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By Gilda Buchakjian (Kupelian) 

AMAA-HU1The Seasons banquet hall was abuzz with guests at the AMAA/HAIGAZIAN UNIVERSITY FRIENDSHIP DINNER graciously hosted by Serge and Anita Buchakjian on February 7, 2015. Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA) Board members from near and far, Haigazian University (HU)Trustees, alumni, and friends were delighted to help celebrate the only Armenian University in the Diaspora in high spirits, camaraderie, and philanthropy.

In his welcome address and words of thanks to the attendees, Serge Buchakjian, member of the Haigazian Board of Trustees offered a few heartfelt words about his first alma mater on the occasion of its 60th anniversary this year. How fortuitous that Haigazian University was the launching pad for his education and career in the aerospace industry, only two decades after the production of the first rocket ever in the Mideast led by Manoug Manougian and his Haigazian University team. Buchakjian underscored the fact that in addition to preserving the Armenian heritage, Haigazian University “impacts lives beyond just education. It teaches tolerance and fosters a culture of understanding through the open exchange of ideas across ethnic and religious backgrounds.” He was proud to call Haigazian University “a jewel of a university” hoping that it will prosper well over its 60th anniversary.

AMAAHU5 AMAA-HU4 Rev. Berj Gulleyan, pastor of the Armenian Presbyterian Church of Paramus, NJ was invited to say grace, with an inspirational invocation.

The new Executive Director and CEO of the AMAA, Zaven Khanjian was pleased to ascertain that education was the legacy contributed by the Armenian Evangelical Community to the nation and our people. Khanjian spoke of the pioneering work in creating ”a colossal network of educational institutions from kindergartens to elementary and secondary schools, institutions of higher education – colleges and schools of theology. We have pioneered in the education of women, introduced music and physical education and raised the level of literacy, education, enlightenment and culture within our people.” The Genocide “severed the trunk of our existence. It wiped out innumerable dreams and the unlimited potential of a nation.” Still, continued Khanjian “out of the ashes the Phoenix rose again, the AMAA was born in 1918. Education took precedence. Schools were built again and spread wherever our remnants took refuge. Visionaries were active again and so in collaboration with the AMAA, Haigazian was born.” Mr. Khanjian concluded his remarks by praising the spirit of philanthropy that has supported the efforts of all those who stood steadfast behind this institution.

As a token of appreciation, Mr. Khanjian offered the hosts, Serge and Anita Buchakjian, whose wedding anniversary coincided on that day, a sculptural artifact of the ark on Mt. Ararat, by Michael Aram, symbolizing overcoming adversity and reaching new heights.

AMAA-HU6The dynamic president of Haigazian University, Rev. Dr. Paul Haidotsian thanked the hosts, the AMAA, and its Board members for their support. Dr. Haidotsian pointed out that “2015 coincides with the 60th anniversary of Haigazian University and that many events and celebrations will be planned in Beirut, Dubai, and the USA. But more meaningfully, our institution is named after a famous educator, Armenag Haigazian, who fell victim to the Genocide, and we are honoring and paying homage to his legacy as well.”

“How can one tell whether Haigazian University is still true to its mission and successful at that?” was president Haidotsian’s leading question. “Our graduates are doing very well in graduate programs around the globe; they are successful in the job market; our financial aid office is one of the most central functions at HU, and the support of the Syrian Armenian students was yet another testimony about that.  Our community outreach, research and publication efforts are bearing fruit and we are regularly organizing conferences and educational events.  We are still preparing leaders for the community, and acting as bridge-builders among all parties. What will sustain these efforts is the need for ongoing and generous support of everyone in more significant ways than before.”

Joyce Philibosian Stein, staunch supporter of Haigazian University for decades, following in her parents Stephen and Sirpuhi Philibosian’s footsteps was happy to herald the call for continued philanthropic efforts to help sustain the level of excellence achieved by Haigazian University, over the years, for its students. Tina Siegel, the apple that has not fallen far from the tree, continues her commitment for this institution of higher learning, that has remained a solid beacon of erudition despite years of trials and tribulations.  Tina’s journey with HU began when she overheard her mother and uncle repeatedly use the words AMAA and Haigazian in their household. That piqued her interest and after visiting the University with her parents, embarked on her philanthropic work following in her parents Joseph and Joyce’s footsteps.

Friends and alumni in good spirits including AMAA President and HU Trustees Chair, Dr. Nazareth & Dr. Ani Darakjian, Haigazian University Board members Gary Phillips and his wife Arsine, Hasmig Baran and her husband Arsen, Harry Najarian and his wife Cheryl, Robert Kurkjian, AMAA Past President Andy Torigian, West Coast Executive Director Levon Filian, Dr. Raffy and Shoghag Hovanessian, Khoren and Seta Nalbandian, Maurice and Berjouhi Gulesserian and many more enjoyed a cheerful evening replete with “joyful noise,” good food, music and dancing, and all for a good cause. After all, as Serge Buchakjian so aptly put it “heat warms the body, but friendship warms the heart.”

