By Ara Jeknavorian
Armenians from throughout the Merrimack Valley and southern New Hampshire gathered together over the April 22-24 weekend to pray and honor the memory of 1.5 million martyrs, victims of the horrific first genocide of the 20th century.
On Friday evening, an Interfaith Service was hosted by the Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Church of Chelmsford with the participation of local Lutheran, Episcopalian, and Buddhist religious groups. Following a requiem service at the church’s martyrs monument led by the pastor, Rev. Fr. Khachatur Kesablyan, prayers in memory of all genocide victims were offered by the guest clergy. After a reception provided by the Women’s Guild, an open discussion was held about the impact of the Armenian Genocide on the subsequent mass murder of other ethnic groups.
On Saturday, under the sponsorship of the Armenian National Committee (ANC) of Merrimack Valley, some 100 Armenians marched through downtown Lowell to the City Hall. The procession was led by the Lowell Armenian-American Veterans Honor Guard, area Sunday School students bearing banners calling for recognition of the Armenian Genocide, as well as Lowell Mayor Bud Caufield. With the participation of numerous Lowell City officials and a representative of U.S. Congresswomen Niki Tsongas, a short program was conducted featuring youth speakers Sam Boghigian from the ACYOA and Dennis Teague representing the AYF. Pearl Teague of the ANC served as master of ceremonies. Highlighting the program was the presentation of a proclamation citing April 24 as Armenian Martyr’s Day in the City of Lowell, and the hoisting of the Armenian tricolor by local youth over City Hall. A fellowship gathering followed in the Mayor’s Reception Room with refreshments provided by the Sts.Vartanantz Women’s Guild and the Lowell “Lusintak” Chapter of the Armenian Relief Society (ARS). The Ani Wind and String ensemble provided a musical interlude. Extensive press coverage of the event appeared the following day in the Lowell Sunday Sun newspaper.
The weekend-long activities were brought to a close with the annual April 24 commemoration organized by the Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committee of the Merrimack Valley (ACCMV). Preceding the program, a requiem service was conducted by area clergy and deacons, and a joint choir from all of the local Armenian churches. A memorial tribute to Rev. Fr. Vartan Kassabian, the pastor of St. Gregory’s Armenian Church of the Merrimack Valley and an ardent supporter of many Armenian causes, was offered by his son, Mgrdich, and published in the program booklet.
Sossy Jeknavorian, committee chairwoman and master of ceremonies, opened the program by calling out the names of the eight remaining local survivors of the Armenian Genocide, as well as the following four survivors who passed away during the past year: Eva Loosigian, Carl Mootafian, Satenig Sarkisian, and Hmayag Vosgarichian. Among the remaining eight survivors, only Ojen Fantazian was able to attend and be recognized. A dramatic and moving address was offered by Aram Gurekian, a high school student from Waltham, who chose to present a speech originally given by Prof. Dennis Papazian to the United Nations on the Genocide Convention. First prize for the committee’s essay contest, designed to encourage area high school students to express their viewpoints about their Armenian Heritage, was awarded to Dennis T. Teague, Jr. and Sonya Hovsepian.
The theme of this year’s commemorative program was “A Musical Tribute to the Martyrs.” The Ar-Li-Na string ensemble, comprised of highly talented musicians from Armenia—Armenoui Kehian, Lilit Muradyan, and Nara Shahbazyan—and accompanied by guest violinist, Sarkis Karapetyan, offered a wonderful and inspiring program of Armenian classical and traditional chamber music selections.
The event, attend by over 300 people, came to a close with a reception.
Organized in 1990, the ACCMV is dedicated to sponsoring an annual commemorative event designed to bring together the entire community to pay homage to the Armenians who perished in the Ottoman Turkish Empire from 1915-23. Over the years, net proceeds in excess of $50,000 have been donated to various charitable causes in Armenia.