NAY PYI TAW, Myanmar—Her Excellency Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Foreign Minister of Myanmar on May 19 visited Very Reverend Father Zaven Yazichyan the Pastor of the Armenian Spiritual Pastorates of Myanmar, Singapore and Bangladesh and the Representative of the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians to The Far East.
A new chapter was written in the long, eventful and fascinating history of these two nations when Her Excellency Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, warmly welcomed Very Rev. Fr. Zaven Yazichyan in the capital Nay Pyi Taw.
Reverend Yazichyan personally expressed his gratitude for the momentous occasion and for the historic meeting with Her Excellency. As well as, on behalf the Armenian Community in Myanmar, Reverend Yazichyan expressed his deepest gratitude to the people of this great nation who centuries ago very kindly and graciously welcomed Armenians in the blessed golden land of Myanmar and in the true brotherly spirit granted them new prospects to establish their businesses. The same hospitable spirit continues in our days. “Today we have all been proud witnesses to Your Excellency’s unique and strong leadership and the great personal hardships that Your Excellency has faced and endured and how with Your iron will and determination Your Excellency has successfully guided the nation through long periods of great internal turmoil and instability. Your Excellency is the face of the new Myanmar and the most enduring symbol of hope and peace not just for Myanmar and its people, but also all over the world,” said Fr. Zaven in his remarks.
Her Excellency Daw Aung San Suu Kyi shared her views with Very Rev. Fr. Zaven Yazichyan about the Myanmar Armenian community—who are a minority in Myanmar—their efforts to preserve and uphold their heritage and the Armenian legacy in Myanmar. Her Excellency expressed her thankfulness to the Armenian Community for being law abiding and being among the best integrated communities in terms of enriching the social, cultural and economic life of Myanmar. Moreover, Her Excellency and Fr. Zaven spoke about some challenges that Myanmar is currently facing. Fr. Zaven assured Her Excellency Daw Aung San Suu Kyi that despite being a small Community they are ready and willing to lend their assistance, support and cooperation.
This meeting was one of the first steps towards further strengthening the friendly ties and for establishing a new era of relationship between the two countries marked by joint programs, collaborations and many remarkable events to come.
Very Rev. Fr. Zaven Yazichyan was accompanied to Nay Pyi Taw by U Richard Minus, a prominent Armenian and the Trustee of Saint John The Baptist Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church in Yangon and Yadana Handi-Rachel Minus, a member of the Armenian Community of Yangon.
Armenians became the first state to adopt Christianity as a state religion in the early 4th century. The Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church is one of the original ancient Churches and during the entire history of Christianity has remained a part of the “One, Holy, Universal and Apostolic Church” of Jesus Christ. Since the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church arose from underground to become the first state to officially adopt Christianity in 301 A.D., Armenia and her faith have been inseparable.
The presence of Armenians in Myanmar (Burma) is very old, and there has been a mutual cultural and economic association of Armenians with Myanmar (Burma) for the last several centuries. The presence of Armenians has enriched Myanmar in several ways. Armenians are believed to have come to Myanmar (Burma) and the Far East generally, when some Armenians joined the auxiliary elements of the forces under the command of Alexander the Great when he crossed from Armenia into Asia. The earliest documented references to the mutual relationship of Armenians and Asia are found in Cyropaedia (Persian Expedition), an ancient Greek work by Xenophon (430 BC – 355 BC). The Armenians have been connected with Myanmar as traders from the days of antiquity. They came to Myanmar (Burma) by the overland route and were well established in all the commercial centers long before the advent of any European traders. However, the Armenian community prospered and developed during the 16th right up to the 17th century. By the 19th century Armenians were to be found chiefly in Burma, the Malay peninsula (particularly Penang and Malacca), and Java. They tended to emigrate further from around World War I, notably to Australia.
In Myanmar (Burma), major Armenian traders were employed as high ranking officials by the Burmese kings, especially in charge of customs and relations with foreigners. They survived the First Burmese War in 1826.
The last few years have seen several significant developments for the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church in Myanmar (Burma) including the first Pontifical Visit of His Holiness Karekin II in 2014 and the celebration of 155 years of Saint John the Baptist Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church earlier this year in Yangon.