Haverhill Observes Genocide with Service and Education

HAVERHILL, Mass.—An auditorium filled with 300 members of the junior class at Haverhill High School heard the story of the Armenian Genocide on April 14, capping off a rather ambitious curriculum on human rights education instituted throughout the year. The event highlighted a 99th anniversary observance that was followed the next day by the Greater Haverhill Armenian community at the Armenian Apostolic Church at Hye Pointe.

Greater Haverhill Armenians gather at the Armenian Apostolic Church at Hye Pointe for the 99th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, led by Mayor James Fiorentini and Rev. Fr. Vart Gyozalian, pastor.
Greater Haverhill Armenians gather at the Armenian Apostolic Church at Hye Pointe for the 99th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, led by Mayor James Fiorentini and Rev. Fr. Vart Gyozalian, pastor.

Students were enamored by an assortment of questions surrounding the genocide and other pogroms throughout history, including the Jewish Holocaust and Rwanda.

The program was sponsored by the Armenian Genocide Education Committee of Merrimack Valley, led by Dr. Ara Jeknavorian and Chairman Dro Kanayan.

“Our students learned a great deal about Armenian history, much of which hasn’t been duly recorded in history books,” said instructor Jay Levine. “Despite our differences and ethnic diversity, we must learn to share common ground and respect one another’s culture and heritage.”

On a day marked by strong winds and heavy rain, Haverhill Armenians gathered inside their church for a short memorial service led by Rev. Fr. Vart Gyozalian, followed by the presentation of a city-wide proclamation by Mayor James J. Fiorentini.

“The commemoration of this terrible blight on humanity at the hands of the Ottoman Empire serves to remind free people everywhere that peace and freedom from oppression should not be accepted in a casual manner,” Mayor Fiorentini said.

“We should all give thanks to the martyrs who gave their lives so that their heritage would survive and be part of a foundation for a better society,” he added.

A reception followed in the mayor’s chambers. Organizing the arrangements was mayoral aide Barbara Arthur.

The proclamation was read at a meeting of the City Council, which was aired on Haverhill Community TV. The Armenian tricolor was flown from City Hall during the week of April 20.

A more conclusive observance will be planned for the Centennial next year.

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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.
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