As We See It
By Prof. Osheen Keshishian

Thank You, Vatican

The relations between the Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church are getting more cordial as the years go by, basically because of the Pope’s Christian spirit and camaraderie.

Pope John Paul was the first Pope to visit Armenia at the end of September 2001 and on September 26, the Holy Father visited the Armenian Martyrs Monument in Dzidzernagapert and paid a very moving tribute to the more than 1.5 million Armenians who were killed during the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman government. Thousands attended the event, including Charles Aznavour and yours truly. Pope Francis also visited Armenia and Dzidzernagapert in June 2016. His remarks were well received by the thousands of Catholics and people in general, around the world.

The Vatican issued stamps commemorating the visit of Pope Francis. Designed by Daniela Longo, the stamps shows Pope Francis at the Armenian Genocide Memorial Monument in Armenia. The Pope decided to erect a bronze statue of Saint Gregory of Narek (Krikor Naregatsi), the 10th century world renowned Armenian monk, philosopher, poet, and intellectual. On April 5th, 2018, the Pope consecrated the St. Gregory statue in the Gardens of the Vatican in front of religious, political, and community leaders. On April 15, 2015, in the Papal Basilica of St. Peter, the Pope declared Gregory of Narek the Doctor of the Church.

This cordial and deserving relationship gives pride to both churches, and the Armenian Apostolic Church becomes more and more in the public eye because of the Vatican’s efforts.

Thousands visit the Vatican every year, and now that they can go to the Vatican Gardens, they will be introduced to Narekatsi’s statue. They will learn about the Armenian people, their history, their religious and intellectual life and contribution to civilization, all because of alert Popes. A public relations well deserving.

Thank you, Popes, for all you do to inform the people of the world about Armenians who have existed for centuries.

Posted in Editorials

Aliyev May Claim Washington D.C

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev made a statement at the VI Congress of the Ruling Azerbaijan Party on February 8, 2018, ridiculing himself and upsetting many, many government leaders around the world, as well as the new generation in Azerbaijan. During his political party’s meeting he said: “Yerevan is our historical land, and we Azerbaijanis, should return to these lands.” As if that was not enough, he also mentioned that “Yerevan, Zangezur and Sevan are Azerbaijan’s ‘historic lands’”.

There were reactions from many, many countries around the world, some ridiculing him, including new generation Azeris, blaming him for not being able to settle the Karabach issue, finding silly reasons and evading the problem. It is a historic fact that Karabakh voted legally to become an independent state.

Naturally, the United States’ State Department reacted and issued restrained reactions saying that the parties should refrain from inflammatory statements and provocative actions. That’s not enough U.S! Similarly, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Sakharov said on February 15, that the statement did not clearly contribute to reducing tension. France, similarly said: “Refrain from any further provocative action that can only increase tensions.”

Of course these statements are not enough and the are politically motivated.

Did any ask if Aliyev has ever read anywhere that Yerevan belonged to Azerbaijan? 100 years ago, there was no Azerbaijan. As a country, it appeared 100 years ago in history. Where was it before? After 1917, following the Russian Communist Revolution, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and other territories were created. Armenia had lost close to 90% of its territory. History is written and history is available.

International government officials are cautious and instead of saying Aliyev go learn some history, they his statements “provocative.”

President Donald Trump should be very careful. Aliyev can say that Washington, D.C was the capital of….Azerbaijan,

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Thank You, Armenian Assembly and New Members of the Armenian Caucus

Recently, five members joined the Congressional Caucus on Armenian issues thanks to the diligent work of the Armenian Assembly.

Since its establishment in 1972, the non-partisan Armenian Assembly has been promoting Armenian and Armenian issues to the governing bodies of the United States. Many elected officials knew very little about the Armenian community in America and it was through their neighbors, the planned and continued efforts and activities of the Armenian Assembly, public awareness flourished and Armenian issues re-started to be discussed officially. The Armenian Assembly with a large qualified staff in Washington, D.C has accomplished a lot. The Armenian Assembly has offices and representatives in various states, particularly in California, and in other 30 states across the country. It also has offices in Armenia and Artsakh to create more contacts with officials.

The Armenian Caucus was established in 1995 and now has 117 congressional members who work together for Armenia and Armenian affairs.

Recently, the Armenian Assembly had many meetings with Congress people and their office staff to continue spreading news related to Armenian affairs, Armenia and Artsakh.

Last month five new bi-partisan members added their names to the Armenian Caucus membership. They were: Ken Buck (R-CO), Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), Grace Men (D-NY), Ruben Gallegos (D-AZ), and Anthony Brown (D-MD). We like to thank these new members for joining the Armenian Caucus, co-chaired by Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), Rep. David Trott (R-MI), and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL).

