7 questions for the RA Ministry of Diaspora, 7 years after the creation of the ministry

The Ministry of Diaspora is marking its 7th anniversary. On this occasion, “Hayern Aysor” has addressed RA Minister of Diaspora Hranush Hakobyan with 7 questions.

Hayern Aysor: Mrs. Hakobyan, please indicate the principles on which the ministry has been based over the past seven years of its existence.

Hranush Hakobyan: The first principle by which the ministry is guided is transparency, which the public sees via our 6 websites (www.mindiaspora.am, www.hayernaysor.am, www.libmindiaspora.am, www.armdiasporamuseum.com, www.aritun.am and www.imhayastan.am).

The principle of knowing is very important. If Armenia doesn’t know the Diaspora, no task can be carried out.

The next principle is trust. There was lack of trust in the Diaspora and it was noticeable, but over the years, Armenia managed to gain the trust of Diaspora Armenians.

Partnership is a major stronghold. We take decisions through dialogues, proposals and discussions, not by ruling.

It’s also important to be impartial. The Diaspora is a very intricate structure, and we need to assess the situation correctly.

Hayern Aysor: Mrs. Hakobyan, please indicate the major achievements that the ministry has made in the past 7 years.

Hranush Hakobyan: I believe the first major achievement is the establishment of the Ministry of Diaspora, which has been around for only seven years and is keeping up with other ministries that have a history spanning decades.

The second is consolidation, as well as further rapprochement between Armenia and the Diaspora and vice versa.

Yerevan State University established a Chair of Diaspora Studies, which has been preparing experts in Diaspora studies for the past couple of years.

After seven years, the members of the staff are smarter and more educated and have gained experience in working with Diaspora Armenians.

The programs of the RA Ministry of Diaspora have reached out to more Armenians of the Diaspora.

The ministry collaborates with several organizations in Armenia, and we trust each other.

The number of Armenian schools has grown, especially in the CIS.

Hayern Aysor: Mrs. Hakobyan, please indicate the seven major events held outside of Armenia or within Armenian communities that you have personally attended.

Hranush Hakobyan: From June 17 to 23, 2013, Marseille hosted an Excellence Week, during which Charles Aznavour was granted the title of Honorary Citizen of Marseille, a title that had not been granted to anyone since 1948. The events also included the opening of a square after Henri Verneuil in Marseille, the unveiling of a cross-stone, a tree planting ceremony, as well as events devoted to Armenian music and cuisine…

On September 17, 2013, the largest Armenian church was opened during a ceremony held with the participation of RA President Serzh Sargsyan in Moscow. The opening of the church was truly phenomenal for Armenians. There had been churches opened in the past, but this church was unique in terms of its grandeur and splendor.

Another major event was the Holy Mass that Pope Francis served at the Vatican on 12 April and the ceremony commemorating the 1.5 million innocent victims of the Armenian Genocide, as well as the ceremony of declaring Grigor Narekatsi the Universal Doctor.

On July 18, 2015, the grand opening ceremony of the renovated building of the “Trchnots Buyn” institution and the Aram Bezikian Museum for orphans of the Armenian Genocide was held in Lebanon. The museum is the world’s third museum devoted to the Armenian Genocide.

Another major event was the religious ceremony of the Blessing of the Holy Muron performed by His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia at the St. Mary Church of Bikfaya on July 18.

I would also like to set aside the marches and demonstrations that were organized near the statue of Komitas in Paris and were held with the participation of the President and Prime Minister of France and well-known political figures.

I would also add the touching march “For Humanity” that took place in Montreal on May 3. The march brought together over 100,000 people and was followed by other events.

A major event was the Armenian Festival, which was held with the participation of 12,000 people in Australia on March 22. The event was organized by representatives of the Armenian National Committee and all Armenian organizations of Australia (AGBU, Ramkavars and Hunchakians) in the heart of Sydney, that is, near Darling Harbor located in Tumbalong Park.

I would also like to set aside the conference on “The Armenian Genocide and the Archives” held at the Zmmar Monastery (14 February 2015), as well as the exhibitions and digitization of manuscript books held in association with the Mekhitarist Congregation in Venice.

Hayern Aysor: Mrs. Hakobyan, which are the seven important books published by the RA Ministry of Diaspora?

H. H.: The RA Ministry of Diaspora collaborates with various organizations and publishes about 12 books a year. I will set aside a couple of them.

The illustrated book “Monuments of Sorrow, Remembrance and Struggle” presents the Armenian Genocide memorials placed in different countries around the world.

Every year, the Ministry of Diaspora publishes the Armenian Diaspora Yearbook, which serves as a unique encyclopedia presenting the activities that government agencies of the Republic of Armenia, religious and pan-Armenian organizations and Armenian communities have carried out in the sphere of Armenia-Diaspora partnership.

