Of protests and protests

Protesting and remembering with the AYF march to Times Square, April 24, 2024

Public gatherings and demonstrations, such as protests, candlelight vigils and marches, have become a symbol of Armenian Genocide commemorations in both the Republic of Armenia and Armenian communities in the diaspora. Many people may question the importance of such events, as the media often does not provide enough coverage, politicians do not do much beyond giving lip service, and the perpetrators do not accept responsibility for the Genocide. However, these public events, from the streets of Yerevan to Times Square and beyond, send a strong message that we have not forgotten what happened to us 109 years ago, and we demand justice and accountability for the Genocide committed against our people. 

Internally, organizing and participating in these events is equally important, because it strengthens our communal identity. Every young person who takes the podium to speak has done their homework and has learned the history of what happened to their ancestors, which then becomes their own history. In this age of virtual reality, A.I. and social media, in which young people can easily find a counterfeit sense of identity behind the locked doors of their bedrooms, it is crucial to forge our communal identity through events like these, which connect us to our real world, real people and real issues.

However, there are currently different types of protests taking place across Armenia. We continue to watch disturbing scenes of police subduing protestors in the Republic of Armenia. The protestors are demonstrating against the decision by Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to give away four villages in the Tavush region to Azerbaijan. This situation is alarming on multiple levels. First, the freedom of speech and expression of the protesters is being brutally suppressed. Second, the democratically elected prime minister is going against the will of his own people and serving the interests of Azerbaijan and Turkey. According to The Guardian, Pashinyan urged Armenians to recognize that the way this issue (i.e. surrendering four villages) is handled will determine the viability of the future peace process with Azerbaijan. Lastly, the lack of real and credible opposition within the government of the Republic of Armenia is a matter of concern.

Protesting in Tavush, April 2024 (screenshot)

As a clergyman, it is not my place to be heavily involved in politics, but as a concerned Armenian, it is extremely difficult to watch the degradation of Armenian nationalism under the pretext of securing peace in the region. 

The attempts made by the Armenian government to suppress the protestors are futile and will never succeed. As diasporan Armenians, we must continue to strengthen our Armenian national identity, which constitutes our shared identity.

In an article titled “Why Isn’t Anyone Talking About the Exodus of Christians in Nagorno-Karabakh?” published in America Magazine on April 25, 2024, Kevin Clarke summarized Azeri politics by quoting a statement from President Ilham Aliyev: “Azerbaijan would not stand by while Armenia restores its defensive capacity…Now the Armenians appear willing to accept the loss of Nagorno-Karabakh, but maybe in five years’ time, when they are supplied with deadly weapons, they will say again, ‘Karabakh is Armenia,’ and what should we do? We cannot wait.”

Aliyev’s sentiments suggest two things: first, no concession from the Armenian side will be enough to establish peace in the region, and second, Aliyev is well aware that the Artsakh case is not closed.

The attempts made by the Armenian government to suppress the protestors are futile and will never succeed. As diasporan Armenians, we must continue to strengthen our Armenian national identity, which constitutes our shared identity. It is imperative that everyone understands that no part of our homeland should be used as a bargaining tool. The Armenian Genocide is a documented historical fact, and those responsible must take full responsibility. Our collective identity as Armenians is not an outdated notion or a liability; rather, it is our moral compass, built on the values of the Armenian church and the communal consciousness of our forefathers.

I believe that this year’s Armenian Genocide commemoration carries a clear message. The feelings of despair and hopelessness that we have all experienced since the Artsakh War of 2020 and the mass exodus of Armenians from Artsakh in 2023 need to be replaced with a renewed commitment to pursuing justice and safeguarding Armenia. The input of every Armenian is extremely important in this matter.

