LAS VEGAS-The Armenian American Cultural Society of Las Vegas held a community-wide observance gathering commemorating the 86th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide on Sunday–April 29–with the participation of more than 300 Armenian American community members–state and national leaders–and religious figures.
The event–which was the first public gathering at the newly built Armenian Center Complex–paid homage to the memory of the victims of the first genocide of the 20th Century.
Cultural Society Board Member and the event’s Master of Ceremonies Hriyr John Dadaian opened the event recalling that the horrors of the Genocide still reverberate today with Turkey’s unrepentant campaign of denial. He challenged the community to remain vigilant in remembering history and working toward justice.
He then invited Western Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church–Bishop Moushegh Mardirossian to bless the new multi-use Armenian Center.
Accompanied by Rev. Shahe Semerdjian of the Western Diocese and Rev. Razmig Khatchadourian–Pastor of the Holy Martyrs Armenian Apostolic Church of Encino–Bishop Mardirossian congratulated the Armenian American community on the completion of the new complex.
Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn had earlier in the week issued a proclamation "officially recognizing the deliberate and systematic massacres of the Armenian people by the Ottoman Empire to represent the first genocide of the 20th Century" and designating April 24–2001 as a state-wide day of remembrance.
Showing his commitment–and his support for the struggle of the Armenian American community–former Rep. and current US Senator John Ensign–addressed the crowd commending the community for the event. He went on to say that the existence of the Nevada Armenian community is proof that the Turks did not succeed in the Genocidal plans. He further pledged to continue his efforts in the Senate toward official US Government recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
Keynote speaker Steve Samuelian–District Director for Congressman George Radanovich’s office recounted in detail the process of the Congressional Armenian Genocide Resolution–which came extremely close to passage–had it not been for the last minute collusion between President Clinton and House Speaker Dennis Hastert. He reminded everyone of the great sacrifices made in the name of Armenian survival not just in 1915 or 1918–but in the 1990’s in Karabakh–telling the stories of valor and sacrifice of Pegor–and the leader of the Arabo Battalion–Simon Achigozian. Today–he urged the crowd–"the sacrifice needed is in American public activism."
Citing the Armenian National Committee of America’s tireless efforts in organizing community advocacy–he recognized and thanked ANCA-WR chairman Steven J. Dadaian for his organization’s continuing work in the pursuit of the Armenian Cause.
Nevada Congresswoman Shelly Berkley–who is also a member of the Congressional Armenian Caucus–told the audience that until the Armenian Genocide is properly recognized–humanity can not move on. She publicly pledged to Samuelian–that although she and Rep. Radanovich are from opposing sides of the aisle–she will work closely with him to develop the support needed to pass the Resolution. In her remarks she cited her own family’s narrow escape from genocide in Saloniki–Greece–showing the true interest and depth of knowledge she has on the subject of the Genocide.
The Las Vegas ARS Shoushi Chapter’s highly successful Saturday School students treated the attendees with a stirring poetic recitation and song.
President of the newly formed UNLV Armenian Students Association–Ursula Kazarian briefed the community on activities they have undertaken on campus to educate the university community on the Armenian Genocide.
Finally–longtime Armenian Relief Society member and Genocide survivor Malvine Handjian was invited to speak.
With the strength of her conviction in stark contrast to her ailing body–she repeated Avedis Aharonian’s fateful words that after this much martyrdom and suffering…future generations cannot forget!
Special guests in attendance included ANCA-WR Chairman Steven J. Dadaian–Esq.–Las Vegas Mayor–and the Honorable Oscar Goodman. Additional proclamations were also received from the offices of Nevada Senator Harry Reid and US Representatives James Gibbons. The event ended with the traditional Madagh blessed by the clergy and provided by the ARS Shoushi Chapter.