BENSHEIM, Germany — When the German-Armenian Forum came into being in 2015, the founding members stressed that its purpose was to help Germans and Armenians become acquainted, and to learn about their respective history, culture and country. CDU parliamentarian Albert Weiler launched the initiative with the idea that people from the two countries should meet at all levels — from political leaders, to legislators, university students, pupils, musicians, artists, people from all walks of life.
During the founding meeting four years ago in a room of the Bundestag (Parliament), the initiators formulated the new association’s statute and voted up a presidium. According to the press release, the members of this body were “individuals familiar with issues related to the southern Caucasus, and pursue the aim of promoting German-Armenian relations at various levels. The Forum should support Armenia in its democratic development, strengthen economic relations, support cultural and scientific exchange and build new bridges between the two societies.” They pledged to organize conferences, seminars, workshops and working groups, and cooperate with existing organizations which pursue similar aims.
Weiler had visited Armenia in 2014, and the experience left a lasting impression on him. “Armenia is a country with a very ancient Christian tradition, which since its independence in 1991 has charted a democratic path, which deserves support,” he said at the founding meeting. “True, Armenia lies in a difficult geographical position, but it has an enormous spiritual and economic development potential. We would like to exhaust and further develop these synergetic possibilities.”
Since its inception, the Forum has lived up to its pledge, actively promoting dialogue and exchange with Armenia at various levels. This year, it has been organizing events on the local level under the rubric, “Dialogue with Armenia,“ engaging students in their schools. On November 19 one such meeting took place at the Goethe Lyceum in Bensheim, which is the congressional district of the Forum’s vice-president Till Mansmann. There and in collateral meetings in the Hesse region, Mansmann was joined by the honorary consul for the Republic of Armenia, Dr. Brian Fera, and the Armenian ambassador from Berlin, Ashot Smbatyan.
Smbatyan delivered a lecture to the students about Armenia, its culture and history, and then took questions. In the course of the dialogue, proposals took shape for longer-term projects to engage students as well as teachers in an exchange program.
Following the school visit, the group visited City Hall with a local representative Philipp-Otto Vock and the City Councillor Adil Oyan. The discussion centered on the positive effects of city partnerships and how they contribute to mutual understanding and cultural exchange. To conclude their tour, the group met with the chairman of a firm promoting regional economic development (Wirtschaftsförderung Bergstrasse), Dr. Matthias Zürker and discussed economic perspectives locally and in Armenia.