Lowell Observes ANC Genocide Recognition


By Tom Vartabedian

LOWELL, Mass. — “Let our united voices be heard!”

Such was the theme of Armenian Genocide observances conducted by the Armenian National Committee of Merrimack Valley before a gathering of area churches and organizations in this once-prominent mill community where immigrants once planted their roots.

The pan-Armenian event April 24 honored the memory of 1.5 million victims who perished at the hands of the Ottoman Turks during the
first genocide of the 20th century.

In his message, Dro Kanayan called upon genocide education in public schools as being pivotal in securing proper recognition.

“A crime ignored is a crime encouraged,” said Kanayan. “International recognition of the Genocide allows people to have closure on events that shaped their lives and begin the healing process.”

Kanayan outlined visits made to six area high schools in addressing student populations on the Armenian genocide, many of which have received only a smattering of knowledge.

As chairman of the Armenian Genocide Education Committee of Merrimack Valley, members have made vast inroads toward adopting a curriculum under the banner of Facing History and Ourselves. In most every case, schools have requested a follow-up panel discussion with Armenia joined by a Holocaust survivor as well as Cambodia and Rwanda. Those plans are in the works.
“By educating our students today, hopefully they will be able to set policies and structure to deal with countries like Turkey that have committed genocide,” he added. “Perhaps someday, Turkey will be transformed and restore the many churches, heritage and patrimony of Armenians who lived on their historic lands.”

The commemoration featured young speakers, politicians, a downtown march led by the color guard from the Lowell Armenian- American Veterans, proclamation and flag-raising ceremony.

Members of the Sam Manoian Post led an entourage of 100 participants, including children holding banners from the various churches. All sectors of community life were represented.

Mayor James Milinazzo presented a proclamation, reflecting upon the immigrants of his city who fled persecution and settled in the district, enriching the American heritage with their culture, education, arts and sciences.

“The Armenian community became an asset to the growth of the Lowell economic and social fabric through hard work and strong family values,” he told the crowd. “Their devotion to a free society, healthy religious values and strong civic pride makes them a people to be admired.”

City messages were also rendered by former mayors Eileen Donahue, Rita Mercier and Bud Caulfield, each of whom showered considerable praise upon the burgeoning Armenian community. Sevan Dulgarian, a member of the Boston AYF, presented a school essay she had written on her family’s history, which received attention among students and instructors at Bedford High School, where she is a freshman.

Katie Berberian, a member of the Sts. Vartanantz Church ACYOA, also represented her youth organization with dignity.

“It makes me a stronger, more caring person knowing that my great-grandparents have had to endure such conditions,” she said. “I am living
proof that the Ottoman Turks were not successful with their evil plan. We need to keep our homeland close to our hearts by being involved with the Armenian community in the hope that the Armenian genocide will be  acknowledged by the United States and other countries who are in denial.”

Prayers were offered by the Rev. Khachatur Kesablyan, pastor, Sts. Vartanantz Church; Rev. Karekin Bedourian, a newly-ordained priest from Watertown, and Rev. Dr. Ara Heghinian, pastor, Ararat Congregational Church, Salem, NH.

Other groups taking part were the North Andover AYF, ARS chapters of Lowell and Merrimack Valley, Lowell ARF, Church at Hye Point, St. Gregory Church of North Andover and Arakadz Lodge, Knights of Vartan.

A reception followed inside City Hall where Ara Jeknavorian and Harry Alexanian of the Ani Ensemble performed music suitable for the occasion.