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As part of the Armenian Missionary Association of AmZaven Khanjian delivering his Hrant Dink Lectureerica’s commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, AMAA Executive Director and CEO Zaven Khanjian delivered a memorial lecture about the life of Hrant Dink at the Armenian Presbyterian Church in Paramus, New Jersey on January 31.

“Long before there was Je suis Charlie there was the slogan, We are all Armenian.  We are all Hrant Dink,” Mr. Khanjian told a large and attentive audience, who had braved adverse winter weather to attend the presentation.  Mr. Khanjian and his wife Sona befriended Hrant Dink shortly before Dink’s death, and the lecture included not just a witness to the historical record, Audience at Hrant Dink Lecturebut personal reminiscences as well.  The lecture’s point of departure was an impromptu address Hrant Dink delivered at the United Armenian Congregational Church (UACC) in Hollywood, California, just months before Dink’s death.  In those remarks, Hrant Dink recalled his ties to the Armenian Evangelical movement, and in particular a youth camp in Tuzla, Turkey, that was dear to him.

Hrant Dink told the UACC audience that as a boy he lived as an orphan in the “children’s nest” (Bolso Badanegan Doon) on the bottom floor of the Armenian Evangelical Church in Gedik Pasa, Istanbul.  The administrator of the orphanage, Hrant Guzelian had a dream of creating a summer facility where children could enjoy the outdoors and continue their Bible studies.  And so, Guzellian began the Tuzla camp.

But Dink recalled that in those early years, Tuzla was a far cry from our notion of a vacation camp.  Tents were pitched, and at the age of eight, Hrant Dink along with a dozen other boys were taught construction skills, and began the hard work of building the facility that he would later describe as “heaven.”  It was, he said, “an untouched shore with fine sand and a piece of lake formed from the sea…a sprinkling of fig and olive trees, and thorny raspberry bushes along the sides of the ditches.”

Not only would Dink work, learn, and play at the Tuzla camp, but he eventually met his wife Rakel there, when she was brought to the camp as a seven-year-old Kurdish Armenian.  “We grew up together.  We got married there.  Our children were born there.”

But eventually, the Turkish government placed camp director Hrant Guzelian under arrest, on an accusation that he was “raising Armenian militants,” a notion that Dink ridiculed.  “None of us was being raised as Armenian militants,” he said.  But Guzelian’s arrest left the camp without a leader and the church without a pastor.  And so, every Sunday, Hrant and Rakel Dink would keep the church open:  a guard at the door, Hrant Dink preaching the Bible from the pulpit, and Rakel and their three children comprising the entire congregation.

Eventually, the Turkish government asserted that title to the Tuzla land had been granted to the Armenians in error, and evicted the children’s camp altogether.  To illustrate this portion of the lecture,  Zaven Khanjian showed the audience the documentary “Swallow’s Nest” by Sehbal Senyrt and Nedim Hazar, in which Hrant Dink is seen walking through the neglected ruins of the Tuzla camp, the “heaven” of his childhood and early adulthood.  As he walks, Dink recalls the injustice of the seizure of the land, and finds in that experience the roots of his passion for social justice for Turkey’s minority communities.

Because of his advocacy as a journalist, Hrant Dink was eventually charged by the Turkish state with a violation of the infamous Article 301, which criminalized offending Turkishness.  He was convicted and given a suspended sentence, but Dink realized that, even if he was not sentenced to jail, the conviction made him a marked man.  He remained in Turkey, he said, out of respect for the many thousands who supported him, but he said he lived like a pigeon, “obsessed just as much [by] what goes on my left, right, front, back.  My head is just as mobile…and just fast enough to turn right away.”

Dink continued, “I may see myself as frightened as a pigeon, but I know that in this country people do not touch pigeons.  Pigeons can live in cities, even in crowds. A little scared perhaps, but free.”

Tragically, Hrant Dink would not share that freedom.  On January 19, 2007, a 17-year-old, Ogun Samast, shot Hrant Dink to death as he left his newspaper office.  The subsequent investigation revealed that Samast was acting at the behest of members of the so-called “Deep State,” ultra-nationalist forces within Turkey, believed to include officials in government and law enforcement.  Those legal proceedings continue.

In recounting the life of Hrant Dink, Zavan Khanjian emphasized the values for which Dink lived and died.  Those causes included the Christian faith he learned at Evangelical church, orphanage, and summer camp; and the inviolable civil rights of all minorities living in Turkey.  Those causes also included a commitment to freedom of expression, a commitment so absolute that Dink vehemently opposed the enactment of a statute criminalizing Armenian Genocide denial in France.

