PROVIDENCE, R.I.—More than 100 people came together for a sold-out steak dinner in support of the displaced people of Artsakh on Saturday, October 28 at Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church in Providence. Generous community members collectively donated $23,000 to benefit the Armenians of Artsakh through the Saint Nerses the Great Charitable Foundation.
The presence of His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, who came to share what he learned about the needs of the displaced during his recent trip to Armenia, along with church pastor Rev. Fr. Kapriel Nazarian and retired pastor Archpriest Fr. Gomidas Baghsarian, lent reverence to the somber evening.
Displayed above the stage was a large mural created by the Providence Homenetmen scouts of tri-colored handprints surrounding an image of the “We Are Our Mountains” monument in Artsakh painted by Anahid Donoyan. “Their hands are reaching out to touch the hands of those children affected by the war and genocide that just took place,” Board of Trustees chairman Levon Attarian explained about the mural’s symbolism. Attarian went on to cite the widely-quoted words by William Saroyan about the growth of community that happens when Armenians come together. “I guarantee you that the Artsakhtsis will build our new Armenia in the coming years,” Attarian said.
Rhode Island State Senator David P. Tikoian regretted being unable to attend the dinner and sent a message that Attarian read on his behalf. As always, Sen. Tikoian expressed pride in his Armenian heritage and devotion to his community, church and people. “It is beyond comprehension, after 108 years, that Armenians would once again be subjected to an ethnic cleansing. This is not the time to feel beaten down; it’s a time to be what Armenians are known for, being strong and being survivors! My friends, our people need our help now more than ever,” Sen. Tikoian wrote. Attarian concluded the message by announcing Sen. Tikoian’s donation of $500 to the Saint Nerses the Great Charitable Foundation, which is overseeing the distribution of the funds collected by the church.
Before welcoming His Eminence Archbishop Tanielian to speak, Rev. Fr. Nazarian offered his sincere gratitude to the Board of Trustees and the entire community for their support and charitable works. Fr. Kapriel noted that Board Chairman Attarian and Vice-Chairman Arees Khatchadourian had been outside manning the grills and cooking the steaks before coming in and changing for dinner. He also said that the event was the brainchild of Board member Charles Mouradjian.
Archbishop Tanielian, recently returned from Armenia, offered to address the community about his findings upon learning that Fr. Kapriel and the Board were hoping for someone to provide firsthand knowledge of the conditions faced by the Armenians of Artsakh. His Eminence went to Armenia with a delegation designated by His Holiness Catholicos Aram I.
Archbishop Tanielian said that he’s been to Armenia many times previously, “but this time was the most difficult time.” The delegation visited about 1,000 displaced families who were forced to leave Artsakh. “We were uprooted from our 5,000-year-old land, traditions, sacred churches and more,” he said, stressing that it is heartbreaking to be cut off from your ancestral land.
His Eminence recounted meeting with men whose fathers had fought and died in the First Artsakh War. “Imagine, Srpazan, now we cannot visit our own fathers’ graves,” they told him. “1915 is not the past. 1915 is the present. It is ongoing, the history of the annihilation of our nation,” Archbishop Tanielian said. “It is very difficult to describe what we witnessed.”
He recounted his message to the displaced families of Artsakh, a message he takes to every parish he visits around the world. “No matter what you lose—house, belongings, family members—no matter what you lose, please don’t lose your faith in God,” he entreated them. “The very center of our existence is trusting in God. When we trust in God, eventually we renew ourselves. Who could have imagined after 1915 that we would create prosperous communities in the four corners of the world? That’s how God works mysteriously.”
He went on to praise the work of the Saint Nerses the Great Charitable Foundation, established by Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian of blessed memory, which has been in service to the nation for 30 years, taking care of orphans and other charitable acts. Initially, the foundation provided the immediate necessities and distributed 50,000 drams to each displaced family. His Eminence said that much more will be done based on the needs of the people through trusted partners of the foundation, including helping families to have homes in communities together so they stay in Armenia.
His Eminence said they tried to bring the families, who are in such a desperate situation, “a message of faith, hope and love—faith in God, hope for the future and love for our nation.” Archbishop Tanielian thanked the community on behalf of the Religious and Executive Councils of the Eastern Prelacy. “We are one nation, with one vision and one future,” he said. “Our people’s heart is more precious than gold.”