GLENVIEW, Ill—The Chicago Armenian community marked the 105th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide with a series of programs and events spanning over a week at the end of April 2020. Due to COVID-19 pandemic related restrictions, nearly all of the events were conducted online.
The commemorative activities began on April 20 with students from the Taniel Varoujan Armenian School (TVAS) reciting poems, singing songs and expressing their thoughts about the Armenian Genocide online. On Friday, April 24, the Chicago “Ararat” AYF-YOARF Chapter released a special video entitled Stories of Survivors, featuring Chicago AYF members sharing stories about their family members who survived the Genocide.
Also on Friday, a small group of protesters holding signs, flags and banners took up positions in Chicago’s Daley Plaza to protest Turkey’s denial of the Genocide and demand the return of Armenia’s occupied Western territories and just reparations. Protestors wore gloves and masks, complying with social distancing rules and sharp restrictions limiting the number of participants. After forcefully demanding justice from Turkey for almost 50 consecutive years, protesters were determined not to be silenced by the pandemic.
Our Monument Stands Alone was also released on Friday, likening the sense of isolation imposed by the COVID-19 restrictions with Western Armenia’s loss of its indigenous people.
On Sunday, clergy from six Chicago-area churches jointly celebrated the Feast of the Holy Martyrs of the Genocide. Services were live-streamed from All Saints Church in Glenview.
In previous years the joint services would draw hundreds of community members, with services being simulcast in neighboring Shahnasarian Hall to accommodate the crowds. Congregants would then follow the clergy and community leaders in a solemn procession to the Martyrs’ Monument for the Armenian National Committee (ANC) of Illinois’ commemorative program.
This year’s ANC of Illinois commemoration was streamed online. “The time will come, when the government of Turkey will have to come to terms with its dark, blood-stained history,” said ANC of Illinois chair Maral Abrahamian in her opening remarks. She also warned viewers to stand strong in the face of assimilation. “We cannot become a people that once existed,” she stated.
Abrahamian was followed by Chicago ARF “Christapor” Gomideh Chair Hagop Soulakian and Chicago AYF representative Araxie Cass, who offered messages on behalf of their respective organizations. After a brief recitation by TVAS student Raffael Tomasyan, Armenian Honorary Consul Oscar Tatosian provided his remarks from the consulate. TVAS student Talar Panosian recited a poem by Hamo Sahyan, and Areny Tokmakjian sang Vokyerk Nahadagats.
Vikki Kokuzian then presented a statement from Cong. Jan Schakowsky (IL-9), who expressed her pride in how Illinois has gone beyond just mere recognition to having a genocide education mandate and a Holocaust and Genocide Commission to raise awareness.
Addressing viewers from his home, Cong. Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-8) stated “I was proud to join my colleagues in Congress on a resolution to establish, as a matter of US policy, our rejection of any continued Armenian Genocide denial.” Cong. Krishanmoorthi also stressed the importance of education in combatting genocide denial and in helping to prevent future genocides. Very Rev. Ghevont Pentezian, pastor of All Saints Church, concluded the program with his benediction.
Finally, on Thursday, April 30, the ANC of Illinois and the Chicago AYF participated in a 24-hour global vigil organized by the #TogetherWeRemember Coalition. Through its partnership with the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Educational Center, the ANC and AYF shared survivor’s stories and information about the Armenian Genocide. The focus of the vigil was to honor victims of genocide and identity-based violence. The vigil was truly global in scope; there were participants from Argentina, Bosnia Herzegovina, Germany, Guinea, Hong Kong, Kenya, Mauritania, Mauritius, Poland, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and cities throughout the USA.