The work does not end here. There are several other gatherings to take place about continued aggression by Azerbaijan, the Sumgait Issue and others.

Our heartfelt thanks and appreciation goes to the Armenian Assembly Board of Directors and staff for their dedication and continued alertness, also for their efforts in enlarging the list of the Armenian Caucus.

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Thank You Armenian Bar Association for Reacting to Noah’s Insulting Remarks

A few weeks ago, on January 8,2018, Trevor Noah insulted the Armenians during the television program “The Daily Show” by calling the Armenians “filthy Armenians”. He was criticizing US President Donald Trump for writing on Twitter the following. “Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being like, really smart, not smart but genius and a very stable genius.” Fine, criticize the President or anyone you want. But don’t insult others at the same time. Trevor Noah said: “This is like really funny. Only Donald Trump could defend himself and in the same sentence completely undermine his whole point. It would be like someone saying ‘I am the most tolerant guy out there, just ask any filthy Armenian.’ said Noah.

Wow. He did not have to say the last part of his sentence and it would have been okay. I cannot answer because I am a clean Armenian like ALL Armenians and…nobody asked me and nobody will ask…

But, the Azeris, taking advantage of Noah’s untrue, impolite, erroneous, shameful and insulting remarks by Noah wrote three days later that Mr. Noah has “expressed one more time the real face of Armenians.”

Fortunately, the Armenian Bar Association was alert, immediately reacted in a polite manner and wrote two letters to the vice president of communications at comedy Central and asked for a meeting with the producers, staff writers, and Mr. Noah. Unfortunately, it has been three weeks and according to the Armenian Bar Association no answer has been received yet and the association will continue a feasible follow-up. We express our thanks to the association for being alert and responsive. Thank you.

The Daily Show should have apologized by now, yet there has been no response or apology on television. The Armenian community will continue to correct the statement and we hope that Comedy Central would apologize and announce that it has retracted the “Filthy Armenians” comment.

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Some Thoughts

When a year ends and a new one starts, individuals and organizations, I believe, sit down and ponder about the past year and the mistakes they made maybe inadvertently, or the accomplishments they recorded. But most people try to point the negative and try to improve the situation for the future. Naturally, organizations, groups, institutions, churches, political parties, government and others weigh their mistakes, sometimes objectively, and try to plan a better way or method to improve the situation for the following year. There are some who think they never made a mistake!

Of course, people do not have to wait for the New Year to think about improving themselves and change the way they carried on during the previous year. Nobody sets a deadline except for the persons involved. They do not have to wait for a weekend to change things on Monday, or the first day of the month, indeed, if they are serious, the can think about the situation any day and plant to change it the next day. In these cases, people should be more objective and more serious about vital issues.

We have to approach issues personally and ask ourselves, if we have been a member of a board of directors of an organization, political party, church, cultural group, school or any institution, were we honest with ourselves and expressed our minds and opinions politely during the meetings? Or, not to upset the chairman, or please him and others, we knowingly became a “Yes Man”, by agreeing blindly with the decisions taken at meetings without believing in them, thus burying our personality and honor in the mud. Naturally, others have their opinions, too, and we should respect their views and criticism.

There are so many people who were put out of committees or boards, because they usually expressed their views and politely criticized their decisions…for a better solution of an issue, but to no avail.

There are also individuals who cannot put up with the “dictatorship” within an organization and they quit and, unfortunately, sometimes, they do not get involved in Armenian life any more.

Did we bring our contribution (not necessarily financial) to the betterment of our organizations, churches, institutions, or our country or we kept farcically quiet and did not express an opinion? Were we honest with our opinions and had we done our homework before voting on an issue about which we did not know enough? We should be honest with ourselves and have patience to accomplish anything.

Self-criticism paves the way for the future and we should have been more attentive if we want to accomplish something.

Let us be more honest and truthful with ourselves and assist our family, our organizations, our country as much as possible for the betterment of our lives and the world.

Posted in Editorials

Donate to Armenia Fund to Rebuild Part of Armenia

Hayastan All-Armenia Fund was established in Los Angeles in 1994, the first Telethon was aired in 1996 with $2.5 million raised. The total collected funds in the past 20 years have over $350 million, thanks to the generosity and dedication of the Armenian people around the world.

The yearly collected funds’ total has gone up and down over the years. The highest raised was in 2008 with over $35 million and the lowest in 1998 with a total of $2.1 million. However, since 2006, the annual amounts raised have always been $10 million. From 2010 to 2013, over $20 million was collected each year.

It is very hard to analyze the reasons for these fluctuations. Nevertheless, the people of have showed their devotion to the Motherland and have contributed.

Hayastan All-Armenia Fund is a well established and well-organized entity. All the information is on its site. For instance, the completed projects and in progress listed on its site, are described in detailed fashion. There is a list of donors names. I have donated every year from the first year so my name is on the list. When I was checking the list, I could not find the names of some of my friends. Of course, I called them, and they gave me the song and the dance story, but promised they will contribute next year. I told them “if your name is not on the list next year….”

Actually, more than 700,000 people (families) have made donations to Armenia Fund from around the world — USA, Croatia, Europe, the Middle East, South America, Russia, Armenia and other locations where Armenians live. Several philanthropist have donated $100,000 all the way to more than $2 million. Generally, on average, people donate $120 annually ($10 a month) or $365 annually, whatever the amount is, they are contributing.

Whenever you visit Armenia, stop at the Armenian Fund office and get acquainted, visit the accomplished projects, and ones in progress.

Armenia Fund has completed 50,000 different large and small projects, including 650 kilometers of roads repaired or newly constructed, 580 kilometers of water pipes installed, 149 kilometers of gas pipes and 70 kilometers of electric lines installed, which means that some people in Armenia and Artsakh have lived without these vital survival means for years. Can you imagine, for years, in some villages there were no water pipes? And now, thanks to you, Armenia Fund has improved the lives of people in those villages.

Similarly, many innovations and projects in education, culture, and sports, have improved the peoples’ social life — 170 educational, cultural, and scientific programs have started. 360 schools and kindergartens were repaired or new ones were built, and 75 health centers, sport fields, music centers, painting and art centers, were opened thanks to you and me. There are more projects realized by Armenia Fund.

You can donate to Armenia Fund anytime, any amount and you do not have to wait for the telethon. Do your share and contribute to the rebuilding of life in Armenia and Artsakh, particularly in the villages and remote areas. You will be very happy for your good deeds and the beneficiaries will be very thankful to you, because you provided the opportunity, so they can live a normal life.

Preserve you culture and civilization, assist your compatriots so they can live a better life and continue their heritage.

Donate to Armenia Fund — infor@armeniafund.org or Armenia Fund 111 N. Jackson Street, Suite 205, Glendale, California 91206

Posted in Editorials

Historic Visit of His Holiness

His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, made a Pontifical historic visit to the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America from October 25 to November 4, 2017.

The visit was on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the Western Diocese.

As part of the Western Diocese, His Holiness also visited Mexico where he also met with the Mayor of Mexico City, religious leaders and the members of the Armenian community.

His Holiness paid a visit to the AGBU Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Armenian Day School in Pasadena, where students from the AGBU Manoogian-Demirjian School in Canoga Park students also presented a program. His Holiness was accompanied by His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate, His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese, as well as other clergymen, Mr. Berge Setrakian, President of AGBU, Mr. and Mrs. Vatche and Tamar Manoukian and clergy. His Holiness blessed the students, philanthropists and the newly-renovated Performing Arts Center.

He also visited Ararat Home for the Aged in Mission Hills, presided over the dedication and consecration of the new wing.

His Holiness had cordial gatherings with over 1,500 students from Armenian schools and ACYO members in three days, delivered spiritual messages, talked to them and had a question-and-answer session. The youngsters were extremely happy, including my grandchildren, and felt spiritually enriched. His Holiness, who encouraged them to continue learning Armenian, attend church, get higher education, and follow their parent’s advice and stressed: “A nation without education is like a body without a mind.”

He had a cordial dinner-meeting with representatives of the Armenian Evangelical Union and the Armenian Missionary Association, as well as community organizations, and individuals. After the Hrashapar Service, he met with the community members at the Kalaydjian Hall of the St. Leon Cathedral of the Western Diocese. Similarly, and the Pontifical Banquet, he met with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, elected officials, philanthropists, and parishioners. The cordial gatherings with the students and ACYO members were the most gratifying, fruitful, and important instilling the Armenian Church’s Christian faith in the youngsters, including my grandchildren. They were extremely happy and felt gratified meeting with His Holiness, who encouraged them to continue learning Armenian, attend church, get a higher education, and follow their parent’s advice.

A most important event was the meeting of the Supreme Spiritual Council of the Armenian Church for the first time in Los Angeles from November 1st through the 3rd.

The visit left an indelible impression on the parishioners and community members as the Catholicos stressed several times to keep and enrich the Armenian heritage. He also spoke about strengthening the Armenian Church by eliminating the difference and uniting the Armenian Church.

Posted in Editorials

Do Azeris Buy Justice with Money?

Finally, news is revealing and spreading around the world as to how much the government of Azerbaijan is spending on lobbying to influence people. Azerbaijan has hired many lobbying firms in different countries by paying large sums of money to influence government officials, newscasters, journalists, and so on to cover up its crimes, corruption schemes and inhuman activities.

Money and money. Money talks. Money controls. You can buy politics and justice, unfortunately. But now that the secret information is revealed. Azerbaijan is gearing up to change the reality by spending large amounts of money to look good…I am not sure if it will work.

