Tekeyan Cultural Association and Cultural Association of Armenians From Istanbul Pay Tribute to Osep Sarafian


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Edmond Azadian

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Sarafian grandchildren sing Hayr Mer

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Osep Sarafian and Diana Alexanian

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The Sarafian Family

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — On Sunday, April 10, the St. John Armenian Church Cultural Hall was filled with family and friends at a tribute luncheon to honor prominent architect and community activist Osep Sarafian for his tireless humanitarian work in Armenia.

The luncheon was hosted by Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) and the Cultural Society of Armenians from Istanbul. Tekeyan Chair Diana Alexanian opened the program by inviting Father Aren Jebejian of St. John Armenian Church, to offer a welcome prayer and the blessing of the food. Father Jebejian being informed in advance of the talent of the Sarafian grandchildren, invited them to recite the Hayr Mer, “The Lord’s Prayer.” Their voices in the mother tongue touched the hearts of every attendee.

A highlight of the celebration included a musical interlude provided by the renowned, New York-based, Armenian-Argentinian mezzo soprano, Solange Merdinian, accompanied by pianist Doris Hall. The audience was treated to a repertoire of Armenian folk, Baroque and contemporary operatic songs.

Edmond Azadian was the keynote speaker, who outlined the honoree’s biography describing him as one of the “descendants” or representative of the prominent Balian family of architects who have designed most of the palaces, mosques, fortresses and parks in Istanbul, the capital city of the Ottoman Empire. Further, Azadian described in detail Sarafian’s charitable mission in Armenia, achieving many essential projects in the rural areas. He stated that the honoree has served as a one-person committee conducting fundraising, negotiating projects with ASIF (the Armenian Social Investment Fund) and personally supervised the execution of those projects. Azadian characterized Sarafian’s mission as “constructive patriotism” which was implemented against all odds and negative currents. That is why Sarafian was awarded with a Medal of Honor by Hovik Abrahamian, the Prime Minister of Armenia.

Following Azadian’s remarks, Diana Alexanian invited the honoree to the podium, where he thanked Azadian for his kind remarks and acknowledged all who had ventured to come in spite of the inclement weather. Sarafian stated that he alone could not have accomplished much had he not been lucky enough to have had well-to-do relatives and friends who trusted him and shared his dreams about the urgent need to help Armenia. He humbly wanted to share the honor with them.

He said “Instead of giving a lecture, today I want to tell you about my love story with Armenia which began in 1986 during a three week Educator’s Conference in Yerevan, while accompanied by my wife, Dr. Nadya Sarafian, as principal of the AGBU School in Southfield.”

Since then, the call of the homeland and the urgent need for help has taken him to Armenia more than 40 times over the last 30 years. He was there after the 1988 earthquake; in 1991 he witnessed the independence of Armenia which was followed by incredible hardships due to the lack of electricity and heating and the breakout of war with Azerbaijan and the liberation of Artsakh.

During this period, Osep Sarafian, who had taken an early retirement in 1994, raised more than $10 million to benefit projects such as rebuilding Yerevan State University; the American University of Armenia; AGBU Soup Kitchens; the Nork Children’s Center; the Cosmic Ray Division of the Physics Institute; the Philharmonic Orchestra; Echmiadzin and the American Armenian Wellness Center.

Since 2003, in partnership with ASIF and the World Bank, Sarafian has focused on rural area projects, particularly in the border regions to help keep the villagers on their land and curtail depopulation. He said, “If we want to keep Armenia alive we have to pay attention to the Villages where you can see and feel the purity of the Armenian nation.”

In the last thirteen years working with ASIF and the World Bank he has been able to raise more than $19.9 million for projects completed in 131 villages that includes 59 schools, 35 community centers, 37 water supply projects, road construction and health centers.

He ended his remarks by reminding those present that by working hand-in-hand we can overcome all challenges in the homeland and create a bright future for generations to come.

To close the event, a benediction was given by the Very Rev. Diran Papazian.