Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Armenian News... A Topalian...Reportage on Pilgrimage St. Thaddeus Monastery

Reportage on the Occasion of the Annual Pilgrimage 

to St. Thaddeus Monastery in Maku, Iran, July 2017 
22 August 2017  

How the World's Direct Armenian Journal emerged in Madras 

The Hidden Armenians
May 6, 2015 

Armenia is marking the 100th anniversary of the start of the World War I-era massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, widely recognized as the first genocide of the 20th century. The nature of the tragedy continues to be disputed by Turkey, which says that civil strife claimed lives on both sides. In this documentary, RFE/RL's Armenian Service investigates the stories of Turkey's "hidden Armenians" -- families whose forebears converted to Islam, or were forcibly converted, and concealed their background to escape persecution. They describe a slowly changing atmosphere in Turkey that has made it possible, after decades of silence, to live openly as Christians and Armenians.


Public Radio of Armenia
Aug 25 2017
Azerbaijan outraged over the sale of Kim Kardashian lipstick sale in Baku 

Azerbaijan has detected something of a national security breach. And this time it comes via a lipstick collection carrying Armenian-American television star Kim Kardashian West’s brand name (KKW) and sold to unsuspecting Azerbaijanis, EurasiaNet.org writes.

For Azerbaijan any product with an ethnic Armenian connection, whether a lipstick or a rifle, can be considered an enemy operation. “You put a little bit of Kim Kardashian West (KKW) on your lips and, boom, you support Azerbaijan’s enemy, one government-aligned media outlet warned,” the article reads.

“You may say it’s just cosmetics, big deal. What does it have to do with the Armenian-occupied territories of Azerbaijan?” observed Azeri Today in a Russian-language article with the sub-title “For the attention of Azerbaijan’s Security Services!” The story takes the trouble to respond to its own question.

The Kardashian family spends part of its earnings on “advancing the recognition of ‘the Armenian Genocide’,” the author posited.

The 36-year-old Kardashian West indeed campaigns for international recognition of the massacre of ethnic Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide.

EurasiaNet.org reminds that with her sister Khloé and husband, rapper Kanye West, in tow, Kardashian West made a grand visit to Armenia in April 2015, drawing attention to genocide commemorations there. The actress’ own paternal ancestors barely escaped the killings when they migrated to the US at the turn of the 20th century.

The fact that neither KKW by Kylie, nor its distributor, KylieCosmetics.com, is Armenian means little or nothing to ethnicity-conscious Azerbaijanis. Earlier this year, calls were made in Azerbaijan to ban Yandex and Uber’s joint taxi-hailing service because an ethnic Armenian is at the helm of the company, EurasiaNet.orgwrites.

Gears Of Biz
Au 27 2017
Hollywood honours French singing legend Charles Aznavour
By Victoria Ritter

LOS ANGELES – French icon Charles Aznavour, one of the 20th century’s most prolific entertainers who continues to write and perform at 93, was honored Thursday with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

With a career spanning eight decades, the crooner has recorded 1,400 songs — 1,300 of which he wrote — and produced over 390 albums in multiple languages.

The star, who is also credited in more than 60 movies, defied detractors who pointed to his unconventional looks to become one of France’s most iconic singers, dubbed the country’s Frank Sinatra.

“Sinatra once said every song is a one-act play with one character, and Charles is an extraordinary actor as well as an extraordinary singer,” film director Peter Bogdanovich, a friend of the star, said at the unveiling ceremony.

Aznavour delivered a brief message thanking well-wishers, explaining that he rarely speaks publicly in English as he doesn’t feel his command of the language is good enough.

“French is my working language but my family language is always Armenian,” he said, in front of hundreds of fans from both countries, as well as supporters from across the world gathered outside the historic Pantages Theater.

“After today, after that star there, I can be somebody that can say I’m also now a little bit Californian because I have my daughter here and my grandchildren.”

Bogdanovich — whose movies include “What’s Up, Doc” and “The Last Picture Show” — went through some of Aznavour’s most popular hits, including “She,” which he described as the greatest ever song about women, and paid tribute to Aznavour’s energy and dedication.

“That he does what he does at 93 is an inspiration to all of us. He doesn’t lack anything. He’s the best,” he added.

PanArmenian, Armenia
Aug 25 2017
Yerevan at Night: New route for tourists visiting Armenia's capital 

 Yerevan City Tour , the route program developed by the municipality will from now own offer tourists and residents a new route called Yerevan at Night .

The new line will start operating from Friday, August 25, scheduled to launch a 45-minute trip from the Republic Square in downtown Yerevan.

The tourists visiting the Armenian capital, as well as the residents will have the opportunity to enjoy the city at night, the new musical program of the singing fountains at the Republic Square, as well as tour Yerevan's most iconic and interesting places and delight in the capital city's panoramic view from the Cascade.

The route will operate on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only.

ARKA, Armenia
Aug 25 2017
Zorakan village to host ‘Millennial Traditions’ festival

 On August 26-27 the village of Zorakan in the Armenian province of Tavush, populated mostly by Armenian refugees from the village of Chardakhlu in Azerbaijan, will host the second festival called ‘Millennial Traditions’.

The coordinator of the festival Hovhannes Karapetyan told journalists today that the main purpose of the festival is to encourage the development of border regions and the restoration of old traditions. He said the residents of Zorakan used to have interesting traditions, which the festival is trying to restore. In his words, the festival will feature organic fruits and vegetables grown in the village.

The tourists, if they wish, will be able to participate in various daily activities of the residents, take a course on honey pumping, cooking traditional dishes, sewing a blanket, making home vodka and even sewing a donkey saddle.

