HACKENSACK, N.J.—Bergen County officials and local Armenian residents commemorated those who perished during the Armenian Genocide at the Bergen County Courthouse on Wednesday afternoon, April 24, in an annual event sponsored by the Knights and Daughters of Vartan.
Attendees on behalf of Bergen County included Sheriff Michael Saudino, representatives from the offices of the Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan and the Bergen County Clerk, the Honorable John S. Hogan, and members of the Board of Chosen Freeholders.
Guests gathered by the Armenian Genocide memorial on The Lawn on Main St., as Grand Vice Commander of the Knights of Vartan, John Lawrence Shahdanian, Esq. welcomed everyone and invited Freeholder Maura R. DeNicola, representative of Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan, to present a proclamation for the Armenian Genocide. DeNicola declared April 24 as “a day of remembrance and reflection in somber recognition of the great calamity known as the Armenian Genocide.”
Following the reading of the proclamation, Shahdanian introduced the afternoon’s keynote speaker, Taleen Babayan, who expressed the resilience of Armenians despite a history marred by catastrophe and tragedy.
“Almost a century after an unsuccessful attempt at extermination, we continue to thrive as a people,” said Babayan. “We are scattered, yes, but we are unified in our message. Unified in our will to persevere. We are here, appropriately, at this hall of justice, to see that justice is administered, no matter how long it may take and how arduous the path.”
Babayan touched on the family stories of survival shared by the audience members and Armenians across the diaspora, and she spoke about the responsibilities of the next generation to continue recognition and commemoration efforts.
“As descendants of survivors, we have inherited a heavy load of responsibility and a moral obligation to keep our identity and the truth of our history alive. We have to ensure that those who perished in the Armenian Genocide do not fall victim twice—once to the sword and second to the lost pages of history.”
She noted that the challenges confronting the Armenian people and their homeland have not ended, yet added that despite the conflicts, Armenians continue to persevere and prevail.
“Our church hymns continue to echo in our sanctuaries. Our language continues to be spoken. And we continue to remember. And that is our victory in the face of annihilation.”
The program concluded with a Requiem Service at the Armenian Genocide memorial; dedicated on July 8, 1990, it states, “In Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1923, where 1,500,000 innocent Armenians were massacred by Ottoman Turks.”
Area priests and deacons led the Hokehankisd, and included Fr. Hovnan Bozoyan, pastor of Sts. Vartanantz Church, Ridgefield; Rev. Fr. Diran Bohajian, pastor of St. Leon Armenian Church in Fair Lawn; and Rev. Fr. Vazken Karayan, pastor of St. Mary’s Armenian Church in Union City.
The afternoon service concluded with the laying of red carnations at the memorial plaque.