer and Commemoration.  The day’s events were presided over by Barsamian.

The day’s events began with the churches joining together at Holy Trinity to worship during Divine Liturgy, which was celebrated by Barsamian, who also offered a moving sermon. Sunday School students from both churches joined together for special assemblies about the Armenian Genocide. Following Divine Liturgy, a special service was held at the Martyrs’ Monument in the Holy Trinity plaza. Present were Genocide Survivors Agnes Aznavorian and Vergin Mazmanian. A fellowship hour followed Divine Liturgy.