They will also be offered the opportunity to prepare a traditional Armenian dish called "hophop", which is prepared of goose or chicken meat, onions and pomegranate. The participants of the festival will also take part in rural folk games - tug-of-war games and the traditional ritual called "nuru-nuru", believed in old times to help villagers ‘cause" rain.

Instead of hotels the guests will be staying at the homes of local residents. In the evening all the guests will gather around a bonfire to fry meat or potatoes, corn and sing songs. The next day, they will go to the nearest forest to gather cornel, blackberries and other berries, after which they will take pictures of a hundred-year-old tree with a huge hollow .

Until 1988 the village of Chardakhlu was located in Azerbaijan. Residents of the village were forced out of their homes by Azerbaijani authorities. The village is the birthplace of two marshals of the former USSR - Hamazasp Babajanyan and Ivan Baghramyan , as well as 12 army generals and seven heroes of the Soviet Union. --0--

The Peoples Person - UK
Aug 26, 2017
Manchester United fans delighted with dazzling Henrikh Mkhitaryan display against Leicester 

Manchester United fans were quick to heap praise on Henrikh Mkhitaryan as the Armenian claimed yet another assist during their side’s 2-0 win over Leicester City.

The 28-year-old, deployed in behind Romelu Lukaku once again, produced a dazzling display on the ball, surging past opponents and picking out neatly disguised passes all afternoon as Jose Mourinho’s men dominated from the start.

And he provided yet another decisive moment with a laser-guided cross that fell perfectly on to the boot of Marcus Rashford , who duly netted a crucial opener for the hosts after 70 minutes.

Supporters didn’t hesitate in lauding the playmaker for what was another scintillating, decisive performance.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic recently insisted that this would be Mkhitaryan’s season and, like usual, the Swede appears to be on the money: the Armenian has more assists (5) after three games than any other player has managed in the last six Premier League campaigns, and he needs just two more to equal Philipe Coutinho’s best ever Premier League total. He has the same assists as Manchester City have goals so far this year.

In other words, he is running the show. United have been an exciting, penetrative and ultimately effective force going forward in these opening three games and at the heart of that is the magical Armenian.

He is beautiful to watch. The likes of Wilfried Ndidi and Matty James could only play the role of spectators: Mkhitaryan is simply too agile, too quick, too intuitively brilliant to ever track, and this time around he is producing end product – something he struggled with last season.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Armenian News... A Topalian... Armenian Coffee culture

Interesting feature on Armenian introducing coffee culture to Europe

Daily Sabah, Turkey
Aug 22 2017
Armenian church hosts funeral ceremony for Cyprus war veteran 

A funeral ceremony was held in Istanbul's Meryem Ana (Virgin Mary) Armenian Church Tuesday for a veteran of Armenian descent who fought in the ranks of the Turkish Armed Forces during the 1974 operation in Cyprus.

For the ceremony, members of the War Veterans Association of Turkey and Istanbul Garrison Commander Brigadier Gen. Sadettin Alp Ergin joined the family of veteran Murat Mihran İşler, who passed away at the age of 64.

Soldiers in ceremonial attire brought İşler's coffin draped with a Turkish flag to the church, and stood guard until the religious ceremony started. War veterans also saluted the coffin
, some of which recited Islamic prayers for the veteran. 

Reverend Mağakya Beskisizyan, who led the ceremony mastered by Archbishop Karekin Bekçiyan, said that İşler, who was living in Istanbul since 1979, was an acclaimed jeweler and a renowned figure among the Armenian community and Istanbul's landmark Grand Bazaar, where his shop is located. İşler was also the uncle of Norayr İşler, the chairman of the Istanbul Chamber of Jewelry, which traditionally has many members from the Armenian community famous for its skills in jewelry and handcrafts.

Beskisizyan said that although they are saddened by İşler's death, they knew that veterans were the honor of the nation and they carry its pride.

Following the ceremony, İşler's body was transferred to the Balıklı Armenian Cemetery to be interred.

İşler was the second Cyprus war veteran who was bidden a farewell to in a ceremony on Tuesday, since many citizens and local officials also bid farewell to 77-year-old Abdulhamit Canol in the central province of Sivas.

Turkey launched the Cyprus Peace Operation on July 20, 1974 as a guarantor power after a right-wing military coup backed by the junta in Greece toppled the internationally-recognized government and sought to unite the island with Greece, after decades of inter-communal violence between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. During the operation, 498 Turkish soldiers were killed and some 1,200 others injured, in addition to dozens of casualties of Turkish Cypriots resistance fighters.

PanArmenian, Armenia
Aug 24 2017
Iowa recognizes Armenian Genocide 
 Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds on Thursday, August 24 signed powerful proclamation making the Hawkeye State the 47th State to recognize the Armenian Genocide and declaring October 2017 as "Armenia Awareness Month".

In the document, Reynolds condemned the murder of over 2.5 million Armenians, Greeks, Syriacs and Assyrians, noting that the Ottoman Turkish government’s crime “still requires justice.”

Around three dozen countries, a number of municipal governments and international organizations have so far recognized the killings of 1.5 million innocent Armenians as Genocide. Turkey denies to this day.

TERT, Armenia
Aug 24 2017
Armenian-Israeli relations 'hit by drone' - Komersant 

The Israeli Ministry of Defense is conducting an investigation against Aeronautics Defense Systems (ADS), a company manufacturing unmanned drones, a correspondent for the Russian Komersant, Kiril Krivosheev, says in a recent article.

In an earlier report, the Israeli Maariv expressed concerns that the company’s employees based in Tel Aviv might have joined the airstrikes against Armenian defense positions in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) in April 2016. Though the company dismisses the accusations, the cooperation with Azerbaijan has been long known as an accomplished fact, writes the Russian journalist.

The specialists managing the drone were earlier reported to have rejected the offer, leaving the task to top representatives of the company.