The “Literary Diaspora” Yearbook presents a compilation of the works of classic and modern Diaspora Armenian writers.

The book “Borders of the Armenian State according to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson” has been published in Armenian and English.

The next book is entitled “Armenians at the twilight of the Ottoman era” (Voskan Mkhitaryan, Father Supreme Archimandrite Vahan Ohanian News Reports From The International Press, Volume 1, The New York Times 1890-1914). The large volume contains materials from the period preceding the genocide (1890-1914). It also includes articles, editorials, clarifications, as well as letters addressed to the editors of The New York Times. Sixty percent of the materials date back to 1894-96., and the more interesting articles are the articles released between 1908 and 1910.

The collection “The Armenian Genocide in International Legal Documents” presents the major international legal documents related to the Armenian Genocide.

The ministry has also published the book “Issues of Legal Preservation of Cultural Heritage”.

Hayern Aysor: Mrs. Hakobyan, which are the 7 most important programs of the RA Ministry of Diaspora?

H. H.: The “Ari Tun” Program for the homeland recognition of Diaspora Armenian youth is a major program that has provided 5,000 young Diaspora Armenians with the opportunity to visit Armenia in the past years.

Hundreds of groups and individual performers visit Armenia and take part in festivals of song, dance and the duduk through the “My Armenia” (Im Hayastan) Pan-Armenian Festival.

The ministry has held the “We Sing Komitas” Pan-Armenian Cultural Festival twice. The festival helps disseminate Armenian songs and culture and the melodies of Komitas around the world, especially when foreign performers sing the songs of Komitas with Diaspora Armenian musicians.

The “Diaspora” Summer School Program is the only program of the RA Ministry of Diaspora that helps Diaspora Armenians be able to receive an education and undergo training as educators, directors, leaders, journalists and dance instructors in a short period of time.

Among the major programs of the ministry are the professional forums and conferences. The Diaspora is itself organized with its traditional organizations and political parties, but we considered it our objective to consolidate and organize the Diaspora. With that purpose, throughout the years, we have organized forums for architects, lawyers, businessmen, journalists, cardiologists, writers, jewelers and other professional forums and conferences.

The preparations for the events dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in the Homeland and in the Diaspora are important. There are many events that are versatile, multifaceted and very significant.

Hayern Aysor: Mrs. Hakobyan, what difficulties has the ministry faced?

H. H. The difficulty is that seven years aren’t enough to organize the activities with a Diaspora of 8-10 million Armenians fully and perfectly.

Many people have left the Armenian communities and organizations, and it’s hard to bring them back.

Another difficulty is the lack of knowledge of the Armenian language, especially among the youth. We must do everything we can to solve this issue.

Unfortunately, many Armenians still don’t know about their homeland. They know where it is on the map, but they haven’t touched the land or tasted the water, and that makes it difficult for us to work with them.

The ministry can’t offer many opportunities. Over the past three years, there has been a huge flow of Syrian-Armenians in Armenia. Their problems are in the focus of the ministry.

We don’t have structures or employees under our subordination. We work via diplomatic structures. We address everyone with requests to solve this or that issue, and this obviously creates difficulties for us.

We have worked in very difficult conditions for the past seven years. The insufficient working conditions have had a major impact on the quality of the work.

Hayern Aysor: Mrs. Hakobyan, which are the 7 major programs to be carried out in the future?

H. H.: During the 5th Armenia-Diaspora Conference, President of the Republic of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan announced that the State Commission on Coordination of the events dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide can be turned into a Pan-Armenian Council. This requires serious efforts and the implementation of serious programs. By consulting with all Armenian communities, we managed to show the right approach and choose the right members of, approaches to and mechanisms for the Pan-Armenian Council.

As we look towards the future, we must not forget the great work that has been done and the great achievements that have been made in the year marking the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. We need to continue to organize the events dedicated to the 101st, 102nd and 103rd anniversaries with more vigor and set goals for their conduct.

Another problem is the problem with Islamized or incognito Armenians. The incognito Armenians are awakening and standing up. We need to teach them Armenian, help them become connected to the Republic of Armenia and give them the strength to rediscover their identity.

One of the objectives is to ensure the advancement, dissemination and development of teaching of the native language and the convergence between the two ramifications of the Armenian language. In that regard, it is important to set up one-day and two-day Armenian schools, organize more visits to Armenia and bring the youth to the Homeland.

It’s important to use satellite television for a purpose and to create more instructive, historical and patriotic programs and programs presenting Armenia.

The focus of all this must be preservation of the Armenian identity in the Diaspora, and the major guarantee is the Armenian family, Armenian language, culture and religion. All this will lead to further reinforcement of the movement for repatriation. Today, many Armeians come and settle in the homeland, but that’s not enough. Armenians should settle in the homeland not only because of difficulties that have emerged in their countries of residence, but also to create, make investments and create jobs in Armenia.

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