Sunday 25th April 2021, a remembrance service for the 106th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide was held at St. Yeghiche Armenian Church in London; with His Grace Bishop Hovakim presiding over the service. Various special guests such as Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, Mr Aram Araratyan, Mr Armand Abrahamyan and Mr Gagik Kirakosyan were in attendance. This was a heartfelt ceremony indeed.
The remembrance service began with Reverend Father Nshan Alaverdyan leading the divine liturgy.
Angelika Ghazaryan, an intern at the Primate’s office, hosted and commenced the speeches with a few words of her own expanding upon one of William Saroyan’s most famous quotations.
“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia. See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” – William Saroyan.
She continued to say that as a young Armenian she feels proud of the Armenian Genocide victors, but most importantly she wants to make the victors proud. She reminded the Armenian community to take their time to understand one another, to unite and to remain resilient as Armenia has done for millennia.
Angelika invited the first guest speaker the Very Reverend Cor Episcopos Professor and Doctor Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of the Barnabas Fund based in the UK, to read a sermon for the faithful present at St. Yeghiche Church. Dr. Sookhdeo talked about the terrible Red Sunday where ‘about 250 notable figures of the Armenian community – academics, politicians, clergy, professionals, artists, writers and musicians – were arrested, tortured and killed’.
Dr Sookhdeo continued: ‘Not content with eliminating the presence of Christian people, Turkey has gone on to systematically destroy the rich cultural heritage of churches, monasteries, libraries and art, and denies not only their suffering but their very history’.
He spoke about Sir William Watson, a 19th century English poet, who published a book of poems on ‘England’s desertion of Armenia’, evidence of England’s silence during the massacres of Armenians in 1895. Dr. Sookhdeo concluded with a prayer by St. Grigor Narekatsi who lived more than a thousand years ago.
Dr. Sookhdeo is a close friend of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) and is working very hard for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Dr. Sookhdeo has edited the book ‘Surviving the forgotten Armenian Genocide’ authored by Smpat Chorbadjian. Furthermore, the Barnabas International Fund does many projects supporting vulnerable groups in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The second guest speaker, Mr Aram Araratyan, representative of the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia in the UK, explained that the US government’s recognition of the 1915 Armenian Genocide does not mean the end of our fight for justice. Mr Araratyan looked to the future and hopes that other countries including the UK will follow suit. He also hopes that the perpetrator country, Turkey, will acknowledge this crime.
The Armenian community should acknowledge that the Armenian Embassy continues its immense work despite the limited number of diplomats and resources. We thank our diplomatic team, both for supporting our community and for building relations with the United Kingdom.
The third and final guest speaker Mr Armand Abrahamyan, Chair of the Armenian Comunity Council in the UK, explained the importance of the petition letter he sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on behalf of the British-Armenian community. Mr Abrahamyan emphasised the fact that recognition of the Armenian Genocide is a global and moral responsibility. It is the first step towards reconciliation, reparation and importantly, it has a far higher significance in historic and human rights terms than that of political and economic interests. Mr Abrahamyan, in his letter to the Prime Minister of the UK, provided hard statistical data that showed no negative impact on economic ties with Turkey for countries that have recognised the Armenian Genocide. He, therefore, urges the UK government to officially acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.
The Armenian Community Council in the UK has also been working for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide through its special Committee for the Recognition of the Armenian Genocide (CRAG) and other imperative initiatives for Artsakh, especially during the recent war, closely cooperating with his Grace the Primate and other community organisations.
(Click here to read the speech)
After the wonderful guest speakers had shared their invaluable words, Angelika Ghazaryan invited Bishop Hovakim and the clergy to start the concluding remembrance prayer service which was followed by wreath-laying in front of the Khachkar in the Churchyard. Here, some of our young Armenian children laid forget-me-not flowers, which they had made from coloured paper during the liturgy, in loving memory of the genocide victims. To conclude the day, the faithful Armenians in unison sang a patriotic song called ‘Sardarapat’.