A complaint filed recently with the Ministry claims that the Aeronautics Defense Systems team, which left for Azerbaijan to conclude the Orbiter 1K drone’s sales agreement, was asked target an Armenian military objective by using the system. 

According to the Israeli publication, the two Israeli specialists operating the drone refused to conduct the deadly airstrike, standing firmly their ground even after facing personal threats. High-ranking representatives of the company later moved to equip and use the vehicle themselves. Due to a lack of experience, however, the two unmanned vehicles did not hit the right target, falling short of inflicting material or human damage. The document claimed that one of the vehicles hit an object lying 100 meters away from Armenian defense positions.

One of the specialists has reportedly left the company, with the other planning to step down soon.

Krivosheev cites the Armenian media reports confirming July 7 as the day of the attack (citing their own sources). Azerbaijan’s defense office has issued no official statement in that connection; neither did they respond to Komersant.

The Israeli ministry also refrained from comments. “The Ministry of Defense does not normally comment upon reports addressing military exports. The issue is in the process of verification by the corresponding the Defense Ministry departments,” reads the agency’s response.

“Even if engineers of Aeronautics Defense Systems left for Azerbaijan, they weren’t accompanied by Israeli scientists,” the Ministry added.  (eh?)
The Komersant source close to the Israeli government described the news story in Maariv as an “extraordinary” report. “Nothing of the kind had ever happened before. The non-interference principle applying to foreign conflicts is of a pivotal value for the Israeli military industries. I do want to believe the report will not be confirmed. Should, however, it prove true, the military agency will certainly enforce sanctions against the company.”

No known specific timeframes for concluding the investigation are reported.

The website notes that Azerbaijan made its first use of Israeli unmanned drones under military conditions in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2016. After the end of the confrontations on April 14, the Israeli-Armenian Diaspora conducted a protest outside the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, making calls for ending the weapons sale to the country.

“The need to halt Azerbaijan’s armament is our community’s coordinated decision. As for the article in Maariv, we are waiting until the investigation comes to a close, as there is no common opinion here. Some Armenians think the operators who refused to hit a strike are real heroes. Others do not believe the newspaper, doubting that it is just an attempt to spoil the Armenian-Israeli relations which have quite improved recently,” Artyom Chernamoryan, the head of the local Armenian NGO Nairi, is quoted as telling Komersant.

The website further cites Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s 2016 statement saying that the country signed US $5 billion worth military industry agreements with Israel last December (adding that most of the deals have been already accomplished). The military agreements implemented between Moscow and Baku over the past five years are worth an estimated $ 4 billion or more, according to the publication.

Sputnik, Armenia
Aug 23 2017
Putin: Russia, Armenia Maintain Intensive Cooperation in Various Fields
Alexei Nikolsky
Russia and Armenia promote active cooperation, said Vladimir Putin at a meeting with Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan.

BOCHAROV RUCHEY (Russia) (Sputnik) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday at a meeting with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan that the two countries continue to actively cooperate, including within international organizations.

"We are maintaining an intense political dialogue, while promoting bilateral cooperation in economy, security and military fields, we are actively working together within the framework of international organizations and integration associations," Putin said. Sargsyan, in turn, said that the recent years marked intensive cooperation between the countries.

"Strategic alliance between Russian and Armenia is distinguished by an intense dialogue at a high level, broad coordination in foreign policy, constructive cooperation on international and regional platforms, productive cooperation in the spheres of security, military and defense industry," the Armenian leader said.

Sargsyan also noted that trade turnover between Armenia and Russia has been steadily growing, with the figures skyrocketing by 23 percent over the first six months of 2017.

Putin and Sargsyan met in Russia's southern city of Sochi, where the Russian president also held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier in the day.

Vestnik Kavkaza
Aug 23 2017
First unit of Armenian NPP can be completely removed 

Armenia's government will decide the fate of the draft law 'On decommissioning of the first power unit of the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant' tomorrow.

Due to the fact tat the power unit of the NPP has been in the cold regime since February 1989, while the construction of a new power plant unit is postponed, five years ago the government decided to extend the life of the second power unit until 2024. That is why the first power unit of must be removed from operation, 1in.am reported.

The procedure will last for 40 years and will cost $310.37 million.

After being approved by the government, the bill will be submitted to the parliament.

RFE/RL Report
Fewer Armenians Involved In Agriculture
August 22, 2017
Sargis Harutyunyan
Despite strong growth in agriculture reported by the Armenian
government, the number of people involved in the sector has declined
considerably in the last few years, according to official statistics.

Figures from the National Statistical Service (NSS) show that there
were a total of 338,000 farmers and other agricultural workers in
Armenia last year, down from 437,200 in 2012.

This decrease calls into question separate NSS data showing that
Armenian agricultural output rose by an average 6.3 percent annually
between 2012 and 2016. Armenia's economy grew by an average of 3.5
percent in that period.

Economic growth in the country all but ground to a halt last
year. Finance Minister Vartan Aramian attributed the slowdown to a
revised calculation of domestic agricultural production which was
carried out shortly after last fall's government reshuffle in Yerevan.

The previous Armenian cabinet claimed until then that both the
agricultural sector and the economy as a whole are on track to grow in
2016. The NSS reported in January that the sector generating less than
one-fifth of Gross Domestic Product contracted by over 5 percent last
year. Government officials blamed the drop on unfavorable weather

Agricultural output shrank by 1.4 percent in the first half of this
year following an unusually cold winter, government data show.

"The plight of our villagers is very difficult now," Agriculture
Minister Ignati Arakelian told RFE/RL's Armenian service
(Azatutyun.am) last week. Arakelian, who was appointed in October,
said the mostly subsistence farmers are struggling to grow the right
crops and sell them at a profit.

