Raises $30,000 for Syrian Armenian Relief Efforts
NEW YORK—On Sat. Dec. 5, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) New York “Armen Garo” Gomideh hosted an event celebrating the 125th anniversary of the ARF. Two-hundred guests attended the sold-out program dedicated to honoring the organization as well as supporting its current efforts to aid Armenians in Syria. The event drew the participation of organizations from all parts of the community, including St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church and St. Illuminator’s Armenian Apostolic Cathedral; the New York Homenetmen Chapter; the New York Hamazkayin; the New York Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) and Armenian Relief Society (ARS) chapters; as well as the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (ADL). Special guests included the representative of Armenia’s Mission to the United Nations.
Guests were welcomed into the hall decorated with banners of ARF heroes both past and present, and their tables were identified by a picture of one fedayee. In this vibrant atmosphere filled by the old and young generations, a program was presented by the Gomideh featuring keynote speakers Hayg Oshagan, ARF Eastern Region Central Committee chairman, and Nerses Sarkissian, ARF Syrian Central Committee member. Master of ceremonies Nazareth Markarian led attendees in the singing of the Armenian and ARF anthems, followed by a moment of silence for all ARF heroes and martyrs. The table was then blessed by Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian and Rev. Fr. Nareg Terterian, after which Markarian invited Oshagan to share his thoughts on the ARF’s past, present, and future.
Oshagan noted that the ARF has always understood its main overarching duty as looking after the nation and bringing prosperity to the homeland. He spoke specifically about its work and aims in Armenia, noting three key areas of focus: economic justice, civil justice, and security. “In all of these areas in Armenia,” he said, “we have taken on challenges.” Oshagan went on to talk about the ARF’s unique work in the diaspora as nation building through community development and Hai Tahd efforts. In particular, he emphasized the support of people in all of the ARF’s projects, telling the audience, “You are here because you trust the ARF.” Finally, Oshagan talked about the future and how this time is “…the most difficult in our organization’s history because we are dealing with Armenia and the diaspora simultaneously.” The challenge, he noted, is creating a national sense of unity, but whatever successes the ARF has seen has benefited the nation as a whole.
Traveling all the way from Syria, Nerses Sarkissian addressed the gathering next, and shared his pride and pleasure to be present at the event. He began by stating that the ARF’s efforts in Syria are not just to preserve the Armenian community itself but to keep the entire Armenian nation strong. The humanitarian efforts conglomerated by all Armenian organizations in the community, led by the ARF, have provided support for the remaining Armenians in Syria as well as neighboring non-Armenian citizens. Sarkissian said that there are three categories of difficulties faced by the community there today: safety, basic necessities, and economic strain. Despite these foundational challenges, he articulated that the Armenian community in Syria has not become poor; rather, it still retains a very vibrant and active community life, and continues to organize commemorations, special events, and school programs.
Finally, he outlined the approach the ARF has taken in its work for the Syrian-Armenian community, by helping those Armenians (1) who are left in Syria today; (2) who want to leave, encouraging them to go to the homeland, Armenia; and (3) who choose to go into the diaspora, encouraging them to stay involved in the local community. Following these remarks, a short DVD was shown depicting the ARF’s contribution to community efforts in Syria. Many interviews by ARF members were included as they described their work on the ground in Aleppo and the overall efforts of the united Syrian-Armenian community.
After the program, Armenian national and patriotic songs were performed by the Artsakh Band from Philadelphia. During this time, attendees made generous donations to support Syrian Armenians, providing the ARF with $30,000, of which every cent will go to help all of the Armenian communities in Syria. The spirit of unity in the New York community was evident throughout the evening and a strong sense of pride in the ARF’s past and trust in its future was felt. Going along with this spirit, and being moved by the strength and determination of the Syrian-Armenian youth depicted in the DVD, the New York “Hyortik” AYF Juniors and Seniors prepared a short video offering words of encouragement and thanks to them, which they gave to Sarkissian to share with the community when he returns. “Persevere… Your efforts make a difference…we have faith in you,” they stated, in hopes of keeping the spirits of their brothers and sisters in Syria high.