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This truism has informed, guided, perverted, shaped, and in countless ways impacted our national existence for centuries.
It’s likely your response to the question in the first paragraph was “Of course not! Don’t be silly!” But, what about the Catholic and Protestant Communities among us? I know of at least one circle in which the referents were “Hayeruh, gatogheegeneruh, yev Poghokaganneruh” (the Armenians, Catholics, and Protestants). That is, to be Armenian, you had to be Armenian Apostolic. So maybe it’s not enough to be “Christian” to be Armenian, you have to be a certain KIND of Christian. But is even this enough? Do you have to go to church every week? Only at Easter & weddings? Does it count if a priest doesn’t come and bless the bread, salt, and water (you wouldn’t believe what it took to confirm my memory of this triplet) of your home? Where’s the cut off?
Of course these exclusionary lines tend to diminish us in number, though they may have had some utility in centuries past. Today, how many people, given the level of enlightenment humanity has achieved, take items of faith at face value? If someone has trouble stomaching the concept of the nature of Christ as defined by the Armenian Apostolic Church, does that exclude them from being Christian, ergo Armenian? What about agnostics and atheists?
We’ve built an Armenian identity to which Christianity has been made central. The flavor of what it was to be Armenian has been so heavily overlain and intertwined with being Christian, that we have extreme difficulty even conceiving of segregating the two.
Obviously, our Christianity has cost us dearly as a consequence of Turkish governments, Ottoman and Republican, using religious antipathy to arouse hatred against us, leading to massacres and the Genocide. Yet that’s hardly an argument for giving up something we have cherished for so long. But we’re faced with a far more pressing national problem and an associated opportunity for some recuperation.
I would hope no one disagrees that for the purposes on national survival, numbers matter. We have lost the current-numerical-equivalent of millions of Armenians because of not only the Genocide or its precedent massacres, but also due to emigration (and ultimate assimilation into host country cultures, the best example being Poland), and forced-conversion to Islam and its attendant de-Armenianisation (and subsequent Turkification, Kurdification, and limbo-ification of the converts’ descendants).
With the ever so painfully slow process of Turkey’s cultural, political, and ethical maturation, we have an opportunity to reclaim some of our lost, or at least semi-lost, compatriots. These come in five categories, to my mind, though some admittedly overlap: 1- cryptoArmenians-Christian, 2-cryptoArmenians-Moslem, 3- Hamshentzees, 4- Kurdified Armenians, 5- Turkified Armenians.
The first group, Christian crypto-Armenians, is easiest to address. We don’t have the religion obstacle I’ve presented above. Many of these people have pretended to be Moslem, while maintaining Christian traditions in the secrecy (not just privacy) of their homes. Or, they have kept a very low profile. They have lived in our homeland. Over the decades, significant numbers leave Armenia and head to Turkey’s “Armenian capital”, Constantinople. Or they head directly to Europe. It’s my understanding that there’s a significant Sasoontzee (non-immediate post-Genocide arrival obviously) community in Holland. With just a little bit of an opening, they would rejoin our national existence.
The Moslem crypto-Armenians are a different circumstance. Here, we have at least two obstacles. One is what I implicitly described above— our collective hesitancy to conceive of an Armenian as anything but a Christian. The other is this group’s likely inability to easily fit in with out predominantly Christian culture. Yet they are also shunned by the “real” Moslems, and marry largely only among themselves and maintain their awareness of being Armenian, or at least not being Turkish or Kurdish.
The Hamshentzees are a large population of Islamicised Armenians who inhabit the Black Sea coast area, both in Turkish-occupied Armenia and the Caucasus. In a very quick Internet search, I found no population numbers. But in the past, I’ve seen estimates in the multiple hundreds of thousands. These compatriots have maintained their language (one of the many Western Armenian sub-dialects that used to exist) and awareness of being Armenian, or at least Hamshentzee as different from their Turkish and other neighbours, for two centuries, this despite their conversion away from Christianity. This group is similar in its challenges to the second. However, there has been some movement over the last few years in re-establishing our sundered connection.
