100 Years Later — Genocide Commemoration in Detroit

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DETROIT — On April 21, the Detroit United Committee, composed of the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party, Tekeyan Cultural Association, Armenian General Benevolent Union, Knights of Vartan, Daughters of Vartan, Detroit Armenian Women’s Club, University of Michigan (Dearborn) Armenian Research Center, and Wayne State University Society of Armenian Students, held an Armenian Genocide centennial commemoration at the AGBU Alex and Marie Manoogian School in Southfield.

Dr. Hosep Torossian, the high school principal, opened the program with remarks in both Armenian and English. He reminded the large audience that the attention of much of the world was on Armenia and the Armenian Genocide, due in large part to the prominence and comments of Pope Francis and Kim Kardashian, both of whose names Dr. Torossian, in his own words, “dared to mention in the same breath,” eliciting laughter.

St. John Armenian Church Choir Director Rubik Mailian beautifully rendered the American and Armenian National Anthems. He was accompanied by pianist Margaret Lafian.

The emcee for the program was Oakland County Judge Lisa Assadoorian. She presented a moving video by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich), and acknowledged the presence of arepresentative for junior Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.). A Proclamation signed by State of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder was read, declaring April 24 Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. Other state and local political figures had sent their representatives, as well.

Writer, literary critic, and political commentator Edmond Azadian noted in his remarks that even though there is much discussion these days about the righteous Turks who saved the lives of some Armenian survivors, we should not lose sight of the collective guilt regarding the colossal crime committed against the Armenian people and the responsibility of the Turkish government to properly acknowledge the crime and deal with the issues of territorial and monetary reparations.

As a musical interlude, Yerevan-born cellist Lusine Petrosyan played two well- known folk pieces, Groong and Hov Arek, by Gomidas Vartabed. Manoogian High School Senior Nikole Davtyan read the familiar excerpt from William Saroyan’s “The Armenian and the Armenian.”

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The keynote speaker was Toronto Armenian scientist and activist Raffi Bedrosyan, who has made several trips to Historic Armenia, the most recent four days after this event in Detroit, when he played the piano at a hundredth anniversary commemorative concert at the newly restored St. Giragos Armenian Church in Diyarbakir. During his slide presentation/lecture, Bedrosyan, who had previously spoken in Detroit about the hidden Islamized Armenians in Turkey, spoke about “The No Longer Islamized Armenians in Turkey.” He took his captivated audience along with him through the streets of Diyarbakir, interviewing many who have courageously come forward to reclaim their Armenian identity. He explained that some of these Armenians have chosen to convert to their ancestral faith while others have chosen to immerse themselves in the study of the Armenian language and culture, as a means of reclaiming their heritage, but, at the same time, have elected to remain Muslim.

The program came to an end with a closing prayer by the local clergy, led by the pastor emeritus of St. John Armenian Church, Rev. Fr. Diran Papazian, Rev. Fr. Abraham Ohanesian and Rev. Shant Barsoumian.