Here are a few unbelievable items.

On Friday, September 15, it was revealed that a former CNN news employee received $2.6 million from Azerbaijan to praise its government and not to talk or write about human rights violations, corruption, or anything negative. The task of the lobbyist is to bribe various politician and influential individuals to take positive stands and and vote in favor of Azerbaijan, when needed. The Danish newspaper Berlingske shared its findings with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which disperse the revelation, after checking the veracity.

These are just a few cases and there are so many more.

Azerbaijan spends a lot of money in the U.S by hiring several lobbying firms to connect Azeris with high level and influential Americans to support Azerbaijan’s actions. These lobbyists try to give a different story about human rights violations, and against free speech. Recently, Radio Free Europe journalists and other media representatives were harassed and beaten. To give a “positive” picture, an American firm receives more than $70,000 a month for “defending” Azerbaijan by presenting a positive picture. There are other firms also hired by Azeris.

A few weeks ago, a Hungarian news agency made public that Azerbaijan had spent $3 billion for the extradition of Ramil Safarov who had murdered Gurgen Markarian in Hungary 2014.

The newspapers Danish Berlingske, Belgian Lalibre, the British Guardian, Transparency International and other media outlets and organizations revealed during the second week of September that Azerbaijan has “bought” many, many people to negate the corruption news about Azerbaijan and people will do that for money.

Denmark’s Danske Bank processed most of the payments.

Jean-Paul Moerman, a Belgian Constitutional Court judge, is also named as Azerbaijan lobbyist, according to the Belgian Lalibre newspaper reported.

The European Parliament called for a comprehensive and in-depth investigation following some of these revelations to influence also European politicians in favor of Azerbaijan.

Will there be punishment following the investigations? We have to wait and see if proper justice is done.

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Hurricane and Fire Victims Need Help

Natural disasters take place very often in the United States and in other countries around the world.

And it is predictable sometimes, but at times, it takes place all of a sudden. And, it seems it is very difficult to stop them or get ready for them even when they predictable. Whether they are hurricanes, tropical storms, fires, floods, earthquakes or any other form of disaster, the damage caused is beyond comprehension.

In Southern California, the 7,003 acre brush fire in the Verdugo Mountains, in north of Los Angeles, fortunately was contained on Sunday by the firemen and the 210 freeway was opened for traffic. All evacuation orders in Burbank, Glendale, and Sun Valley were lifted.

The fire in Armenia was also contained.

Hurricanes are usually in the vicinity of the Gulf Coast, and they happened very often and they are given names — Hurricane Frederic, Maria, Otto, Tammy, Matthew, etc.

The recent Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and Louisiana causing great damage. Almost everyone was affected and the U.S government, the Red Cross and other organizations are trying to assist the homeless, the sick and those who lost their homes.

In Houston, the parish of the Armenian Church St. Kevork has been hit hard, as many parishioners need relief.

Naturally, all the devastated cities need assistance for their population.

Eastern Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian made an announcement and asked assistance for those who were hit by Hurricane Harvey. The Western Diocese and all the churches have made calls for help. Every Armenian Church established a find for the disaster victims.

Those who would like to donate, and I hope there will be many people, should send their checks to: Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, 630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016 or send them to the church you attend to transfer the funds to New York. You can also send your donations to the Red Cross.

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A Positive Step Forward?

There was an interesting news from Armenia last week, unfortunately a negative one, but nevertheless it is an important news and I hope it will not stop there.

A former bank executive had embezzled large amounts of money, and finally was caught. The court sentenced him to 13 years in prison and will have to pay compensation and court fees.

Money laundering exists in every country, including the United States, as well as Armenia, and many individuals and elected officials are taken to court and sentenced to prison.

In Armenia, this case made news, and hopefully the Ministry of Justice will continue similar investigations, if possible, it is hard to charge the culprits in Armenia because most of them have ties and connections with the ruling authorities. Also, the authorities should not interfere in the daily work and decisions of the Ministry of Justice, and we hope that the Justice Ministry will stay within the law and enforce the laws and not be influenced buy the authorities. It will take some time, and the social life will have to change. Of course, changes cannot happen overnight.

It is a little but surprising that this news was spread and, I don’t know why and how, this case went to court and the court took such an important and historic decision. Maybe this decision may serve as a sign to other people who have expensive homes, and, in reality, they cannot even buy cars with their salaries. Naturally, there are also people who have made their money legally through their businesses and proper investments.

Now if this bank executive’s case will serve as an example, many, many cases should go to court from the top to the bottom.

Is this a start? Maybe. And it is hard to make a judgement. At least, it is a positive step forward and I hope it will not stop here for the sake of a better Armenia.

Posted in Editorials