PanArmenian, Armenia
Aug 23 2017
Essential housing project continues in rural Armenia 

The fifth family in Shirak region and the 149th family in Armenia has benefited from a six-year partnership between VivaCell-MTS and Fuller Center for Housing . The Simonyans from the village of Saralanj are one the beneficiaries of the housing project. By the end of the year, instead of the half-damaged three-room house built in 1960s, the family will have a stone house with a bigger housing space, including a kitchen and a bathroom.

The housing project implemented in different parts of Armenia would not be so successful if not for the direct involvement of the partners in construction works. The family not only feels the physical support in finishing the construction of the house in the shortest time possible, but also starts looking to the future with hope and optimism.

“Last year, when you built a house in our village, I started dreaming, but couldn’t believe that one day we too would be included in the housing program. Sometimes it is easier to build a house from the ground up, than to renovate a dilapidated one. It is so hard to look after a sick person, to raise children without basic housing conditions. It is true that the construction will soon be completed, but still I do not believe that all this is happening with us. It is like a dream; without your help my family would never know what a decent home is,” said Diana, the family mother.

“Every time we participate in construction works, I try to feel the mood of the family. We see the results of our efforts; we see how the house is being built. What I am concerned about, is the changes in the spirit of the people, their feelings that are often expressed with reservation, by just a modest smile or by the sparkle in their eyes. It is these changes in the spirit that help people regain confidence in themselves and in their future. I would like to see this confidence and hope in as many families as possible. This is the reason why we are here,” said VivaCell-MTS General Manager Ralph Yirikian.

“This program helps the families to build not only safe walls, but also optimism for the future. Overcoming the heaviest problem, the families try to find a means of income in the village and not leave it,” said Fuller Center for Housing President Ashot Yeghiazaryan.

For the implementation of the housing project, VivaCell-MTS invested AMD 25mln in 2017; in total, more than AMD 333 mln has been invested so far.

ARKA, Armenia
Aug 23 2017
Prices of private homes in Armenia drop 

Prices of private homes in Yerevan fell by 1.6% in the first half of 2017 when compared to the same period last year. Overall, 1,923 transactions with privately-owned homes were registered in the first six months of the year, of which 583 in the capital city.

According to the State Cadastre Committee, the highest prices for private homes in the capital were registered in the administrative districts Kentron and Arabkir – 476,200 drams and 381,600 drams per one square meter respectively, and the lowest in Nubarashen district – 150,400 drams per one square meter.
The highest prices for private homes in the regions were recorded in Tsakhkadzor (Kotayk region) – 302,700 drams per square meter, and the lowest in the communities of Dastakert (Syunik region) – 11,700 drams for one square meter and Tumanyan (Lori region) – 12,000 drams.

The price of one square meter of housing in multi-apartment buildings in Yerevan decreased by 2.7%, according to the State Cadastre Committee. The highest prices were registered in the capital's administrative district Kentron- 435,500 drams per square meter and the lowest - in the district Nubarashen – 156,085 drams. The average cost of a square meter of housing in the regions decreased by 3%.

The highest prices per square meter of housing beyond Yerevan were registered in Tsakhkadzor (290,900 drams) and the lowest - in Dastakert and Shamlugh (Lori) (8,000 drams).  Overall, 78,575 transactions with real estate were registered in the country in the first six months, by 5.1% less from the year before. The bulk-38.6%- were registered in Yerevan . ($1 – 478.55 drams). -0--0-

ARKA, Armenia
Aug 23 2017
Armenians spend more on summer entertainments 

Yandex.Money has found that Armenians have spent 10% more on entertainment in summer of 2017 than in the same period a year earlier. According to Ynadex.Money, the number of payments for entertainments have increased 2.7 times, while the average bill decreased from 8,650 to 3,585 drams.

The study took into account the payments made by Armenian citizens through Yandex.Kassa and Yandex.Money cards - from June 1 to August 10, 2017 and for the same period a year earlier.

The study has found a significant increase in the popularity of cinemas - this summer Armenians have spent 2.5 times more on movies than in the same period a year earlier.

"The number of bought movie tickets has surged 5 times; however, Armenian spent 55% less on bars and nightclubs. The average bill fell from 8,780 to 2,638 drams," the study says.

Yandex. Kassa accepts payments through 75 thousand Internet platforms around the world. In total, Yandex.Money has 30 million registered users. ($1 – 478.55 drams). -0--0-

ARMINFO News Agency, Armenia
August 22, 2017
Police: In Armenia in 2017 the crime rate has significantly decreased

Ani Mshetsyan. According to the statistical analysis, in Q1 2017,
Armenia recorded a significant reduction in the number of crimes of
special and moderate severity, according to Armenian Police.

According to the criminal use of firearms and ammunition in the first
half of 2016, 1613 cases were registered, while in the first half of
2017 there were 1210 cases. Thus, in the first half of this year in
Armenia the level of serious crimes decreased to 25%, especially grave
crimes to 21.6%, and the level of crimes committed with the help of
firearms and ammunition fell to 25%.

In the first half of 2016, 39 murders were recorded, 17 cases of
assassination attempts, and in 2017, 25 murders and 13 attempts. Also
this year the level of crime detection increased. So if in 2016 out of
1613 crimes were discovered 891, then in 2017 out of 1210 crimes were
disclosed 799 - 66.2%. Out of 38 cases of assassination attempts, 31
cases were revealed - 81.5%, while last year, out of 56 attempts, 44 -
78.5% were disclosed.

Statistical analysis proves that positive dynamics are also noticeable
in lowering the level of crimes with causing harm to health. If in
2016, from January to June, there were 560 registered cases, in 2017,
according to the same article, 497 cases were registered. Also in
2017, the level of cases of deliberate harm to health and causing
serious harm to health has decreased. If last year there were only 109
cases, this year only 73 cases were registered, that is, minus 33%. In
this area, the level of disclosure has also increased.

