GLENDALE, Calif.—The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Western Region has launched a campaign, timed for the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, to honor Near East Relief, an organization that mobilized Americans and rescued hundreds of thousands of orphans and survivors of the genocide.
The campaign, called “America We Thank You: An Armenian Tribute to Near East Relief,” is a movement to recognize the outpouring of generosity by the American people in the immediate aftermath of the Armenian Genocide (1915-23), and to highlight the efforts of Near East Relief in rescuing and providing assistance to hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children who were victims of the genocide.
Countless Armenian Americans are descendants of those rescued by Near East Relief. ANCA-WR officials said the campaign is committed to promoting the Near East Relief’s groundbreaking ability to bring the American people together under one cause—the aid to refugees of the Armenian Genocide. Through various events and programs, “America We Thank You: An Armenian Tribute to Near East Relief” will mark the centennial of the Near East Relief’s efforts and express gratitude to the American people for establishing and continuing the tradition of being the most generous nation.
As news of the horrors of the Armenian Genocide poured into the U.S., President Woodrow Wilson in September 1915 urged Congress to act swiftly to provide assistance to the victims of the Ottoman-Turkish massacres of Armenians. This Congressionally mandated operation, which would later be dubbed Near East Relief, galvanized every segment of American society to rise up and provide assistance to the refugees of the genocide.
Near East Relief established and operated several orphanages in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere, including Armenia, to shelter and care for hundreds of thousands of orphans who escaped the horrors of the genocide. The campaign was entirely funded by the American people.
“As we, a community and a nation, look toward the centennial of the Armenian Genocide in 2015, we would be remiss to discount the crucial role Near East Relief played in salvaging the victims of the horrible tragedy, and by the same token, play a critical role in safeguarding the survival of the Armenian Nation,” said Vanna Kitsinian, Esq., co-chair of the “We Thank You America” effort.
“Through this campaign we want to say a collective ‘thank you’ to the American people for recognizing the plight of Armenians and mobilizing the entire nation. We thank you America,” added Hermineh Pakhanians, co-chair of the committee.
“As the largest and leading Armenian-American advocacy organization, the ANCA-WR is taking the lead to ensure that the current generation of Americans is well aware of its past humanitarian efforts and the role that the U.S. Congress and the White House played at the time of the genocide,” emphasized Nora Hovsepian, Esq., chair of the ANCA-WR.
In 2010, Keith David Watenpaugh, an associate professor and a historian at University of California at Davis, argued in an article published in the American Historical Review that the Armenian Genocide sparked the modern humanitarian movement and the original concept of “citizen philanthropy.”
“America We Thank You: An Armenian Tribute to Near East Relief” is planning to host its inaugural launch event next month.