Dressed to impress, the Armenian community of Dallas-Fort Worth arrived at the historic Belo Mansion on Saturday February 1, 2020 to celebrate the past, present and future of our St. Sarkis Armenian Church. Parishioners and friends, youth and elders, danced and dined in unified support of our new St. Sarkis Armenian Community Complex, currently under construction thanks to the extraordinary generosity of Elie and Ella Akilian.
The evening began with a heart-felt introduction of Elie and Ella Akilian by their devoted friend Sam Simonian. Elie Akilian described how the new Armenian Community Complex pays tribute to the past, taking design elements from St. Hripsime Church in Armenia, while providing modern amenities for future generations. In honoring our past, the Christian themed artwork on the façade of the church uses 1.5 million pixels, one for each of the Holy Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide.
Father Ghevond Ajamian used the appropriate analogy of building a strong foundation to introduce the Godfathers’ program, explaining the Godfathers’ spiritual and financial commitments, acting as guardians of our church and heritage.
The banquet was generously sponsored by Sam and Sylva Simonian, to ensure all donations from the banquet would be used to establish an endowment fund to support future operations and growth of our new church.
Our gratitude goes to the Building Committee and Revival Banquet volunteers for building a solid foundation for St. Sarkis Church’sgrowth in Christ, community and culture.
Alice Nahapetyan (left) and Ani Khatchatryan (right) were selected as Volunteers of the Month; Alice for her work and dedication in making the New Year's Eve Party a huge success and Ani for her unfailing work with the ACYOA (Armenian Church Youth Organization of America) Juniors.
Written by Mary Mukhtarian
The St. Sarkis church of Dallas/Fort Worth was thrilled on Monday, July 15, 2019 to host His Eminence the Primate of the Eastern Diocese Bishop Daniel Findikyan who blessed the cross to be placed on top of the new St. Sarkis church under construction.
The St. Sarkis community in Dallas Fort Worth is in the process of finalizing the building of a new church expected to be consecrated in a few months. To witness the process of blessing the cross to go on top of the church was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for everyone, especially being able to kiss such a holy symbol.
This was the first time the newly ordained Bishop Findikyan was officiating at St. Sarkis both as a Primate and a Bishop. The parish’s pastor, Rev. Fr. Ghevond Ajamian, who has led the faithful to this point, unfortunately was unable to participate in this momentous service, but joined the parish in prayer and spirit from Armenia. The uniqueness of the service for the consecration and anointment of the cross had energized the community, and everyone was at the standing-room-only service. Prominent among them were the generous benefactors of the new church including the Akilians, Kechejians, and Sherenians. The Simonians were out of town. The profoundly moving ceremony had everyone hanging on each word, and appreciating the pageantry of a beloved Bishop leading the community in understanding the significance of the rituals, assisted by three deacons and five sub deacons (and a half counting little Gregory Bolat), who altogether created a visual feast for the faithful.
The impressive metallic cross was placed on the altar, and the Primate followed the traditional service of blessing it with the Holy Myuron starting with the crown, then the right and left arms and at last the trunk of the cross. Each step was met with reverent silence as the parishioners basked in the glory of the proceedings while they waited to be invited to kiss the cross.
As expected, the message of Bishop Findikyan was inspirational. The faithful were treated to the significance of the cross not only as a symbol of Christianity, but as the warm embrace of a Savior who spread his arms on the cross, so that we will all feel His arms wrapped around us, and know that he became a man to die on the cross for our sins. Armenian crosses affirm the resurrection of Christ because the image of a crucified Jesus is not on any of them, just like the one that was anointed on Monday.
The faithful were then invited to the ceremonial veneration of the cross by kneeling before the cross and kissing it. The process took a long time because of the number of faithful, and because everyone appreciated the importance of the occasion and took time to pray for their families and have pictures taken with the cross.
The social hour afterwards was especially jovial because everyone wanted to meet with the new Primate who graciously accommodated the needs of all parishioners. We look forward to welcoming Bishop Findikyan again in a few months for the consecration of the new St. Sarkis.
The International sensation Eva Gevorgyan, 15, won the Shirley Cox McIntyre Second Prize and a cash award of $10,000 in the prestigious 2019 Cliburn International Junior Plano Competition on Saturday June 8, 2019 at the Morton H. Meyerson Center in Dallas, Texas. She also won the coveted Press Award of $500. Ms. Gevorgyan played the Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, op. 43 in her final round.