In 2016, 78.8% were disclosed, and in 2017, 84.9%. Positive dynamics
are also seen in the statistics of fatal traffic accidents. In
particular, in the first half of 2016, there were 77 fatalities and
108 cases of hooliganism, and in the first half of 2017 68 of fatal
road accidents and 84 cases of hooliganism.

Accidents with fatalities decreased by 11.7%, and cases of hooliganism
by 22.2%. The level of disclosure of such crimes also increased, in
the first half of 2017, 98.5% of fatal accidents were discovered,
compared to 97.4% of the previous year. In 2016, during the first 6
months, 31 cases of robbery and 658 cases of burglaries were reported.
In the first half of this year, 17 cases of robbery and 368 burglaries
were registered. Consequently, the level of robbery fell by 45.2%, and
the level of apartment burglaries by 44.1%. Also this year the level
of thefts decreased compared to last year, only 74 cases compared to
105 cases of the last year. And the level of disclosure of these
crimes increased by 76.4%, against 70.9% of last year. The level of
disclosure of cases of criminal penetration into apartments with the
purpose of robbery amounted to 32.3% against 31.1% of the previous
year. In the first half of 2017 in Armenia, 66 cases were identified
receiving bribes, giving bribes and petitioning for bribes, against 31
case of previous year.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

** FATHER FRANK’S RANTS Rant Number 738 23 August 17 WHAT LIES BEYOND?


‘Where will you be after you die?’ Most believers would answer: ‘In Heaven’. Fewer: ‘In Hell’. (‘I am so bad!’ confessed a tormented French youth to me: ‘Satan wants me!’) There is third possible location, however: Purgatory. Or Barzakh. An intermediate state. Both Catholics and Muslims believe in it. The priest does, too.

Who will be in Purgatory? Consult Dante’s Divine Comedy. All types of interesting sinners are there. From the proud to the lustful, through the wrathful and the slothful. Folks high and low. Such as the Roman statesman Cato, who killed himself rather than live on under a dictatorship. And Pia de Tolomei, a lady from Siena murdered by her husband out of jealousy. Who would Dante pick today, I wonder? President Putin? Hillary Clinton? Melania Trump? Or even…Princess Diana?

‘There is a Purgatory’, proclaimed the Council of Trent, also imposing a curse on disbelievers. Logical. All Catholic teaching is summed up in the doctrine of Purgatory. Because it is about the salvation of your soul and the means to it. Catholics must subscribe to it, as it is a dogma of faith. Hence essential to salvation. Protestants denied it but even John Calvin admitted the faithful had always believed it. The Church of England also rejected it as ‘a vain doctrine’ but that is bound up with obsolete diatribes. The High Church party held it OK. Devout Anglican parishioners assured me they believed in Purgatory. I agreed with them. It makes good theological sense.

Muslims affirms a similar concept. Barzakh means a realm in between. A boundary, limit or barrier separating Heaven and Hell. The virtuous inhabit it. In the Barzakh they await resurrection, in a quiescent state, with confidence in their final reward. One Qur’an passage refers to it: ‘…Before them is a partition, till the day they are raised up’ (Surah al Muminun, 100). Ghazali, the famous mystic, also speaks about it. So does Ibn Arabi. However, in Islam Barzakh is not as clearly drawn and as doctrinally made out as the Christian Purgatory.

Purgatory implies two divine mysteries: Justice and Mercy. Justice demands that sinners should pay some penalty. That is why souls who have died not having fully atoned for their sins on earth should be purified before reaching Paradise. Divine mercy guarantees that, once the temporal punishment has been performed, the way to eternal glory is assured. Yes, Purgatory entails some spiritual suffering, or frustration of the will, but that is what purification is all about. An impure consciousness has to be cleansed. The Masses, prayers and oblations of the faithful on earth can help the soul in the intermediate state to get to his eternal goal.

Church dogma apart, is there evidence for Purgatory? Plenty. That learned and pious English historian, the Venerable Bede, tells the touching story of Drithelm, a man from Northumbria. To admonish the living, after Drithelm died, God permitted him to come back and reveal what he had seen in the next world – a vision of the cleansing flames of Purgatory. And Bede is not alone. St Monica, St Catherine of Genoa, St Robert Bellarmine, St Gregory the Great, St Theresa of Avila, St Maddalena de Pazzi, St Stanislaus Kostka, St Bernardin of Siena, St Catherine of Sweden, St Hugh of Cluny, St Lidwina, St Catherine de Ricci, St Bridget, St Gertrude, Blessed Henry Suso, St Odilo, St Nicholas of Tolentino, St Alphonse Liguori…and many more. A cloud of witnesses attesting to the truth of that intervenient state.

The Reformers thought Purgatory unbiblical. Yet even the valiant Hebrew hero Judas Maccabeus prayed that the sins of his fallen, fellow fighters might be blotted out (2 Mach. 12:39) – a prayer clearly importing the possibility of post-mortem purification. And St Paul himself alludes to the fact of a cleansing fire in I Corinthians, 3:15.

The testimony of the saints is all very well but, short of divine revelation, how could you know that someone like, say, Princess Diana, is in Purgatory? No, it cannot be a strict matter of empirical knowledge, natural or supernatural. Yet Dante as a poet could quite wonderfully fill the unseen world he sang with all sort of people. His ‘proofs’ were theological. Church teaching laid out clearly what sin was, as well as the attendant penalties. Sufi master Ibn Arabi’s profound concept of the ‘Creative Imagination’ is like that. Not mere phantasy but a spiritual faculty that gives access to a’alam al-Mithal: the intermediate dimension.

