BY TALINE JERMAKIAN
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation “Armen Karo” Gomideh ran a full day seminar titled “100 Years of Activism and the Road Ahead,” on Saturday, March 23, presented by Dr. Khatchig Mouradian of Columbia University. In cooperation with AYF “Ashod Yergat,”ARF “Shant” and UCI Armenian Students Association, the seminar was open to the community with the goal of reaching out to the youth.
The Orange County Armenian Center opened its doors at 9 a.m. that day. The morning started out with registration and breakfast for those attending. Attendees were handed folders, which included pen and paper, in order to jot down thoughts and notes throughout the discussions. Alique Cherchian of AYF “Ashod Yergat” welcomed guests and introduced Dr. Mouradian, reading aloud his accomplishments and professional background. Soon after, Dr. Mouradian took the stage, lecturing through an open dialogue discussion. He covered a range of topics with the community, most based on the interests and dynamic of the 40 attendees present. The sessions flowed and focused on those interests accordingly. Dr. Mouradian and the attendees were actively listening and engaging with one another—shedding light to certain topics that were unfamiliar to some.
The topic that was focused on, and stood out to me the most, was that of Armenian Identity. What defines an Armenian? Is it the Armenian language, or our Christian religion? Dr. Mouradian explained that, Armenians in the Diaspora, and those in the homeland, each have their own views, traditions, and “Armenian-ness.” With this in mind, who can say what constitutes being a true Armenian? Must we all fit on a certain check list?
Dr. Mouradian gave an example from his own personal experience, from a time when he was traveling through Western Armenia—in modern day Turkey. He described the many Islamized Armenians he came across, who were raised knowing they have Armenian lineage, but are Turkish or Kurdish by nationality. Many of these individuals thirst for the knowledge of their Armenian past, searching for extended family, for stories about their ancestors. We learned that some of these individuals even changed their names to Armenian ones, in an attempt to reconnect with their lost past. This was such an interesting and enlightening topic to discuss. It brought an image of a day where more of these individuals embraced their Armenian past, and came forward with their true identity, how things could potentially positively change, furthering the Armenian Cause.
A key argument made by Dr. Mouradian was that as the youth becomes further engaged through activism, the older generation must allow them to make mistakes so that they can learn from them. They must fully support the youth, in order for them to be successful in their future endeavors. As the final discussion of the day drew near, Taline Jermakian of the Armen Karo Gomideh relayed the Gomideh’s message for the youth—as youth activism has been the focus for the Gomideh this past year.
Taline Jermakian’s message:
“The great writer of prose, Shavarsh Nartouni said ‘shame on those peoples who think that, even in their land, they can have a fatherland when they have no youth. All nations die when they have no youth.’
Our Armenian youth has been the central focus for the Armen Karo Gomideh this year. You see here today an event organized for the community in coordination with the youth organizations of AYF Ashod Yergat, ARF Shant, and UCI ASA. This maybe one of the firsts, but it certainly won’t be the last. Our goal is to set up the younger community members with the tools they need to carry on all while supporting their ambitions along the way.
To engage with the Armenian youth, to encourage their activism, to celebrate their accomplishments, to promote their new ideas, to ease their concerns, to guide them in the right direction, and to give them the means to push toward the future all while remembering and honoring their past…there is no greater insurance against the threat of assimilation of the Armenian diaspora. It’s in the hands of every generation to pass on the cause to the next generation so that the Armenian Identity and homeland both survive and thrive. This is not an easy task. Quite frankly, it’s filled with difficulties and obstacles. Life gets busy. Our priorities shift with time. But as someone who is not that many years past her days of youth, I can tell you, our activism matters. Our dedication matters. You matter.
On behalf of the Armen Karo Gomideh I would like to thank Ung. Dr. Khatchig Mouradian for making the trip out here to be with us today. On a personal note, I grew up on the East Coast and had the pleasure of seeing Dr. Mouradian’s lectures on a variety of topics all of which helped shaped me into becoming the Armenian and Ungerouhi I am today. I have no doubt all of you will leave here today feeling just as encouraged and enlightened. Thank you.”
The seminar was brought to an end with the singing of “Mer Hyrenik,” and Dr. Mouradian invited attendees to come forward with their thoughts or questions. Medii Kitchen provided a delightful dinner for the mixer event, where the community was given space to converse, eat, and share their thoughts on the day’s discussions. All in all, Dr. Khatchig Mouradian’s perspectives and discussions truly resonated with those that attended. It was a successful event for the mind, for the heart, for the youth, and for the community as a whole.