St. Sarkis parishioners were in the audience along with many more listening to the broadcast in a nearby park. The excitement of Gevorgyan reaching the pinnacle of piano artistry as a Russian Armenian had brought the Dallas/Fort Worth community together to support her and her mother Ksenia in their brief but stellar visit to Dallas.
Eva Gevorgyan had already garnered multiple honors around the world, mostly in first place, before entering this competition. Among them were the Robert Schumann International Competition, the Chopin competition for young musicians, the International Festival of Young Performers in Armenia and the World Wnderkinds Concert in Italy attended by the Italian President.
The competition was held May 31-June 8, 2019 for talented youth aged 13-17 from around the world. The Junior Competition and Festival was established in 2015 for the Cliburn to use its standing and expertise to encourage tomorrow’s great artists, and to give them an entrance to the next step of their journeys. The next competition will be held in 2023.
St. Sarkis has had a strong affiliation with all the arts, considering that the community boasts two organists for its chancel choir, an outstanding dance group Groung, and an amazing singing ensemble Zartonk in addition to a children’s choir. Hasmik Virabyan, organist, who met with Eva, commented on her grace and poise with: “Our girl made us so proud with her presence and exceptional skills.” Gevorgyan was indeed inspirational, setting the bar high for our youth.
You can see Eva Gevorgyan’s performance at YouTube.com/the Cliburn. Former First Lady Laura Bush, who with the former president resides in Dallas, was the Honorary Chairman of the event.
Written by Mary Mukhtarian
On Thursday May 30th, 2019, the St. Sarkis church of Dallas/Fort Worth was invited to present Armenia to the Dallas Mayor, the City Manager and an audience of 250 city employees.
The event began with playing the National Anthems of the United States and Armenia. While everyone was reverently standing, a low hum spread through the room as every Armenian was quietly singing the words to the Armenian Anthem.
The Mayor announced that Thursday May 30th, 2019 was “Armenia Day” as part of the recognition of Armenia as the Nation of the Year by the City employees, and presented St. Sarkis with his proclamation. In response, St. Sarkis presented the Mayor with the Armenian flag which was unfurled and held by the Mayor and members of the St. Sarkis Parish Council, then taken out of the room. When it appeared again mounted on a pole, there was a palpable feeling of pride that rippled through the room. Now the Armenian flag is part of the International flags in the Dallas City Hall Flag Room.
The Dallas Armenian community was there en masse to present our rich heritage, history, powerful religious roots and our cultural treasury to them. The St. Sarkis youth were at their best singing, dancing, reciting and playing music. At the conclusion of the event, Rev. Fr. Ghevond Ajamian took the podium to thank the Mayor and everyone for the opportunity to introduce Armenia to them, and announced the building of our new church, hosting the Diocesan Assembly in 2020 and the Sports Competition in 2021. He was presented with a Certificate of Appreciation for the effort St. Sarkis expended in putting on this very informative presentation to the Mayor, City Manager and all their employees.
The event concluded with an Armenian meal that was an added touch to the introduction of Armenia to many non-Armenians. St. Sarkis rocked on that day!
By Mary Mukhtarian
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
In recent years and months, Arab countries have been liberating themselves from the nefarious political influence of the Turkish government and are beginning to take an honest position on the Armenian Genocide.
The Arab governments, despite their long-standing sympathy and support for survivors of the Armenian Genocide who sought shelter in various Middle Eastern countries, had been reluctant to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide due to their shared Islamic faith with Turkey.
The first Arab state to break the yoke of the Turkish blockade to acknowledge this genocidal crime was Lebanon. On April 3, 1997, the Lebanese Chamber of Deputies (Parliament) adopted a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide. A second resolution was adopted by the Lebanese Parliament on May 11, 2000, stating that it “recognizes and condemns the genocide perpetrated against the Armenian people and expresses its complete solidarity with demands of its citizens.”
Since then, Syria’s President and various Parliament members have spoken about the Armenian Genocide several times, but have yet to adopt an official Parliamentary resolution recognizing it as genocide.
There have been similar moves in Egypt where a lawsuit was filed against Turkey on the Armenian Genocide. However, no formal resolution has been adopted by the Egyptian Parliament.
In March, the Interim Libyan government that is attempting to overthrow Libya’s central regime issued a statement recognizing the Armenian Genocide. This came as a complete surprise since there is no Armenian community in Libya.