In my e-book on Princess Diana, available here:
I, who knew her, give her a voice, allow her to speak. She did much good, yet she was flawed. Lack of lawful marital love drove her to seek satisfaction elsewhere. One thing is clear: her ghost keeps haunting the universal imagination. As the twentieth anniversary of her death approaches, the media overflow with Diana stories and memories. Like the ghost of Hamlet’s father in Shakespeare’s play, she will not go away until…what? Guess!

Conspiracy theories about Diana’s death aside, her spirit appears restless. The ‘Queen of People’s Hearts’ refuses to leave the hearts of her people alone. Indeed, as she intimated in a famous interview, she would not ‘go quietly’. Thus, it seems plausible to me that in the Beyond the Princess’ soul is now being purified, as she ascends the Seven-Storey Mountain between Heaven and Earth. Higher she goes, yearning for Eternal Peace.

Revd Frank Julian Gelli


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Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Armenian News... A Topalian... Pan-Armenian Council

RFE/RL Report
Sarkisian To Set Up `Pan-Armenian Council'
August 18, 2017

President Serzh Sarkisian is pressing ahead with plans to form an
advisory "pan-Armenian council" that will consist of senior officials
from Armenia and representatives of its worldwide Diaspora.

Sarkisian met with the chairman of the Armenian Constitutional Court,
Gagik Harutiunian, and other state officials on Friday to discuss
ongoing preparations for the inaugural session of the council which
his office said will take place next year.

Plans for creating such a body were first announced in 2015 by a
high-level commission that organized official commemorations of the
100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey. The
commission was headed by Sarkisian and comprised other senior Armenian
state officials as well as the top clerics of the Armenian Apostolic
Church and leaders of some Diaspora organizations.

It was agreed that the council will seek greater international
recognition of the genocide, examine "conditions of Armenians around
the world" and coordinate "pan-Armenian activities." Practical
modalities of its creation were supposed to be worked out by a task
force headed by Hartiunian and Vigen Sargsian, the then chief of the
presidential staff who became Armenia's defense minister last October.

A statement by the presidential press service said Harutiunian
presented "approaches and mechanisms" for the council's formation
during Friday's meeting chaired by Sarkisian. It said the head of
state instructed officials to draft a package of corresponding
decisions that will be discussed at an Armenia-Diaspora conference
slated for next month. One of those documents will relate to "the
agenda of the first council meeting to be held in 2018."

The statement did not specify whether the Pan-Armenian Council will
hold its first meeting before or after Sarkisian completes his final
presidential term in April 2018. The president has still not publicly
clarified whether he plans to stay in government in another capacity.

There are an estimated 8 million to 9 million ethnic Armenians around
the world. Only up to 3 million of them live in Armenia. Most of the
others reside in Russia, the United States, Europe and the Middle

RFE/RL Report
Armenia Warns Turkey Over Possible Deal With Eurasian Union
August 21, 2017
Emil Danielyan

Official Yerevan has scoffed at reports that Turkey would like to sign
a free-trade deal with the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU),
pointing to the long-running Turkish economic blockade of Armenia.

The Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted Turkish Economy Minister
Nihat Zeybekci as saying on Friday that Ankara is seeking to open
negotiations on a "customs agreement" with the EEU in an effort to
expand Turkey's commercial ties with Russia.

"A free trade agreement between Russia and Turkey will lead to a new
level of partnership," Zeybekci told a business forum held in the
Turkish city of Izmir. He said it would not run counter to his
country's customs union with the European Union established in 1995.

Armenia, which joined the EEU in 2015, was quick to react to the
Turkish minister's reported statement. "First of all, the EEU's
founding treaty does not provide for a possibility of joining the EEU
customs area," Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian said on

"Furthermore, it is ridiculous that the talk of joining the EEU
customs area is coming from Turkey, which unilaterally closed [in
1993] the Turkish-Armenian border -- the only land border between
Turkey and the EEU customs area," Kocharian added in written comments.

Turkey has kept the border closed and refused to establish diplomatic
relations with Armenia out of solidarity with Azerbaijan, its closest
regional ally. Successive governments in Ankara have made the
normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations conditional on a
resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict acceptable to
Baku. Yerevan rejects this linkage.

The Armenpress news agency quoted another, unnamed official from the
Armenian Foreign Ministry as warning that any deal between Turkey and
the Russian-led trade bloc would have to be backed by all EEU member
states, including Armenia.

Russian government officials have not yet publicly commented on the
possibility of such a deal with Ankara.

Last year, Armenia vetoed Pakistan's request for an observer status in
the Parliamentary Assembly of another Russian-dominated alliance of
ex-Soviet states: the Collective Security Treaty Organization
(CSTO). Armenian officials argued that Pakistan refuses to not only
establish diplomatic relations with Armenia but also formally
recognize the latter as an independent state.

Just like Turkey, Pakistan has always fully and unconditionally
supported Azerbaijan in the Karabakh conflict, accusing Armenia of
military aggression against its Muslim neighbor. 

RFE/RL Report
Armenian Government `Determined' To Sign New Accord With EU
August 21, 2017

The government remains "very determined" to sign later this year an
agreement on deepening Armenia's links with the European Union, Prime
Minister Karen Karapetian insisted on Monday.

"We are going to sign [the agreement,]" Karapetian told reporters as
he visited a pro-government youth camp in the resort town of

The Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) was
finalized by Armenian and EU officials in Yerevan in March. It is due
to be signed during an EU summit in Brussels scheduled for November.

The CEPA is a less ambitious alternative to an Association Agreement
negotiated by Armenian and EU officials in the summer of
2013. President Serzh Sarkisian scuttled that deal with his unexpected
decision in September 2013 to make Armenia part of the Russian-led
Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). The volte-face was widely attributed to
strong Russian pressure.

