In a recent interview with the Hairenik Weekly, Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Eastern U.S., urged Armenians worldwide to help the Syrian-Armenian community increasingly threatened by the turmoil in Syria.
Choloyan stressed the important and exemplary role the Syrian-Armenian community has played throughout the years. “The Armenians of Aleppo inherited the unique Armenian spirit that it directly acquired from the soil and water of the homeland, the spirit which was resurrected after the genocide, especially in Aleppo,” he said. “Hence, Aleppo remained true to our roots, in terms of traditions and heritage.”
His Holiness Catholicos Aram I has also called upon all Armenians, and especially to the parishes under the jurisdiction of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia, to come to the assistance of the Syrian-Armenian community, said Choloyan. His Holiness wants to ensure that the community protects its properties, schools, churches, and centers, while also providing humanitarian aid to community members.
Choloyan commended the Syrian-Armenian youth for the role they have played thus far. “I want to note, with gratitude and pride, the sacrifice of the…youth, who willingly organized and—even under the threat of death—are providing aid to families in need,” he said. “Together and in one spirit, all of us must engage in this sacred endeavor, taking as example the unified sprit of the Armenian community leaders in Syria…”
Choloyan said Catholicos Aram I canceled his trip to the U.S. after it became clear the Syrian-Armenian community was in danger, and that his presence was needed in the Middle East.
Heeding the Catholicos’ call, the central committee for the “Syrian Armenian Relief Fund” was established. Unfortunately, it was not possible to organize under one banner the various organizations in the Eastern U.S., something that was done in the Western U.S. and in Canada. During their first meeting, the committee decided to dedicate September—and the following months—to raising funds, until the Syrian-Armenian community reestablishes itself, and unitl its members are able to return to a normal and productive life.
The committee has undertaken four measures for a successful campaign: First, they will appeal to those families and individuals on their mailing list. Second, they will collect donations through their churches. Third, they will donate all proceeds from the dinner reception in honor of the Catholicos’s visit to aid the Syrian-Armenian community. (The dinner reception, slated to take place on Oct. 7 in New York, has not been canceled despite the Catholicos’s decision to stay in the Middle East; the dinner is being held in appreciation to those individuals and organizations that aided the Armenian people following the genocide, including the Near East Relief, ANCHA, and Fridtjof Nansen.) Fourth, they will appeal to Syrian-Armenians who are prepared to contribute large funds to the relief initiative. Currently, the committee is working on producing a brochure outlining the current conditions.
“We greatly appreciate the campaign already initiated by the Armenian Relief Society,” Choloyan said in the interview. “We also appreciate the kindness of all those who, before our campaign even started, have made their generous contributions. This is the best expression of the conscientiousness of Armenians.”
According to Choloyan, the committee decided to send all donations to the Prelacy, and from there to the Cilician Catholicosate. Bank transactions are not currently possible in Syria due to sanctions imposed by the U.S. that make such transactions illegal, noted the archbishop. Catholicos Aram I has maintained contact with Armenian community leaders in Syria, with whom he occasionally meets, and the transfer of funds will be made through this route.
“No one should be satisfied by saying, ‘I gave what I could, now it’s up to others.’ In matters of national concern, that other is also us. Only through our togetherness, can our united strength be manifested. It is our heartfelt prayer that the bombing ceases, that enmities subside, so that as loyal Syrian citizens, the Syrian-Armenians commit themselves to the establishment of peace and reconstruction,” Choloyan said.
“If our education has given us the sense of belonging to one nation and one fate, now is the moment to prove it. As the Apostle has said, if one part of the body hurts, the whole body hurts…” he continued, adding, “Being Armenian is a duty; being Armenian is sacrifice. Let us not forget that being Armenian is also dignity and pride. And to stay true to our heritage, we are going to help our compatriots who are in a difficult situation. It is not forgivable to find excuses in face of daily turmoil in Syria.”
To contribute to the Syrian Armenian Relief Fund, make your checks payable to the “Armenian Apostolic Church of America,” noting in the memo, “Fund for Syrian Armenian Relief.” Send your checks to the Armenian Prelacy, 138 East 39th Street, New York, NY 10016.