Kurdified Armenians are a very interesting group. Given the still somewhat tribal nature of Kurdish society, clan memory has persisted and some openly remember that their ancestors were Armenians. Others simply continue ancestral traditions which mark them as Armenian— going to Armenian (Christian) shrines, etching a cross in dough before baking it as bread, or carrying tribal names such as Hyedoonli (Armenian home) or Mamgon (Mamigonian). These too are our long-lost cousins. Should we not reintegrate? Here, besides the religious factors, exists a nationality, identity obstacle. But if we can make returning to their roots appealing, we all win.
Turkified Armenians, I would break down into two groups, those who by geography or lineage can be identified as originally being Armenian, and still living in our homeland and those who are just discovering and/or revealing one or more Armenian ancestors, usually Genocide survivors, who got adopted by Turkish families or married and became “Turks” but passed or are now passing on the knowledge of their true nationality to their progeny. This pair of groups, like the Kurds, would be the most difficult to reconnect with. They have their own awareness as Turks now. And, to a large extent, unfortunately, being Turkish and being Armenian are still antithetical propositions. There is an ingrained disdain and hatred towards us coming from the Turkish side that beggars imagination particularly since we’re not the ones who have wronged them and there have has been precious little contact between us for three generations now. Nevertheless, particularly the group who’s “coming out” with revelations of Armenian grandparents deserves an extended hand, particularly in the interest of making progress towards achievement of our national goals.
The Turkish and Kurdish examples above also prompt the issue/question of what I like to call “historical justice”. The de-Armenianisation of their ancestors was/is a great loss to the Armenian nation. It was coerced, not voluntary. How is this to be corrected? Obviously, you can’t force someone to “become” a different nationality. Yet the injustice is perpetuated down the generations impacting the present via the consequent distorted demography of our homeland.
Returning to the theme of reintegration and reconnection with these forcibly alienated branches of our family, no doubt you’re wondering, “How can people who have gone down such a different socio-religio-historic path be integrated into our nation?” Habits, culture, language, self-identification, experience of Genocide, etc. are all different. No doubt but that this will be an extremely difficult and lengthy, multigenerational process closely intertwined with Turkey’s evolution into a truly modern, democratic, non-hate-based state.
But let me close with an example of the commonalities that can help us bridge the chasms created among Armenians as a result of Turkish racism. Since a huge area of difference, and the theme of this article, is religious, take this example. I remember vividly, from a lecture about Middle Eastern rugs I attended while in college, the notion of the “sky hole”. This is something the ancient Mesopotamians noticed when charting the course of the stars. They ended up with concentric circles filling in their maps of the night sky… except, there was a gap, a hole, in the middle. This prompted the notion of the sky hole, the access way to the heavens and figures into the design of rugs that depict a center. It also looks to me a lot like the domes on churches and mosques. So here we have something that not only is common to both Christianity and Islam, but predates both and is native to our Middle Eastern forebears.
I have no doubt that many more such, and even more life-relevant, commonalities exist, can become known and shared, and can pave the way to restoring a huge chunk of our nation currently lost to us. But, we have to get over ourselves and our “Armenian=Christian, period” hang-up.
Let’s do it.
CHRISTMAS: The Road Map to Jesus, Light of the World
“They returned to their country by another route,” Matthew 2:12
The three wise men saw “his star in the east” and decided to “come and worship him” (Matthew 2:2). The magi had heard about the Star and that “the child born to be the king” will reign over the world with love.
The wise men were looking for a road map that would lead them to the new-born child. As far as they were concerned, it was neither a fairy tale nor a fantasy. They believed in the power of the Star and the fact that it will illuminate the world. Their willingness to search and find this very unique “road map” turned out to be a journey that gave a meaning to their lives. They were determined to find the road map that led to Jesus, the Light of the world.