Asked whether Yerevan might abandon the CEPA as well at the last
minute, Karapetian said: "Can there be developments that will prevent
the signing? I don't see them at the moment."

Justice Minister Davit Harutiunian similarly dismissed last month
opposition speculation that Armenia may be pressurized by Russia not
to sign alternative deal containing the main political provisions of
the cancelled Association Agreement.

For her part, Naira Zohrabian, the chairwoman of an Armenian
parliament committee on European integration, said on June 21 that
Yerevan has "discussed" the key CEPA provisions with the Russians and
that the latter do not object to them. 

Panorama, Armenia
Aug 19 2017
Medical tourism on the rise in Armenia, surgeon says 

Armenia has seen an increase in the inbound tourism flows to the country for medical reasons especially during the summer season, an Armenian surgeon said at a news conference on Saturday. 

Plastic surgeon Hayk Yenokyan, Associate Professor at Department of Maxillofacial Surgery of Yerevan State Medical University, said that the medical tourism gradually becomes an accomplished sector in Armenia, as evidenced by the increase of tourism flows for the purpose registered annually. 

“While only Diaspora-Armenians visited Armenia to receive medical services in the past, now foreigners arrive in the country for the purpose as well. People from Sweden, Denmark, Middle East, Iran and even the UAE arrive in Armenia for medical tourism,” the surgeon noted. 

Dr. Yenokyan informed that the plastic nose surgeries continue to be the most popular procedure in Armenia. “Our foreign partners already accept that the Armenian surgeons surpass many in terms of the nasal surgery. You become more skilled when you perform the same operation multiple times,” he said, meantime underscoring the competitive prices in Armenia. 

“The plastic operations are much more affordable in Armenia compared to the U.S.,” the doctor noted. 

Psychologist Lilit Khachatryan, present at the discussion, said that the tourists also seek psychological counseling in Armenia, namely people from Israel, Belgium, England Russia and the U.S. sought support in the country. 

The specialist also added that psychological counseling is more expensive in Armenia compared to many cities in Russia, however it is more affordable to compare with the U.S. or Europe. 

ARKA, Armenia
Aug 21 2017
Armenia’s grape production to be 20 percent less this year, expert says 

YEREVAN, August 21. /ARKA/. Armenia’s grape production will be less by 15-20% this year, compared to 2016, the head of the National Wine Center Avag Harutyunyan told journalists on Friday. According to him, official figures usually range production of grapes in Armenia between 200,000-300,000 tons, but according to the Center's estimates, it does not exceed 100,000 tons. 

"This year, the real production will be 70-75 thousand tons, because the winegrowers were in a difficult financial situation and could not protect the vineyards from winter frosts in a timely and proper manner," said Harutyunyan. In his words, about 10 thousand tons of grapes will fail to find buyers. 

He said the government-proposed price for grapes is 140 drams for 1 kg. This will ensure self-sufficiency of the produced grapes enabling farmers even to get a small profit. 

"However, in this case, there is a risk that about 30 thousand tons of grapes will not be sold due to lack of funds of processing companies," said Harutyunyan. 

He noted that according to the calculations of the Center, the cost price of grapes used to make wine this year is from 90 to 127 drams, without taking into account the wages to producers and transportation. 

Armenian Minister of Agriculture Ignaty Arakelyan said earlier that because of natural disasters and the low price last year wine growers were unable to work more productively in 2017. ($ 1 - 478.57 drams). -0- 

Aravot, Armenia
Aug 19 2017
Armenian gymnast sets ‘Guinness’ record for 92 rotations on high bar 

Four-times record-holder David Fahradyan set the next fifth record making 92 rotations in a row on a high bar with a reverse grasp in the USA in 2016. At the meeting with journalists, David Fahradyan informed that recently he has received the record certificate. “The record application was accepted, and a few months later we received the online certificate, and now we have received the original certificate itself. Such a record was not made by any gymnast, I had been training for about three years. This is the fifth record: it’s unique in gymnastics, to have 5 certificates”, noted David Fahradyan.

He noted that high bar is one of the forms of gymnastics: “Rotations are unusual, I hold on the bar almost with two fingers, with my arms in opposite position. Preparing for the record took a long time. I made 94 rotations, the application was for 51 rotations, but I surpassed within 2 minutes and 18 seconds”.

David Fahradyan has been going in for gymnastics since he was 7 years old. He has founded a gymnastics school. He teaches at YSU Sports Department.

Aravot, Armenia
Aug 17 2017
Landlocked Armenia looks to technology education for country’s future
By Amy Lieberman 

KARINJ, Armenia — The journey from Yerevan to the northern province of Lori normally takes four hours, but with the one main road undergoing repairs in the summertime, the car trip through Armenia’s wild green mountains can now stretch on all day.

A few visitors finally reach the the public school in Karinj, a village of about 700 people in this rural, sparsely populated region bordering on Georgia. The stately, Soviet-style building still holds many of the era’s relics — musty gymnasium equipment, wooden desks and chairs, and even the same strict teaching method once modeled decades ago.

In one tucked-away, bright classroom on a recent Saturday afternoon, a group of 13 students chatted freely in a semi-circle and giggled at the presence of guests. Their teacher encouraged them to stand up and share family traditions, and to also show how they constructed their completed LEGO mindstorms robots — customizable, moveable creations they program by applying lessons of physics, math and engineering.

In a poor, rural school in Armenia, this mix of science and free-flowing creativity in a classroom is still rare — but it might increasingly be what is necessary to help the country face some of its most challenging socioeconomic problems.

Leading Armenian health and education NGOs are driving forward a progressive educational technology strategy to rethink development in this lower middle-income, south Caucasus country: Infuse creative, technology-centered education into the classroom to provide youth with adaptable work and life skillsets, and boost their chances of finding jobs in their hometowns, or within Armenia.