Rev. Fr. Nareg Terterian

Rev. Fr. Nareg Terterian

Fr. Nareg is a graduate of the Armenian Theological Seminary of the Great House of Cilicia in Antelias and has an MA in Pastoral Theology and an M.S.Ed in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from St John’s University of New York. He was ordained to the rank of priesthood on 2004. In 2005 he was assigned as the pastor of St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church in Douglaston, NY. Fr. Terterian is married to Yeretsgin Annie and blessed with three children: Hovsep, Laurie and Avedis. Fr. Nareg is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor.
Rev. Fr. Nareg Terterian

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  1. Let us remind ourselves in these hard times to trust in God and turn to Him alone . We have no salvation apart from him. God promises our identity in Him, a citizenship in heaven, tribulations on this earth because of spiritual battles, eternal rewards for those who turn and put their faith and trust in Him. May God save more souls and give us his supernatural strength, peace, love, patience, endurance, wisdom and comfort as we put on the mind of Christ through submission and faith in Him. May he help us to meet the needs of those suffering , first Spiritually, then with everything else. Amen

    I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

    Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” John 18:36

    But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Matthew 5:44

    But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9

    Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”Romans 12:19

    For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.Ephesians 6:12

    For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
    Colossians 3:3

    “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.Isaiah 65:17

    • Where was God in 1915. 2020, 2023 and other times when Armenia was attacked by the enemy?
      Sorry, but Armenia’s salvation is with weapons, not by the word of God.
      Sorry to be so blunt.

  2. Dear Viken,
    I appreciate you letting me know your honest opinion. I understand that it may seem that God has let us down during those times because of the traumatic unspeakable events that took place. Even in our personal lives there have been times that we may feel abandoned when evil things happen to us

    But that is precisely why we can trust in the Word of God. He has warned us many times of tribulations and persecutions that will most certainly come about while living on this earth. We live in a world of sinful people, including ourselves. We have all, great or small, hurt someone or many people. Sometimes intentionally and sometimes intentionally. Sin is what brings about death. That originated with us, in our hearts. True believers in Christ, especially, become a target because people don’t want to hear the truth, they don’t want to submit to God, they don’t want to stop living in sin and living for self, etc. They follow their own evil desires which is following their father the devil.

    The devil hates God and people who follow him. It isn’t God doing it, it is God allowing people to use their free will to make choices. God can not stop every single evil that happens, otherwise we would just be robots. He does, however, use evil for good, for those who love him and choose to follow him. God allows persecution and suffering to strengthen our faith lots of times. The most persecuted believers become the strongest and most faithful and blessed individuals on this earth. They are the most evangelistic and love God deeply. God also still has shown us grace as there have been countless nations that are not to be seen or remembered, who have been annihilated, but Armenia and Armenians still stand. However, many people have turned away from God and trusted in other things and hence turning their backs to God.

    Most of the survivors have been deeply rooted in their faith and that is what pulled them through and not only have they survived but thrived. God is with them, even when terrible things happen, because they had trusted in him. God wishes that all repent and come to faith. That is why this world is still turning. He is giving people chances to repent and be saved. Even the wicked.

    We are all wicked at heart when you think of it. We have all broken his laws. We deserve our punishment, but God put our punishment on Jesus, so we wouldn’t have to pay the price of death. He paid it instead. The most injustice that has ever been done to anyone was Jesus Christ on the cross. Where were we when Jesus was bleeding and dying and was condemned in our place and died the death of a criminal, even though he had done nothing wrong. He was perfect. He is our example of how we should live, surrendered to God, completely satisfied in Him, receiving His Holy Spirit who gives us His strength, wisdom, knowledge, love for others, patience, understanding, etc. And we will have our eternal Home which never fades and will last forever.

    Guns and weapons may temporarily bring some form of justice. But it would never bring about true justice and peace that the Lord brings. It can never make up for the loss we have suffered. Only God, if we allow him to govern us, can bring the abundant life, peace throughout any storm we go through, and the justice we don’t deserve. The justice that was bought by his blood. The justice that was paid for by the perfect and Holy one. Let us not exchange the Eternal God and Father for human strength and wisdom that can not offer any lasting hope. The true change that happens is within our hearts. From a stone heart to a soft heart, the mind and Spirit of Christ. Amen.

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