Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II speaks.

Calls for Unity at Diaspora Conference


By Alin K. Gregorian, Mirror-Spectator Staff

YEREVAN — For three days, Armenians, Artsakh residents and Armenians from around the world came together for meetings, concerts and reports, at Yerevan’s Karen Demirchyan Complex, September 18-20.

The sixth Armenia-Diaspora Pan-Armenian Conference titled “Mutual Trust, Unity and Responsibility,” was held on the threshold of the 100th anniversary of the declaration of the First Republic of Armenia, the 100th anniversary of the Battles of May 1918 and the 2,800thanniversary of the foundation of Erebouni-Yerevan.
The conference perhaps did not break new ground but if offered a chance for Armenians from around the globe, from countries near and far, including Myanmar, Japan, Argentina, a total of 71 countries, to mingle.

Every day there were four sessions during which presentations were made. Present for the seminars were representatives from the Armenian government, including the ministries of defense, foreign affairs and diaspora.

The wrap-up session presented the attendees with a chance to listen to a positive conclusion by Diaspora Minister Hranush Hakobyan, who stressed unity and suggested that Armenia is for all, locals and Diasporans.

She also stressed that the issue of the different dialects should not matter. “The official language in Armenia is Armenian not Eastern or Western Armenian,” she said, to applause from the audience.

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She also stressed that the forum provided many with a chance to get to know others from different countries. Indeed, it was interesting to see clusters of Spanish-speaking attendees with those from Iran, Lebanon or France.

Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan speaks with Garo Paylan at the conference.

The unseasonably hot Yerevan weather did not deter the enthusiastic participants.
Buses gathered the attendees at Republic Square every morning, and then got a police escort to the stadium.

Every day, leaders of the country addressed the opening sessions, including President Serzh Sargsyan and Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan.

About 1,800 persons from 71 countries were present, an increase of about 35 percent from the previous gathering three years before, according to Hakobyan. She added that this time around, for the first-time representatives had arrived from Mexico, Myanmar, Japan and Malaysia.

Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II offered the opening prayers, asking for peace for Karabakh and people of the Middle East.

President Sargsyan thanked those who had travelled from far away to attend the conference and stressed the importance of encouraging the youth to get involved.
“Without the youth,” he said, “our efforts will come to naught.”

Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia Aram I closed the opening day ceremony with a fiery speech in which he hoped that Armenia would reduce its emigration, reduce poverty and let diasporan and residents of Armenia come together to help the country.
Prime Minister Karapetyan brought his technology savvy vibe to the conference, promising a better future and engendering hope.

Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan speaks while Diaspora Minister Hranush Hakobyan listens.

He said, “First and foremost, my belief is that Armenia has a huge potential. I am convinced that we have all the chances to become a modern and progressive country and to respond adequately to internal and external challenges. Today’s world, including Armenia, is going through structural reforms. We are implementing reforms in all parts of our country, in all aspects of life, to secure Armenia’s worthy place in the world. That is why our reforms aim not only the settlement and resolution of today’s burning issues, but they also seek to lay the groundwork for making Armenia competitive in a changing world.”
He added, “To become competitive and develop, we need sustainable, long-term growth in all lifeline areas of public life. That is why we need a sharp increase in effectiveness in all spheres, and we need fundamental transformations that can change the way we think and act. This is our team’s ultimate goal, and we do not see any reason why we cannot succeed together.”

He encouraged more active participation rather than passivity.
“We need to straighten our back and continue building together the country we all dream about; the country that wakes up every day with firm determination to build, develop and add something new for the sake of its supreme value – people,” he noted.
In her wrapping up of the conference, Hakobyan stressed that the maintenance of Armenian identity remains one of the most important issues for Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora.

“ One of our major issues remains the maintenance of the Armenian identity since we all understand that the Armenian communities are becoming smaller in a rapidly changing world. But I am convinced that if jointly continue our work, we will be able to bring many Armenians to our territory. We face a problem of self-organization in certain communities. The number of mixed marriages gradually increases, the number of people bearing the mother tongue decreases, Armenian schools and cultural centers are being closed, there are problems of maintenance of Armenian cultural heritage in some countries,” she said. She added that there are Armenian communities in 118 countries of the world, and they have different composition and different legal status. “We have cities, villages that are completely Armenian-populated. It’s typical for Armenians to quickly integrate to a foreign environment and maintain their national features.” She noted that that there are 829 communities, 30,000 Armenian organizations, 38 pan-Armenian organizations, 724 operating churches and monasteries, more than 1,000 schools, 637 cultural centers in the Armenian Diaspora.

One event which delighted many was the swanky gala at the Defense Ministry, in honor of the 26th anniversary of the Republic of Armenia. Arriving at sunset, guests were treated to the sounds of several different bands, several tables of food and the free mingling of many of the country’s leaders, including Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan, Yerevan Mayor Taron Margaryan and Deputy Defense Minister Artak Zakaryan, among others. Before the festivities began President Serzh Sargsyan addressed those assembled.
The conference coincided with the celebration of the independence anniversary. In honor of the anniversary, a celebratory program was organized for the delegates at the Ministry of Defense on the outskirts of Yerevan. The program featured music, fireworks and a buffet dinner.

President Sargsyan, who was attending the program as did Prime Minister Karapetyan, the two religious leaders and many other guests, addressed the crowd before he and other members of his cabinet mingled with the participants.

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