“When you go to these villages you see that these kids are kind of hopeless, in a way. They are disappointed and their main angle is to come to Yerevan, or think about leaving to work in Russia, as their fathers have done, and this is a real problem,” said Ester Hakobyan, a programs director for the Children of Armenia Fund , or COAF. She led the session in the “SMART” classroom on storytelling, designed to teach kids the art of collecting family historical stories and sharing tales, skills they could use if they go into the local tourism industry.

“What we try to do is create some kind of future in the villages for these kids,” she explained.

While migration from Armenia has slowed since the 1990s, weak economic conditions have contributed to more than 250,000 people leaving the landlocked country of just 3 million since 2008. About 30 percent of Armenians live below the national poverty line and in Lori — the province with the highest rate of migration — it is common to find households temporarily absent of men, who have gone to work in Russia.

Yet despite the lack of available jobs within Armenia, which faces an unemployment rate of about 16 percent, the country has seen a recent growth in its IT sector . And Armenian health and education NGOs such as COAF and the learning initiative the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies , are finding they can bring low-income, rural students into the wave of Armenia’s rising tech scene.

The work also has the potential to replicate in other countries facing similar problems of high rates of youth unemployment and migration, and so Armenia’s experiences could have much to teach the rest of the world, according to COAF and Tumo Center.

“The biggest disease this country has is a lack of belief in the future,” explained Tim Straight, the honorary consul of Norway and Finland and the founder of a fair trade handicrafts organization, Homeland Development Initiative. “In the IT sector, these kids are smart, really smart. They are going to do really well in this country, but there is the reality that they could earn five times more elsewhere. And it becomes a choice of, ‘My language, my kitchen, my culture,’ or is it the money that matters?” Horizon Weekly NewspaperCOAF’s SMART Center, which remains under construction, will launch next year.

COAF and the Tumo Center, both founded by members of the Armenian diaspora — Turkish-born, New York-based businessman Garo Armen and Lebanese born, Dallas-based telecommunications businessman Sam Simonian, respectively — are both quickly scaling up ed tech initiatives throughout the country.

The six-year-old Tumo Center has a flagship, soaring building in Yerevan — originally constructed for $20 million — where it hosts up to 7,000 students aged 12-18 at any time for free, tailored four-week long after-school programs. Students develop their own personal learning plans through a software system that encourages them to take different courses in animation, game development, web development, digital media and other creative fields based on their preferences and performance. Teachers are Armenian experts, and also international field experts who travel for the short courses.

“It [the work of the Tumo Center] is complimentary. We are not substituting, saying we replace the Armenian schools,” explained Marie Lou Papazian, the managing director of Tumo Center, a Lebanese-born Armenian who moved from New York to oversee the center.

“The school has a specific mission. They teach language, math, geometry and we don’t teach those materials. But through tech, through the Internet, you have access to so many possibilities. You can create so many interesting things and when you engage the kids, you see results fast.”

She spoke from her office inside the Tumo Center, a hub of constant activity, late one recent afternoon. Students streamed throughout the glass building to play games and work on mobile computer workstations — individual computer desktop and chair sets, whose power and ethernet cable are connected to the ceiling, allowing the user to move seamlessly across a room. Down the hall, auditions for an advanced music class were underway.

International interest in the Tumo Center’s unique, individualized model, and unanticipated student engagement, has come in tandem, as the center has expanded to other small cities in Armenia, with support of the Central Bank of Armenian and some private sector groups. The public-private partnership model is also at play in Yerevan, where it rents out space to tech companies, including the image software application PicsArt.

Moving beyond Yerevan, Armenia’s largest, capital city, to address “brain drain” across the country is a shared goal of COAF, a partner organization that has opened up six “SMART” ed tech rooms, including the one in Karinj, over the last two years. Students, and also adults in the community, can access these rooms to research — not just play games, as they sometimes do at home — on computers to learn about the environment, health and to also build robots. Some instruction is in English. Horizon Weekly NewspaperEster Hakobyan engages with students in a SMART room in Lori, Armenia.

“We understood that traditional, every-day approaches were not possible, so we decided to start a SMART initiative to bring best available practices here. We see potential in Lori,” said Hakobyan, a teacher originally from the region. “We needed a creative working space for kids, who are not used to going to a classroom and being comfortable there, but having very strict rules of behaving. You never see a kind of open work space in a classroom unless you go to very fancy schools. Here furniture is movable. There are walls you can write on.”

COAF, which traditionally centers is work in education, health care and infrastructure, will open a SMART Center in early 2018 in Lori — a building now underway whose vision could match the grandeur and scale of the Tumo Center. The glass, one-level structure will flow with the mountains, explained the architect, Paul Kaloustian, of Beirut, giving visiting students an immersive feeling when they come to take free courses in technology, business and civil engagement, arts and music and environmental practices.

One challenge is to draw in adults from surrounding communities. They might struggle to either physically reach the center, or feel like they have nothing to gain from it. There is a sharp divide between Armenia’s younger and older generations, explained Straight, who spoke of Armenia’s “lost generation” of older women in particular, who learned few skills — beyond sewing, cooking and farming during the Soviet times — that they are now able to translate into work.

Shahane Halajyan, COAF’s SMART Initiative manager, says that Armenia has no option but to ensure that communities can be engaged with ed tech.

“We know that for each individual resident, the condition of the schools is very important and we try to enhance community involvement. But to try to enhance community involvement is not easy to do,” she said. “What we struggle with is, when you are in schools, things go easier. When you move into the community you have to go into effective implementation. With SMART, we have no option but to be successful. We have to make sure it works, because of the investment. There is great potential here we need to access.”