YEREVAN (Yerkir)–Thousands gathered on September 18 at the Karen Demirchian sports and cultural center to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the ARS Sponsor-A-Child Program. This worldwide assistance program provides monetary assistance to children up to 18 years of age–who have lost one parent or both.
Guests from throughout the world along with 3,500 children from all regions of Armenia–attended the gathering.
Catholicos of all Armenia’s Karekin II–President Robert Kocharian–top officials and diplomats were also present at the event. Catholicos Karekin II blessed the gathering.
ARS Central Executive member and National Assembly deputy Alvart Petrosian presented the opening speech–followed by the ARS Central Executive Chairman Maro Minasian–Armenian Defense Minister Serge Sarkisian–ARF Bureau Chairman Hrant Margarian. Children and wives of soldiers killed during the liberation of Karabagh also spoke. A military parade crowned the celebration.
ARF Bureau Chairman Hrant Markarian’s speech at the opening ceremony dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the ARS Sponsor a Child orphan program:
I am overwhelmed with two feelings here: responsibility and duty. Present in this hall are the children of Armenian soldiers–children of our killed friends–orphans–their relatives.
At this difficult time–our state–and we have not managed to do everything for you. We owe you a lot; we are responsible for you. This gathering should stress that we need to do everything possible and impossible to make you feel that you are full-fledged citizens of our country–that you belong in your homeland.
We express our endless respect to the memory of the Liberation war martyrs.
We salute those devoted to the defense of Armenia and Artsakh–the Armenian army–Armenian soldiers.
On this day–in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the ARS Sponsor-A-Child Program–we extend our gratitude to the large family of the Armenian Relief Society.
During these 10 years–several thousand Armenian children experienced the care and tenderness of relatives. Thousands of Armenia’s sponsoring these activities thus contributed to the sacred cause to revive Armenian statehood and liberation.
These activities are a very educating experience for all of us. Participation in public charity activities is our human and national duty. Charity is not only for the rich. It can and has to be everybody’s concern. Our orphan-care project comes to prove this point: of the thousands of people who contributed to this project–the majority are not wealthy. This 10-year-long ARS project should provide a valuable learning experience for many NGO’s.
During 90 years of existence–the ARS has always been wherever Armenia’s were threatened or offended–our respect and glory to the ARS for its accomplishmen’s and for its future activities.
I’d like to welcome the sponsors of these children who have arrived from different parts of the world. Today’s meeting with the martyrs’ children is a very special occasion to express our gratitude towards our heroes.
During the Karabagh movement–thousands of Armenia’s left for war in order to ensure the security of our homeland–and at the expense of their lives–to liberate the occupied territories of our homeland–and to reinforce Armenian statehood.
These people–weather or not they supported the leadership of that time–went to where the danger was–where the real struggle was–where the liberation battle was being fought for a united Armenia.
They went to war to give us a chance to live a dignified life in Artsakh and Armenia; they left to be able to ensure the existence and future of the Armenian nation.
They went to war without ever noticing that there were no representatives of the authorities–"elites" among them. They went to war without noticing that they were leaving behind the struggle and fight for the national acquisition of property.
They left without any expectations–without imposing any conditions–without any security or guarantees for compensation. They devoted themselves to the Homeland and the nation.
They went to war for the sake of their homeland and their people–for the sake of their ideals and principles–their strength–and present and future history.
They left because they no longer could stand the foreign yoke over our country–could no longer bear the intolerable situation when one’s rights and country are threatened.
They went to war because they could no longer stand the injustice.
They went away and left a continuation of what they had started.
Only a few "lucky" ones returned. They returned and saw national property captured by vermins; they saw people who had accumulated wealth at the expense of our unhappiness–people who had picked up the attitude of a master–a foreign millionaire–a khan over the population.
We celebrated the 10th anniversaries of Independence of Artsakh and Armenia; Armenian Artsakh and Shushi were liberated. The independent Armenian state is established. However–Shahumyan and Getashen are still awaiting liberation. In spite of some instances of appearing defeated–we are determined today not to lose–to diplomatic pressure and games–that which we accomplished with blood during the war.
Our nation is watchful and alert. Those supporting compromise and defeat will not feel our support. Those who are for struggle–resistance and victory will experience the full support of the people.
The Artsakh issue has brought many to power. But it has deprived them of power as well. In spite of the difficult social-economic conditions in the country–the Artsakh issue will always be of crucial importance.
However–the liberated territories are waiting for an all-nation effort to repopulate the territories. They are waiting for final liberation.
We went through the black night of October 27 together with the entire nation. We barely escaped anarchy. However–some forces–consciously or not–are still trying to spread the poison of suspicion and continue the catastrophe started on October 27.
The uncompetitive and outdated economy that we have inherited on the one hand–the unfair policies of distribution of national property on the other hand–have caused extreme polarization in Armenian society. A handful of rich people comprise one side–the poor majority–the other.
Nevertheless–today we can see hopes and efforts to revive and rebuild the economy. We believe that we will be able to continue that effort and enhance the hope through implementing social welfare policies.
We inherited a corrupt state system that is gaining new strength and nourishment today. It has a tendency to grow larger and turn into a political power at the expense of people’s rights. Struggle against corruption should be our priority. People’s control over the state system should be established.
The struggle for consolidation–stability and welfare of nation and our state will continue.
We owe you and the entire Armenian nation a strong–prosperous and just country. We are obliged to create that country for you.
We are obliged to create a country where no one’s rights will be violated; no one will feel helpless and unprotected.
We are obliged to create a country where people will be able to earn enough to lead a dignified life–a country in which people will have an opportunity to develop–prosper and keep up with global progress.
We are obliged to create a strong–well-organized country that will ensure national–human and civil rights.
Let us continue the job of the martyred soldiers with a soldier’s willingness to devote ourselves to our nation and homeland.
Let us be worthy of our duty and responsibility.