Their journey was replete with obstacles. They were instructed by King Herod to "go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him" (Matthew 2:8). The truth, however, was that Herod “was deeply troubled,” (Matthew 2:3). Herod’s fear and deceptiveness did not hinder the wise men from their endeavour, for “the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was” (Matthew 2: 9). They were thrilled to find that which they had been searching for.
There was an element of frustration, though, in what they saw. Was it possible to find a King alone with his parents in a manger?
The magi, however, were not concerned about appearances. They were confident of what they were looking for and who the child was. They were fully aware that their search was one for the Light that the child was going to offer them and all humanity. Thus, the wise men “bowed down and worshipped him. Then, they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh,” (Matthew 2:11). The wise men embraced the Light, something they had desperately been searching for.
This was not the end of their search, though. They showed their commitment to the Light by going back “to their country by another route,” (Matthew 2:12). They wanted to live their lives in their homeland based on the new road map in whose search they had exposed themselves to countless dangers.
The year 2009 was a challenging one for Armenians both in the homeland and the Diaspora. The Turkish-Armenian negotiations, the signing of the protocol and the search for a “road map”, angered and worried many Armenians. The need for a road map is imperative. However, the question is: what sort of a road map?
The wise men’s determination is exemplary. The experiences they went through and the way they remained committed to the “cause” are very unique. They believed in what they were aspiring for. They remained firm in their perseverance in spite of the many hurdles they faced along the way. At the end, they found the Light they were looking for and were determined not only to keep it but also to live by it.
The spirit and the mindset of the wise men are what may well determine the ingredients for our own road map, one that aims for the Light and that will enable us and our nation to preserve our Christian and national heritage and strengthen our struggle for a just cause, irrespective of appearances. The road map will create the pan-Armenian mindset that can face and confront all fears and threats and one that will re-organise the Diaspora and rebuild the Homeland.
Christmas was and still is the road map to Jesus, the Light of the world. The three wise men followed the road map outlined by the Star, the same Star that went ahead of them and that took them to the Light.
The wise men’s experience can be yours, too, today. It is up to you if you want to take the same experience on board or not.
Kristos dzenav yev haydnetsav. Poloris medz avedis.
You can view Hrayr Jebejian's Christmas message on youtube by clicking here
ՆՍՕՏՏ ԱՐԱՄ Ա. ԿԱԹՈՂԻԿՈՍԻ Ս.ԾՆՆԴԵԱՆ ՊԱՏԳԱՄԸ
''ԿԱՌՉԻԼ ՄՆԱՅՈ՜ՒՆ ԱՐԺԷՔՆԵՐՈՒՆ''
ՙՁեր գանձը մի՜ դիզէք երկրի վրայ, ուր ցեցն ու ժանգը կը փճացնեն՚ (Մատթ. 6. 19):
Այս պատկերաւոր բացատրութեամբ Քրիստոս իր հետեւորդներուն կը յիշեցնէ որ նիւթեղէն ու ժամանակաւոր արժէքներով լեցուն գանձը ժանգ պիտի կապէ ու փճանայ: Հետեւաբար, կեանքի մնայուն գանձը պէտք է փնտռել այն արժէքներուն մէջ, որոնք ժամանակի ու միջոցի նեղ սահմանները կ’անդրանցնին ու կը պատկանին յաւիտենականութեան: Այլ խօսքով, Աստուծոյ պատկերին համաձայն ստեղծուած մարդուն Քրիստոս կոչ կ’ուղղէ հողէն ու հողեղէնէն վե՜ր մնալու, երկի՜նքը ապրելու երկրի վրայ եւ անկորնչելի արժէքներով հարստացնելու ու իմաստաւորելու իր կեանքը:
Ահա պատգամը Քրիստոսին՝ դարերէն եկող ու դարերուն գացող:
for the rest of the message please click here
WE WELCOME VISITOR NUMBER 130,130
TO OUR WEBSITE WWW.GIBRAHAYER.COM
ARMENIAN MP VARTKES MAHDESSIAN & ARCHBISHOP
VAROUJAN HERGELIAN VISIT THE KALAYDJIAN REST HOME
Gibrahayer - Nicosia 5 January - On the occasion of the New Year, Armenian MP Vartkes Mahdessian and Archbishop Varoujan Hergelian like every year, visited the elderly members of our community at the Kalaydjian Rest Home, wished them well and cut the traditional vasilopitta.
