HAVERHILL, Mass.—Braving the falling snow and below-freezing temperatures, more than 80 friends and supporters of the Lowell ARF and Armenian National Committee (ANC) gathered on Saturday, February 25, to enjoy an informative program, delicious dinner and warm Armenian hospitality on the occasion of the 128th anniversary of the Lowell ARF’s founding.
Held at the Ermonian Hall of the Armenian Apostolic Church at Hye Pointe, the anniversary celebration of North America’s oldest ARF branch featured an inspiring talk by the church’s pastor, an informative presentation titled “Unseen Armenia” and an update of activities by the ANC of the Merrimack Valley (ANC-MV).
The night’s program began with an invocation by Rev. Father Stepan Baljian of St. Gregory Armenian Church in North Andover, followed by the singing of the US and Armenian national anthems by attendees and a reading of the ARF’s anthem, Mshag Panvor, in translation, by Master of Ceremonies and ANC-MV co-chair Ara Jeknavorian.
“The Lowell gomideh, now in its 128th year, spans some six generations of members devoted to serving the Armenian people and Armenian Cause,” said Lowell ARF chairperson Stepan Dulgarian in his opening remarks, adding that the organization’s effectiveness is, in large part, dependent on the support it receives from the Armenian community.
Having led the Merrimack Valley ANC delegation to Washington, DC for Advocacy Days in February, Dulgarian stressed the importance of political activism as a critical way of protecting Armenian rights worldwide.
ARF Central Committee chair Ani Tchaghlasian welcomed supporters and congratulated the Lowell ARF and ANC for their consistently effective work year in and year out.
She highlighted the difficulties that the Armenian nation is once again facing, including the threat of genocide against the Armenians of Artsakh.
Tchaghlasian pointed out that the ARF is present and working wherever and whenever Armenian rights and interests are in danger—on the front lines of battle, literally, but also figuratively—from the halls of Congress in the US to the European Parliament and elsewhere—applying all resources at its disposal.
As an indication of the ARF’s important role, she noted that one need only go to any social media platform to see that the main target of Azerbaijanis and Turks is not the present regime in Armenia, but the ARF worldwide and its efforts to defend Armenian rights.
She called on those gathered to continue supporting the ARF and ANC in that sacred task of ensuring that Armenia and the Armenian nation have a bright future.
The featured speaker of the anniversary event was Rev. Father Vart Gyozalyan, pastor of the Armenian Apostolic Church at Hye Pointe.
In his talk titled “Current Life and Conditions in Armenia,” Father Vart underscored the resilience and perseverance of the Armenian people, who, despite centuries of hardship, continue with fierce determination and optimism to pursue the ideals of freedom and self-determination.
“For the Armenian people, the trauma of centuries of oppression, culminating with the horrific genocide of 1915-1923, only emboldened our people to have a steadfast commitment to sustaining a vibrant Armenian community life and cultural identity both in our Armenian homelands of Armenia and Artsakh and in the Diaspora,” reflected Father Vart.
Rev. Gyozalyan, originally from Armenia and appointed to his US parish by the Catholicos of All Armenians in Etchmiadzin, spoke from both personal experience and knowledge acquired through his studies at the Gevorkyan seminary in Armenia as well as US institutions of higher learning.
Titled “Unseen Armenia: A Brief Glimpse of People, Places, Projects,” a presentation by longtime ANC activist Joe Dagdigian painted a picture of an Armenia that most visitors do not see—from small villages and their inhabitants to scenic sites that tour companies do not visit, and to cultural and religious monuments that local villagers revere but outsiders are unaware of.
Dagdigian also listed and outlined a number of projects in which Armenian citizens are taking the initiative to solve personal and societal problems.
The presentation concluded with a number of notable sites in Artsakh, some of which remain under Armenian control, others recently lost to Azerbaijan.
During an update on recent initiatives of the local ANC chapter. Jeknavorian spoke about the ANC-MV’s participation during the ANCA-ER’s Advocacy Days in Washington, DC. The ANC delegation met with US Representative Lori Trahan and the office staff of Rep. Seth Moulton and US Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren to sound the alarm bells of a genocide against the Armenians of Artsakh, as well as to encourage the lawmakers to introduce measures to sanction Azerbaijan for its illegal blockade and aggression against Artsakh and the Republic of Armenia.
Jeknavorian also highlighted ongoing ANC-MV programs: in-class seminars about the Armenian Genocide at local high schools; Armenian flag raisings and proclamations issued in remembrance of the Armenian Genocide in some 25 cities and towns in the Merrimack Valley.
Throughout the evening, attendees enjoyed delicious appetizers and a homemade meal prepared by the Lowell Armenian Relief Society (ARS) “Lousintak” Chapter.
ARF supporters and friends enjoyed each other’s company and the warm Armenian atmosphere created under the roof of a hospitable Armenian church.
A proud community continues its proud tradition.