Another Arab country is rumored to be considering the acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide, but I prefer not to name it in order not to alert the Turkish government and prevent it from lobbying against it.
More recently, an unexpected acknowledgement was made on April 25, 2019 when The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) issued its first official statement recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
According to its website, “ADC is a civil rights organization committed to defending the rights of people of Arab descent and promoting their rich cultural heritage. ADC was founded by former U.S. Senator James Abourezk in 1980. Today, ADC is the largest Arab American grassroots organization in the U.S. ADC supports the human and civil rights of all people and opposes racism and bigotry in any form.”
Here is the full text of ADC’s sympathetic statement: “Over 100 years ago, the Ottoman Empire systematically massacred 1.5 million Armenians and forcibly displaced the Armenian people from their historic lands. Today, we remember the Armenian Genocide and commemorate all of those who lost their lives and homes. The ADC stands in solidarity with the Armenian people. Following the systematic massacre that took place between 1915-1918, many Armenian survivors fled to nearby Arab lands to seek refuge to later build new homes. Over the centuries, Armenians established thriving communities in Arab countries, particularly in the Fertile Crescent. The Armenian community has been an intrinsic part of Arab society, existing in Palestine for centuries, as well as in Lebanon and Syria. As we mark our moral stain on our global society, the ADC stands shoulder-to-shoulder with our Armenian brothers and sisters. Our communities know too well the price of systematic dispossession and oppression, and together we will continue to defend those facing injustice and persecution.”
I am sure Armenians worldwide thank ADC for its compassionate stand. In response to an email I sent to ADC, Abed Ayoub, ADC’s legal and policy Director, wrote that this is the first time that ADC has issued an official statement on the Armenian Genocide.
In response to my question as to what prompted ADC to issue such a statement this year, Mr. Ayoub stated: “Over the course of the past couple years we have had the privilege of working with young Armenian-Americans on issues that impact us all, and as a result of this relationship we began exploring the idea of issuing a statement as a show of solidarity. Additionally, many of our members have connections and roots to the community. Finally, with the rise of hate and bigotry across the world we felt now is an important time to issue a statement.”
When I asked if ADC is planning to issue a similar statement on next April 24, Mr. Ayoub responded affirmatively.
I also asked Mr. Ayoub if ADC had received any criticism for its statement from the Turkish government, and Turkish or Islamic groups in the United States, he stated that ADC had received no such criticism. However, “our membership was overwhelmingly supportive of the statement.”
Finally, when I asked what ADC thought about Pres. Trump’s refusal to use the term Armenian Genocide, Mr. Ayoub answered: “Most of what President Trump does is troubling, however, his refusal to use the term Armenian Genocide is in line with prior Administrations. Failure to use the term is a failure to recognize the pain and suffering inflicted on millions of innocent lives.”
Naturally, I welcome ADC’s statement on the Armenian Genocide and Mr. Ayoub’s answers to my questions. I suggest that Armenian organizations send ADC’s statement to Embassies of all Arab countries in Washington, D.C., asking them to urge their governments to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.
Read the original article here.
St. Sarkis Rocks the Hantes in Dallas/Ft. Worth
By Mary Mukhtarian
The St. Sarkis school of DFW had its year-end hantes on Sunday May 19th, 2019 at the Kechejian Hall filled to the brim with everyone in the community. The hantes was the culmination of a year of learning of our language, faith, culture and history, and everyone was in for a treat as the school children performed a variety of skills and showed their talent in Armenian, English, poetry, history, culture, dancing and singing. They had the audience in the palms of their little hands!
The St. Sarkis church school boasts over sixty students supported by a team of over thirty educators, board and staff. The classes were divided into Nairi, in which the youngest children recited poetry, sang and danced to the utter enjoyment of the audience; Yerevan, where we all got an update on history and language; Sevan, where the students demonstrated their versatility by performing a skit in different languages yet united in their Armenian language; Gyumri, where the students introduced outstanding monuments in Armenia; Keghart, whose students taught all how to make a cheese boreg; Karni, whose students presented different cities in Armenia. Students also demonstrated their faith education by explaining Bible verses such as John 3:16 and Romans 8:28.
The school highlighted the achievements of former students several of whom graduated from high school this year. Their inspiration was captured in their words, with all thanking their teachers for broadening their minds by teaching them the richness of their Armenian culture. “I don’t think I would be the person I am without St. Sarkis School” said Arman Aznavour, who was inspired to study Game Design at the University of Texas at Dallas because of entrepreneur and St. Sarkis benefactor Elie Akilian. While every graduate echoed the same sentiment, Taniel Katanjian added his future plans by promising: “I look forward to serving my church and my community in the way God has planned for me.”
