ANC Holds Genocide Commemoration in Lowell

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

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

Children gather around a Tricolor during a flag-raising ceremony at Lowell City Hall in observance of the 95th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

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 genocidal education in our public schools as being pivotal in securing proper recognition. “A crime ignored is a crime encouraged,” said the grandson of a famed revolutionary general by the same name. “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 on 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,” Kanayan 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 Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), presented a school essay she had written on her family’s Armenian history that gained considerable merit 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 diligence.

“It makes me a stronger, more caring person knowing that my great-grandparents 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 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, N.H.

Other groups taking part were the North Andover AYF, ARS chapters of Lowell and Merrimack Valley, Lowell Armenian Revolutionary Federation (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.

ANC members were responsible for getting sizeable advertisements published in the Lowell Sun, Lawrence Eagle-Tribune and Nashua Telegraph calling for an end to Turkey’s gag rule on the United States and a push toward passage of House Resolution 252.

Funding for the $3,500 project was provided through community solicitations.

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
Tom Vartabedian

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