Mr. Khanjian ended on an optimistic note, predicting that the forces opposed to the truth will eventually be defeated, and expressing his hope that goodwill – and recognition of the truth of the Armenian Genocide – will prevail.

Peter Kougasian, Esq.

A0010888“Our Light, Our Hope” was the theme of a special musical program, organized by the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee of the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA) and the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America (AEUNA), which took place on Saturday, January 24 at the Majestic Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, CA.

ACAM7444The Concert, performed by the Lark Musical Society Choir and Orchestra of Glendale, CA under the direction of Maestro Vatsche Barsoumian, “can merely be described as truly unique, that elated our souls, delighted our appetites, soared our imagination, flew us to the annals of our national epic history, cried out our pain,  paid worthy tribute to the victims of the Genocide and embodied our victorious response to the crime with an unrelenting passion to live, love, dream, imagine and create, in all glorifying God for His delivered promise not to forsake us,” said Zaven Khanjian, Executive Director/CEO of the AMAA.

The program combined several artistic mediums such as music, recitation, and dance -an array of selections that was presented in three Acts.

ACT I – FOREFATHERS – reflected the traditions and heroism of the Armenian people.  Through songs, recitations and dances, it represented our nation as one of the most ancient civilizations that boasts significant periods of spiritual, artistic, military, economic, and intellectual achievements.

ACT II – CALAMITY – commemorated the collective tragedy that befell the Armenian nation in the early twentieth century.  It was a tribute to our martyrs who perished for their ethnicity and Christian faith. But the resurrection was inevitable, just like the resurrection of Jesus, in Whom they trusted.

ACT III – HOMELAND – celebrated our triumphant survival which heralded a brighter future.  Through artistic voices it was a recommitment to our Lord, our Motherland Armenia and our Culture.

The theme of the Program, “Our Light, Our Hope,” was based on a patriotic song “Hayrenikis Hed” (With My Fatherland) written in 1915 by the famous poet Hovhannes Tumanian, (music by famous composer Alexander Harutiunian). Each act of the program started with this moving song divided into three parts – the first two verses of the poem describing our past, the third verse describing the atrocities that begot our nation and the fourth verse looking with triumph to the future for a revived Homeland and an all-powerful Homeland.

Nothing was spared for a capacity filled crowd to take this emotional journey to the past, savor the present and yearn for a bright future, despite the experience of the crime of Genocide.

“Hats off to every participant in the presentation, from dreamers to planners, organizers, producers, creators and each participant, in making this program a cultural miracle,” said Mr. Khanjian.

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For additional information Visit the website of the Armenian Genocide Centennial National Commemoration at http://armeniangenocidecentennial.org/, as well as the facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ArmenianGenocideCentennialDC

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Christmas Greetings from Syria

 Christmas 2014

Dear Friends:

As the angels proclaimed their praise to God in the highest and among us as well, we are reminded that God’s gift to the world was the birth of Christ. We are also reminded that we are to be gifts to one another.

There are many occasions when we can be inspired by the birth of Christ to be gifts to each other. We can use our time and talents to ease the pain, suffering and challenges endured by the less fortunate. We can share our treasures with those who are caring for the “gifts” given by God – our fellow brothers and sisters in Armenia, Syria and elsewhere in the Diaspora.

The Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA) has numerous projects and ministries that enable us to be a gift to each other and to those living in darkness on a daily basis as we help feed the hungry, educate children, care for the sick, and share God’s message of love with others. We need your help to continue this critical work of caring for the gifts God has given to the world in the form of our brothers and sisters.

With the help of our faithful friends, the AMAA is able to support various projects around the world including: relief for Armenians in Syria, milk for infants, education in our schools and day centers as well as enrollment in our summer camps.

The AMAA’s mission and service ministry improves the life of God’s gifts to the world – the thousands of deserving individuals who receive material assistance, are visited by social workers, and participate in monthly gatherings at local AMAA facilities.

As the year rapidly comes to a close, please consider making your gift before December 31st. The AMAA needs you to be a gift to others by supporting our efforts. Please donate to the AMAA to share your joy at being a gift from God for others.

May the Blessing of our most generous God be with you, your family and loved ones now and throughout the New Year!

Քրիստոս ծնաւ եւ յայտնեցաւ, Ձեզի, Մեզի Մեծ Աւետիս!

Krisdos Dzenav yev Haydnetzav, Tsezee, Mezee Medz Avedis!

(Christ is born and is revealed, good tidings to you and to us).

Sincerely,

Zaven Khanjian

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