PEABODY, Mass. (A.W.)—On the grey and rainy morning of April 26, a flag-raising ceremony was held for the 103rd commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in front of the Peabody City Hall. The event was organized by Peabody Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt, Jr. and late Mayor Peter Torigian’s wife Jackie Torigian.
Following the singing of the Armenian and American National Anthems, the ceremony continued inside. Mayor Bettencourt presented his opening remarks, stating that the Armenian Genocide ceremony has been held in Peabody for more than two decades. Bettencourt recalled one day during his senior year at Peabody High School, when the late Mayor Torigian spoke to his History class about the Torigian Family tragedy and their incredible courage during the Armenian Genocide. It was the first time that he had heard about the genocide, which made a big impact on him.
The Mayor continued by mentioning recent acts of evil in different parts of the world and noted that we must also pay tribute to those lives, remember and speak about ongoing events, and educate future generations. “Because of this ceremony,” he added, “we learn about genocide and human violence.”
Rev. Father Vasken A. Kouzouian of Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge, Rev. Father Stephan Baljian of St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church in North Andover, Father Anthony Pantilyan of Saint Vasilios Greek Orthodox Church in Peabody and Deacon Armen Skenderian of Holy Trinity, held a requiem service to memorialize the victims of Armenian Genocide. A special requiem was also hled for the Late Mayor Peter Torigian and his family.
In her greetings, Mayor Torigian’s wife Jackie Torigian noted that the Armenian Genocide was murder of 1.5 million innocent people and should not be forgotten. Then, Jackie Torigian introduced the event’s main speaker, Yeretskin (Yn.) Arpi Kouzouian, Youth Director and superintendent of Sunday school at Holy Trinity Armenian Church in Cambridge, Mass.
Yn. Kouzouian started her presentation titled “How to preserve Our Armenian Heritage Through Our Youth” with sharing her story that how she was born in Toronto, Canada, as a First Generation Canadian, but raised as an Armenian. “ I grew up hearing, reading, writing, socializing… and even eating Armenian.” Then she married with Father Vasken A. Kouzouian and moved to Cambridge, where she has resided for 24 years, and spent most of her life working with new generations in the Armenian Church.
Yn. Kouzouian beautifully described her experiences and involvements with the younger generation, and how she has found unity in the Armenian Church and Armenian people: “In all my experiences working in youth ministry, I have found that the connection between our faith and culture never ceased… This is, in fact, the essence of how to keep our youth connected to their Armenian Christian heritage.”
She mentioned about how during the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide, the Armenian Church canonized the 1.5 million genocide martyrs to the Holy Martyrs and made them saints: “Now victors over death,” she said about the martyrs and the Armenian people. She then outlines three responsibilities that Armenians must have today, more than a century after the crime: Knowing their family history; living their lives with honor; and transitioning from victims to victors. She added that during the past two weeks of unrest, protests, and acts of civil disobedience in Armenia, we have witnessed the emergence of present-day heroes, raising their voices against a new oppression and injustice.
In conclusion Yn. Kouzouian noted: “I humbly pray that our youth will always remember and appreciate the sacrifice of our martyrs and always strive to lives of meaning that are worthy of being called the descendants of saints.”
In his closing remarks, Mayor Bettencourt said that Peabody will continue this tradition to commemorate the Armenian Genocide. He also explained that this year, there were no Peabody high school students present at the commemoration due to a transportation problem. Noting the importance of informing the youth about the Armenian Genocide and related historical events, the Mayor expressed hope that the high school students will be present next year.
Mayor Bettencourt then presented a proclamation to Jackie Torigian, which proclaimed April 26 as the 103rd commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in Peabody.