KUALA LAMPUR, Malaysia—On February 4, 2017 the first ever Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church in Malaysia was celebrated in Kuala Lumpur by Very Reverend Father Zaven Yazichyan, Pastor of the Armenian Spiritual Pastorates of Singapore, Myanmar and Bangladesh and the Representative of the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians to The Far East. The Divine Liturgy was delivered at the Archangel Michael Russian Orthodox Church in Kuala Lumpur. The event was organized by Emil Petrosyan, the President of the Armenian Society in Malaysia, with the blessings of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians. Ashot Tunyan, a prominent member of the Armenian Society in Malaysia hosted the Spiritual Father for the occasion.
The Divine Liturgy was attended by all the members of the Community, guests and friends of the Armenian Society in Malaysia, Armenians living in Johor Bahru (Malaysia), as well as Armenians from Indonesia.
During the Divine Liturgy Father Zaven Yazichyan addressed his message to the faithful and expressed his gratitude and appreciation to Emil Petrosyan, the President of the Armenian Society in Malaysia, as well as to all the members of the Community for their outstanding efforts and contributions towards organizing this historic and brilliant event. Particularly, Father Zaven Yazichyan emphasized stating that: “…strong faith and boundless love towards our Mother Church and Homeland unites us today in this sacred place… despite the reality that there is no Armenian Church in Malaysia, your zeal, enthusiasm and keenness deserves appraisal, as well as your love and devotion, efforts and energy for making this beautiful vision become a reality… you truly and proudly continue to be the heirs to the legacy of our forebears who came to this country and established a good name and created history.” On this landmark occasion Father Yazichyan conveyed the appreciation and blessings of His Holiness Karekin II Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians and wished that the Almighty God multiple the successes and grant new achievements and the very best in everything as the Community prepares for new and remarkable events in the days to come.
Following the Divine Liturgy, the Holy Sacrament of Baptism was performed and three children were reborn a spiritual birth and sanctified by the Holy Spirit and became as children of God and true members of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church. The ceremony of the Holy Sacrament of Baptism was a kind of “rebirth and resurrection” of the Armenian community in Malaysia; lik e a bell -sound which once again proved the dedication of the community towards the Armenian Apostolic Mother Church. The happiness and joy of the faithful audience was boundless, expressed in mixed feelings of hope and faith in our future.
After the Holy Sacrament of Baptism, a Requiem service was offered; for one of the relative of the member of the Community, who suddenly passed away in Armenia. Father Zaven stated in his speech that “…it was with deep sorrow that we learned of the untimely death of Sasun Tunyan, cousin of Ashot Tunyan, one of the members of the Armenian Community in Malaysia. We all are with you in this difficult moment. No one can prepare you for a loss; it comes like a swift wind. However, take comfort in knowing that he is now resting in the arms of our Lord. A person that departs from this earth never truly leaves, for they are still alive in our hearts and minds, through us, they live on. Prayers and fond memories are what we have to remember our dearly departed. May the love of family and friends comfort you during these difficult days. Please accept our heartfelt condolences.”
The day ended with lunch in the Church hall, during which Emil Petrosyan, the President of the Community expressed his gratitude to Father Zaven stating that “…today a memorable, unforgettable, unrepeatable and prayerful day was recorded in the history of the Armenian community in Malaysia”. Afterwards, on behalf of the Women’s Guild of the Community, Emil Petrosyan handed a souvenir to Father Zaven as an expression of their gratefulness. All the Community members thanked the visiting Pastor for his strong spiritual encouragement.
Armenians settled in South-East Asia from 16-17 th centuries. Settling on the foreign soil and forming communities, the priority was and still is to preserve their identity, language, culture and faith. Armenians have come to Malaysia mainly from India and Old Jugha, Iran. They have settled in the Malay Peninsula, southern part of Indochina peninsula. Currently, it is divided between Myanmar, Malaysia and Thailand. Armenians mostly settled in the city of Georgetown, Penang State and after a short while played an important role in the shaping of the economic and cultural history of the state. Till today the most famous street in Georgetown is called Armenian Street or Lebuh Armenia which is an indelible part of the history of Penang. The locals proudly recount to everyone about the rich legacy of the Armenians. Today the street and almost all the buildings on that location which were once owned by prominent Armenians are under the protection of UNESCO World Heritage.
Legendary and famous Sarkis brothers, who were the most eminent businessmen in South-East Asia, established The Eastern & Oriental Hotel in Penang. The Sarkis brothers also founded the Strand Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar and the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, as well as the Crag Hotel on Penang Hill which in the 1950’s became the first home of the Uplands School.
Another prominent Armenian Dr. Avetoom who went on to become one of the leading figures in Penang Society founded the first George Town Dispensary. Despite the small numbers, the Armenians were responsible citizens and built an Armenian Church of Saint Gregory the Illuminator on Bishop Street. Unfortunately, in 1906 the Church was demolished and an elegant monument took its place.
Although there are no Armenians in Penang now, they have undoubtedly left behind a rich cultural legacy that all Armenians can be proud of. Today Armenians are mostly settled in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia.