Commentary: Fortunes of the Upcoming Years


By Nubar Dorian

God must have a love affair with our parents and grandparents who escaped the horrors of the Genocide and came to America.  They are now exemplary citizens and call this “land of ours” with pride, joy and gratitude. We now are almost 1 million souls with our churches, organizations, press and other institutions. We have buried almost all of our grandparents, who worked diligently to leave us an Armenian legacy we should cherish, indeed love.

“God gives food to the birds, but does not put it in their nest” goes an old saying. Just as birds have to search and often fight their food, we, as well those who will follow us, must search, fight and find the “food” to exist as a community. We also thank God that blessed the homeland, whose very existence seemed in doubt, had declared independence some two decades ago. While homeland is having growing pains and corruption, bribery, nepotism and mayhem is repent, in time and with assistance and love of Armenia, we find her way towards tranquility, wealth and order.

While no one can foretell the future, as it stands presently, our situation as a community in the US bodes ill for our future. As we enter a New Year, so many involved, caring, loving American Armenians died, leaving most of us uncaring, un-involved in Armenian community life. If this trend continues, it surely will be a tragic portent of our future demise. So many of us do not utilize the tools, materials and means to get joyfully involved to secure a bright future for our community. “We are now Americans,” they claim and “American we shall remain.”

Then there is a group of very active, loving and caring people among us who worship and admire the Armenian Church and happily give their time, treasure and talent to her. They are building more and more churches and establishing new parishes, in the hope that our faith and churches will invigorate the Armenian spirit and ensure the continuation of the community. This, they think, will ensure the continuity of the Armenian community in America. This attitude unquestionably, is positively and highly commendable and inspiring. But, isn’t it true that we are asking too much from the Armenian Church? Isn’t the mission of the church to save our souls? Are we asking the church to save us as she did centuries ago? Do we really think that only the church will keep us strong, vibrant community and safeguard our future as a community? What is our answer to those who do not attend church, except for weddings and funerals? Don’t we witness empty pews in most churches? How about those who think the Armenian church is the only institution to keep the Armenian community existing in the US?

As most of you know, the Armenian Church is no different than other Christian, Apostolic, Orthodox churches, with a combined membership at almost 300 million worldwide. There is really nothing more special or life-giving to a community than to keep them active and alive forever. There are those among us of different religious beliefs, like the Armenian Protestants or Armenian Catholics who do not attend our churches. Certainly, they too happen to be of Armenian descent. The Armenian Church does not have a license or life insurance to keep our community alive for decades and centuries to come.

Then we have a super majority who proudly claim that they and their children are proud Armenians. They serve Armenian food to their children and they are proud that their grandchildren also love the food they eat. The fact is that they do not speak Armenian and know little about Armenian history, literature and yet they are proud to call themselves Armenian Americans. It is fine to let this uninvolved, large majority to consider what they cook for their children. In fact, what they offer their children is Turkish, Arabic or Persian food. The list includes dolma, sarma, kufta, shish kebab, burma, bulghur, pilaf, gavourma and halva. They are all good and tasty, but not Armenian, and serving these dishes, we do not make them or their children active and involved Armenians — even if they were to eat tons of this food!

Besides church and food, what about Armenian culture? The very word culture is the hallmark of a nation. Culture is a time-honored practice, observation, system of values. By its very definition, culture is almost second nature throughout life’s duration. In short, culture must be considered the Ivory Tower of a nation, especially those who live not in the homeland, but in dispersion.

I am almost certain that the huge majority of us have considered, and still consider church and food, will make us good Armenians. Unfortunately, they are wrong, dead wrong. As a personal survey, I asked 10 highly-educated Armenians, whose mothers attend church every Sunday, what are the colors of the Armenian flag? “We only have one flag and that is the American flag” was the answer of nine out of 10 who answered. The next question I asked was where the Holy Land Armenia was located. Most answered, “somewhere in the Middle East.” These fine, young men and women are going to get married, have children, all of whom will be part of the Armenian community. It is impossible to blame them, as they have never been exposed to our language, books, newspapers and are not part of any Armenian organization. Obviously, their children will be raised without Armenian culture. This is indeed very tragic!

Some time back, the month of October was declared “Culture Month.” With the exception of the two political parties, no church or other organization honored Culture Month. The Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) is to be commended for organizing young professional groups. While their focus has been raising funds or creating fellowship among people, Armenian culture certainly is part of their function and future plans. The hope is that the coming year and the years beyond are unquestioned, loved and the cry will be to make Armenian culture a national habitat wherever Armenians live.

(Nubar Dorian is former co-chair of the Armenian Assembly in Washington DC.)