As Rev. Fr. Ghevond Ajamian took the podium he brimmed with pride at the achievement of the St. Sarkis School, declaring “We have gems in this community!” and told everyone that this success was not lost on other parishes who would contact him regularly to find out his secret for a dynamic school. He added humbly : “I am not doing anything. It is the parents, teachers and others who stay closer to the children and Christ every day.”
The audience was so overjoyed by the performances that any idea about food had escaped all until the picnic style lunch of hamburgers and hotdogs was served to their delight.
St. Sarkis of DFW Commemorates Sartarabad Victory with Concert
By Mary Mukhtarian
The St. Sarkis community came together on May 19, 2018 to celebrate and commemorate the unforgettable Sartarabad victory exactly 100 years ago on May 22-29, 1918. The Armenians stood their ground against overwhelming Ottoman forces, and were able to stop them from advancing on Yerevan and Etchmiadzin, just 40 kilometers away. This led to the salvation of our nation and the rebirth of sovereignty for Armenians, clearing the way towards today’s Armenian Republic.
The evening was inspirational not only because everyone wanted to express an unbound gratitude to the heroes of Sartarabad, Pash-Abaran, and Gharakilisa and the builders of the Republic, but because we all wanted to showcase with pride the talent, competitiveness, smarts, self-confidence and exemplary behavior of the new heirs to the sacrifices of the heroes of Sartarabad.
The Kechejian Hall of St. Sarkis was decorated with the iconic images of the stone bulls at Sartarabad, skillfully created by Yeghia and Njteh Keleshian, while performers were dressed in authentic Armenian traditional outfits.
Maral Aznavourian, representing the Parish Council, welcomed all and began the program with the National Anthems of the United States and Armenia. The Groung Ensemble members sang patriotic and nostalgic songs, and performed timeless dances, accompanied by the appreciative rhythmic applause of the audience. Satenik Mouradyan Rafael dazzled on the piano with Sabre Dance. Ruzanna Harutyunyan mesmerized with her singing of Hayasdan. The whole evening was anchored with the wide-screen video presentation skillfully crafted by Diran Aznavourian, which interwove actual battle footage, recitation of famous poetry and nostalgic Armenian music to bring to life the heroism and sacrifice of our forefathers.
This vibrant community of St. Sarkis is determined to fill 2018 with celebrations along with the Republic of Armenia and the diaspora, allowing us to benefit from past communal and historic paths, and giving us the wisdom to move forward with future plans. Our St. Sarkis Church is joining the celebration with today’s Cultural Program and taking part in this national Armenian commemoration, being a witness to our collective unity, and praying that our people have Mays to celebrate victories together.
The celebration was followed by a donated traditional Armenian meal of Harissa, which was accompanied with Armenian style dishes of all types of vegetables, cheese, and lavash bread. Father Ghevond blessed the food and invited all to partake of it. The community’s hearts were open as they donated towards future cultural events of this nature.
Ms. Aznavourian thanked all the performers and soloists, the Keleshian brothers for the decoaration, Raffi Ohanian for the sound system, Sandra Morath for manning the program, Tatevig for the program, Aradi for the Armenian song video adjustments, Diran for the video and especially Susanna Khetchumyan for putting together and conducting this beautiful patriotic program.
The joyful event was so captivating, that long after the program was over and everyone had finished eating, the community was still at the Hall visiting with each other energized by the pulsing heart of St. Sarkis. We look forward to many more such cultural events in the near future.
St Sarkis School of DFW Has Year-End Hantess
By Mary Mukhtarian
The St. Sarkis School of Dallas Fort Worth held its year-end Hantess on Sunday May 20, 2018 at the Kechejian Hall of the St. Sarkis Church. The excitement of the children was matched with the pride of the parents who brought all family members to celebrate the accomplishments of their children. The St. Sarkis School boasted over 70 students this year divided into 5 classes taught by 17 staff members of Principal, VP, teachers, helpers and substitute teachers. The children were instructed in the Armenian language, culture, and history, in addition to religious studies.
The principal, Maral Aznavourian, welcomed all to the highly anticipated event and promised that they will be thrilled with the surprising performances by the students. Interspersed with the performances, she introduced the Board Members and the teaching staff, thanking them for their dedication in volunteering their time and expertise to enlighten the young minds of the community.