- Tuesday, 5th January 2010 - Christmas Eve - Divine Liturgies will be celebrated at 6:00 p.m. at the three churches of our Diocese as follows:
- Nicosia, Sourp Asdvadzadzin Cathedral, celebrant Rev. Momik Habeshian
- Larnaca, Sourp Stepanos Church, celebrant Rev. Mashdots Ashkarian
- Limassol, Sourp Kevork Church, celebrant Rev. Father Ghevont Pentezian
- Wednesday, 6th January 2010 - Christmas - The Festive Divine Liturgy at Sourp Asdvadzadzin Cathedral in Nicosia will be celebrated by H.E. Archbishop Varoujan. Liturgy commences at 9:30 a.m. Blessing of Waters & Sermon at 11:00 a.m. Divine Liturgies will also be celebrated at 10:00 a.m. at the other churches as follows:
- Larnaca, Sourp Stepanos Church, celebrant Rev. Mashdots Ashkarian
- Limassol, Sourp Kevork Church, celebrant Rev. Father Ghevont Pentezian
- Wednesday 6 January, 2010 at 5:00 pm: Christmas Message from the Armenian program of CyBC. Speaker: Hrayr Jebejian.
- Saturday, 9th January 2010 at 5:00 pm - Sourp Asdvadzadzin Cathedral, Nicosia - Meditation, dedicated to the "Year of the Armenian Woman" as proclaimed by His Holiness Catholicos Aram I of Cilicia, organised by the Christian Education Committee and the Nicosia Ladies' Guild "Women Saints and the role of women in the life of the Armenian Church" Speaker: Rev. Father Ghevont Pentezian. The Meditation will be followed by an Afternoon Reception at the "Utudjian" Hall of The Armenian Prelature.
- Wednesday, 13 January 2010 at 7:30 pm - Opening at Argo Gallery - 64E Dhiyenis Akritas Avenue - of Hourig Torossian's exhibition entitled "To Colour and Symmetry". The exhibition will remain open until 30 January 2010, Mondays-Fridays from 10:00-13:00 & 17:00-20:00, and on Saturdays from 10:00-13:00 (i.e. closed on Saturday afternoons and Sundays). For more information please call 22754009, fax 22314674.
every week in our community
- Every Friday 5.00 - 6.30 pm at The Utudjian Hall - Armenian Dance lessons for children 6-12.
- Every Friday and Saturday evening - Marie-Louise Kouyoumdjian sings at ENALLAX with the resident Band.
- Every Saturday at 10:00-11:30 am - at the Armenian Prelature in Nicosia - Giragnoria Varjaran (Sunday School) for 7-16 year olds. For more information contact Der Momig Habeshian on tel_99307966.
- Every Saturday at 5:00 pm - at Sourp Asdvadzadzin Church in Nicosia - Giragamoudki Jamerkoutioun (Vespers).
- Every Saturday, from 7 pm to 8 pm at AYMA: Gibrosi Badanegan Mioutiun (ages 10-15 included) weekly meetings (games, educationals, songs, trips and lots of fun...).
- Every Saturday, from 8 pm to 9 pm at AYMA: Gibrosi Yeridasartagan Mioutiun (age 16 - 23) weekly meetings (lectures, discussions, parties and outings for all Gibrahay youth).
- Every Sunday at 8:45 am at Sourp Asdvadzadzin Church in Nicosia - Jamerkoutioun (Matins).
- Every Sunday at 9:30 am Sourp Asdvadzadzin Church in Nicosia - Sourp Badarak (Divine Liturgy).