Detroit, Boston, Providence Communities Rally for Syrian Armenian Relief
As part of an emergency appeal for Syrian-Armenian relief initiated by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Eastern Region Central Committee, Dr. Nerses Sarkissian, a member of the ARF Central Committee of Syria and the Syrian Armenian Committee for Urgent Relief and Rehabilitation, is touring the East Coast communities to raise awareness of the challenges facing Syrian Armenians.
As the crisis in Syria continues to unfold, the Armenian community there is facing numerous difficulties. Sarkissian spoke about the steps that are being taken to secure and distribute aid to members of the community, and to ensure their safety. The tour aims to educate the public about the crisis in Syria, particularly as it affects the Armenian community, and to raise funds for relief.
Sarkissian visited the Armenian communities in Worcester, Detroit, New York, Boston, Providence, Washington, D.C., Chicago/Racine, Granite City, Philadelphia, and New Jersey.
Below are brief reports from Detroit, Boston, and Providence.
Detroit Community Comes Together for Syrian-Armenian Relief
DETROIT, Mich.—Members of the Detroit Armenian community gathered at Orchard Lake Middle School in West Bloomfield, Mich., on Dec. 4, to learn about the situation of the Syrian-Armenian community. The event was organized by the Detroit ARF “Azadamard” Gomideh, with the support of sister organizations and St. Sarkis Armenian Church.
Gomideh Chair Raffi Ourlian provided the opening remarks and introduced Sarkissian to the audience. During his talk, Sarkissian provided details about the current situation of Syrian Armenians, who, according to him, number around 35,000. He spoke extensively on the ongoing challenges the community faces, including a lack of water and electricity, a depleted economy, joblessness, and constant threats of rocket attacks and escalated violence. “However difficult the situation may be, the Armenian community of Syria remains determined to stay in the country and to survive,” he said.
Sarkissian also appealed to the Detroit community to stand by their compatriots in Syria. He noted that since the economy lies in ruins and the country is faced with constant threats, it would be nearly impossible to subsist and guarantee some security without the financial contribution of the worldwide Armenian Diaspora.
Sarkissian supplemented his presentation with videos that focused on various issues faced by the community—from security to relief efforts.
The following day, Sarkissian spoke at the ARF 125th anniversary celebration in New York. Read the details here.
Boston Area Community Gathers for Sarkissian Presentation
WATERTOWN, Mass.—On Dec. 10, Sarkissian presented the current situation in Syria and the challenges facing the Syrian-Armenian community to the Greater Boston Armenian community, at St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church in Watertown, Mass.
The event was organized by the Boston ARF “Sardarabad” Gomideh with the participation of the following sister organizations: St Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church, the Armenian National Committee (ANC) of Eastern Massachusetts, the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) “Leola Sassouni” and “Shushi” chapters, the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Boston “Njdeh” chapter, the Hamazkayin Boston chapter, and the Homenetmen Boston chapter.
ARF Boston “Sardarabad” Gomideh Chair Hovannes Janessian introduced Sarkissian and appealed to community members to contribute to the fundraising efforts for Syrian-Armenian relief. Sarkissian then gave details of the current state of the Syrian-Armenian community, whose organizations, religious and educational institutions, and cultural societies continue to function properly amid the turmoil in the country.
“All facets of community life function as they should; they may function on a smaller scale at times, but they still continue to exist,” said Sarkissian. “Events continue to take place. Next month, one of the Armenian choirs of Aleppo will give a big performance with a new repertoire of songs. Today, the 125th anniversary of the ARF [in Aleppo] with performers and guest speakers from abroad. Though it has been very difficult at times, life has been going on as usual,” he said.
At the end of his presentation, Sarkissian displayed a short video about the work of the Armenian community during the war, including footage from the 3 headquarters in Aleppo, from which members of the community conduct 24-hour armed guard of the Armenian areas. “The guarding of the Armenian-populated areas has been important for the morale of the Armenian community. When fellow Armenians see that the Armenian youth, who are sometimes armed, are ever-present and are there to protect their safety, the people feel safe. We are not there to participate in the war, but to defend the Armenian community, and even in the event of a rocket attack, our volunteers help to avoid panic from taking over the community,” he explained.
During the event, community members filled out pledge cards, making financial contributions to the Syrian Armenian Committee for Urgent Relief and Rehabilitation in their ongoing efforts during the civil war.
Sarkissian Briefs Providence Armenian Community
PROVIDENCE, R.I.—On Dec. 11, the Providence Armenian community came together to greet and listen to Sarkissian, who gave a presentation on the current conditions in Syria and of the Armenian community there. The event, which was organized by the Providence ARF “Kristapor” Gomideh, was emceed by Gomideh Chairman Hagop Donoyan. With translation provided by Hagop Khatchadourian and Zepur Donoyan, Sarkissian spoke in front of a wide cross-section of the community about much-needed relief for the Syrian Armenians.
Sarkissian enlightened community members about the current day-to-day challenges facing Syrian Armenians and how the Providence community can help to relieve these difficult conditions. Community members expressed relief to hear that the Syrian-Armenian community has not lost hope, with organizations, churches, and people working together for the Armenian community in Syria.
A short film was presented, showing the destruction and carnage in Aleppo. The audience was moved by the pictures of families and children struggling for simple necessities. There was a question and answer session and refreshments to conclude the evening.
Details of the Washington, Chicago/Racine, and Granite City events are forthcoming. Sarkissian is set to visit Philadelphia on Dec. 18; the event will be held at the St. Gregory the Illuminator Church Hall at 7:30 p.m. Sarkissian will then travel to Ridgefield, N.J., on Dec. 19, where a gathering will take place at the St. Vartanantz Church Hall at 7 p.m.