Students in Language Classes for Adults began the Hantess with a patriotic poem, followed by the Ani Class performing excerpts in Armenian to the delight of all parents. The Yerevan class sang two songs and then related to everyone what they had learned in class. The Sevan class performed the Assembly of Mice, a tale of hanging a bell on the cat, accompanied by video clips projected behind the students. The Karni/Keghart classes researched several Legends and Heroes from Armenian history, entitled “Mer Medzeruh” (Our Forebearers), and created a memorable PowerPoint presentation explaining their accomplishments to the audience.
In between the performances and presentations, Ms. Aznavourian expressed the appreciation of the School to the St. Sarkis Women’s Guild for “always being there for the School”. A representative bouquet of flowers was presented to Sylva Dayian, Chairman, with the thanks of the Board, teaching staff and students of the St. Sarkis School.
An exceptionally poignant moment occurred when Nairi Meras was surprised with the School Board’s renaming of her Ani class to “Nairi” class. She had conceived the idea of a pre-K class which she had nurtured and taught with the approval of the Board for the benefit of the youngest children. Everyone’s thanks and best wishes went with her as she planned to move away from Dallas.
Ms. Aznavourian thanked the students and the staff for working hard during the year, and the community for attending and encouraging its youth, saying “this is your home”. She then invited Father Ghevond, pastor, for his closing remarks. Fr. Ghevond added his thanks to all for their commitment, reminding them of the wealth of artistic, literary and religious knowledge of the youth of St. Sarkis and gave his blessing before he sent the audience to the fellowship luncheon organized by the school board with food donated generously by the school parents.
The St. Sarkis School will expect to begin the new year in September 2018.
To see more photos from the Hantes, click here.
On Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018, the St. Sarkis Church of Dallas Fort Worth unveiled the newly created Mark Aram Kechejian Award to recognize the accomplishments of an individual who has demonstrated an outstanding dedication, devotion and generosity to the children of the church. Mark Kechejian was a young church member, who donated electronic equipment to the school and was asked by the School Board to create a playground for the children. He helped channel the community’s generosity into a spectacular playground for the children of St. Sarkis before he was tragically taken from us too soon. After many years of service, the playground had to be torn down for safety reasons, and stayed empty waiting for the right people to resurrect it.
The time was now. Maral Aznavourian explained that the community needed not only a generous donor in the form of Dr. Sarkis Kechejian, uncle of Mark, and the Godfather of St. Sarkis Church, who stepped in to fund the refurbishment of the now dilapidated playground, but also the heartfelt donations of community members who covered additional expenses. There was still a need for a special individual who had the “guts, tenacity, perseverance and the heart to take this project on.”
Andrea Titoyan was that person, the first recipient of the Mark Aram Kechejian Award for 2018. Ms. Titoyan was chosen for this honor because “she put together a team, negotiated, purchased, dug, tilled and put down sod” to complete the project in record time.
Ms. Titoyan was “overwhelmed” with this honor, and thanked the many volunteers on her team especially Shant Aghyarian who selflessly devoted their time and talent to bringing back the vision of Mark Kechejian for the children. Ms. Titoyan gave a shout out to Mark Kechejian calling him “my friend in heaven.” The thunderous applause expressed the happiness of the community with the playground and Ms. Titoyan.
In gratitude to Dr. Kechejian, the children of St. Sarkis created a unique book as a “Thank You” for his generosity and for upholding the dream of Mark.
This presentation was made during an outstanding Easter luncheon lovingly prepared and served by the St. Sarkis Women’s Guild who outdid themselves as usual. The gourmet meal was the creation of the talented women who are the backbone of the church, and enlivened the Easter celebrations.
The St. Sarkis community enjoyed another luncheon the previous week on Palm Sunday, when the ACYOA youth cooked and served a wonderful meal as a fundraiser for their activities.
During the luncheon, the ACYOA honored Mrs. Aznif Altunian as the 2018 Person of the Year. Sevag Koulian explained that the ACYOA recognized Mrs. Altunian because of her guidance to the ACYOA, her support for their activities and her help in food preparation, but mostly for her “being there for us always.” Mrs. Altunian was not only delighted with this honor, but she vowed to continue helping our youth in whatever projects they wanted to undertake.
The St. Sarkis Church has been blessed with many individuals who have improved the lives of many, and ensured that the Church will continue to enlighten the future.
By Mary Mukhtarian