GLENVIEW, Ill. – The Chicago “Christapor” Gomideh organized a series of events on November 20-21 to mark the 131st anniversary of the founding of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), including educational lectures, a community celebration and a memorial service.
The weekend began with the Gomideh sending a video message to the community marking the organization’s founding and promoting a message of unity in demanding justice and accountability from Armenia’s authorities. The message, delivered by Gomideh representative Hagop Soulakian, called on the community to remain active and vigilant.
On Saturday, November 20, the Gomideh arranged for special ARF-related lessons to be presented to the students of the Taniel Varoujan Armenian School. In addition, Gomideh members prepared and served lunch to the student body as well as teaching staff, faculty and school board members, continuing a long-standing tradition that was only recently broken in 2020 due to the pandemic.
The educational component of the day began with Anoush Bargamian leading art classes for the kindergarteners and students in lower elementary. Students celebrated the ARF’s birthday by doing rubbings of blocks with raised Armenian words such as միութիւն (unity) and ազատութիւն (freedom) and learned about their meaning and how the ARF has fought for these values. They also created the ARF coat of arms by fashioning its individual elements out of paper and then assembling them together. During the lesson, Bargamian discussed the significance of each component of the coat of arms, conveying the message of what the ARF stands for and how the organization is based on a diverse membership united to work for a common cause.
Greg Bedian made a presentation to grades 4-7 and teachers’ assistants on the topic of “The ARF Then and Now.” Bedian spoke about how the mission and methods of the ARF have evolved over its 131-year history while the ARF has stayed true to its core value of pursuing justice. He demonstrated how seven critical events, such as the takeover of Armenian churches by Tsarist authorities, the establishment of Armenia’s first independence and the creation of the modern diaspora forced the ARF to adopt new approaches and tactics.
On Saturday evening, an “agoump” night was held in Shanasarian Hall in the Armenian Community Center marking the ARF’s 131st anniversary. The event was co-sponsored by the Chicago ARF, Armenian Relief Society (ARS), Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), Hamazkayin and Homenetmen. This was the first evening event held inside the community center since the advent of the pandemic. Attendees enjoyed the opportunity to share dinner and socialize with friends and family while listening to Armenian music. Gomideh representative Armen Papazian delivered brief remarks, discussing the many challenges facing the Armenian nation today and thanking community members for their ongoing support of the ARF. In honor of the ARF’s 131st anniversary, over $8,000 was raised, both during the event and online. The funds will be split evenly to benefit the Lebanese Armenian community and the Armenians of Artsakh.
On Sunday, November 21, a special requiem service was held by Der Vahan Kouyoumdjian at Armenian All Saints Apostolic Church in memory of the soldiers who perished during the 44-day war as well as those that were killed in recent attacks, and for the deceased members of the Chicago “Christapor” Gomidehoutyun. Following church services, the Ladies Guild prepared a traditional madagh memorial dinner to honor the fallen soldiers and ARF members.
The ARF established its first Gomideh in Chicago in 1896, only six years after the ARF was founded in Tiflis in 1890. Over the years, Chicago has been home to several Gomidehs based in various parts of the city. These Gomidehs were instrumental in the creation of libraries, community centers, schools and churches. The “Christapor” Gomidehoutyun was formed in 1959 upon the merging of the Chicago “Dro” and “Vahan Navasartian” Gomidehoutyouns.