“Ari Tun” program: an important achievement

The results of the “Ari Tun” program were summed up during a joint advisory board session held by the RA Ministries of Territorial Administration and Diaspora. This program, as Minister of Diaspora Hranush Hakobyan described, is not just the ministry’s program, but the program of all Armenians. It establishes an active relationship between Armenia and the Diaspora and helps Diaspora Armenian youth, which are the main warrant for the preservation of Armenian identity, be able to apply the language and customs, build a bridge and proclaim the gradual return to home the only and main road for all Armenians.

The “Ari Tun” program launched in 2009 after the establishment of the Ministry of Diaspora. “When I was thinking of this program, many people were trying to convince me that I should forget about it. Even my mother was very concerned about the implementation of this program and asked what I would do, if the Diaspora Armenians didn’t come to Armenia,” Minister Hranush Hakobyan said. However, the program gradually started showing that the program was created at the right time and was in demand. The major goal of the program is to help familiarize 13-20 year old Diaspora Armenian youth with the homeland. After three years, we can surely say that the program has developed, has its own rules and regulations, has helped Diaspora Armenian youth recognize their ancient homeland, see Mount Ararat on the horizon, visit Geghard Monastery, see the light radiating from the pagan Garni temple and fall in love with the country, the land, listen to the calls of Armenia during their two-week stay in the country.

The Ministry of Diaspora has developed a clear-cut program that starts with the participants’ reception and accomodations in the host families, the number of which is growing year after year. The host families are mainly families living in Yerevan and the nearby communities. They are Armenians who receive our fellow Diaspora Armenian youth with love and warmth. The participants are given a hat and shirt with the “Ari Tun” logo and a booklet-guide. Then, they visit the Museum of History of Yerevan, the tomb of the creator of the Armenian alphabet Mesrop Mashtots in Oshakan, the Sardarapat memorial complex, the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, Zvartnots temple, the History Museum of Armenia and the Erebuni Fortress-Museum, Khor Virap, Noravank, Garni, Geghard, Sevan, Tsitsernakaberd, Yerablur, Victory Park and the military units. Through these visits, the program participants get acquainted with Yerevan, the sites worth seeing near Yerevan and the historical and cultural monuments. Of course, it is desired to include other cities of Armenia, including Gyumri, Vanadzor and Goris, perhaps even Artsakh, Amaras and Gandzasar…The participants also take part in lessons of patriotism, spend days at the Karin Camp in Aghveran and have meetings with several Armenian artists and cultural figures. As part of the program, the participants have had meetings with RA President Serzh Sargsyan, Chairman of the National Assembly Hovik Abrahamyan, Deputy Prime Minister Armen Gevorgyan and Minister of Defense Seyran Ohanyan. They have also met with cultural figures, including RA People’s Artist, composer Robert Amirkhanyan, RA Distinguished Artists Harutyun Movsisyan and Ara Gevorgyan, composer Sasun Paskevichyan and singer-songwriter Marten Yorgantz. It is desired to see this series expand and have our fellow Armenians have the opportunity to get in touch with notable cultural and scientific figures in order to recognize the country’s notable Armenians as well.

Throughout the three years of the program’s existence, more than 1,700 Diaspora Armenian youth have visited Armenia. Interestingly, the number is on the rise. Whereas 300 youth vfrom 16 countries visited Armenia in 2009, in 2010, there were 600 youth from 26 countries and in 2011 there were 800 youth from 35 countries. They mainly resided in Yerevan, as well as the Ararat, Kotayk, Armavir and Aragatsotn provinces. During their visits, the Diaspora Armenian youth’s notions of Armenia change. They see a peaceful country that is becoming more and more beautiful and prospering day after day. Armenian youth from Armenia have also left for other countries within the framework of the “Ari Tun” program. In 2010, two groups of youth visited Germany and Holland. The Ministry of Diaspora had assigned community heads to select the participants. It is desired that the community heads select participants based on a principle and send the youth who truly need to visit foreign countries and broaden their mindset.

The “Ari Tun” program brings a new sweep to the process of preservation of Armenian identity, and this process will definitely contribute to repatriation. Whereas some thought the Ministry of Diaspora was organizing repatriation at the outset of the “Ari Tun” program, now everyone has understood that this program serves as a wonderful bridge that the caravans of Armenians returning home can pass. There is a need for Armenians to return home because Armenians living abroad are like passengers waiting at stations without a ticket…After the Armenian Genocide, assimilation became our other tragedy, and the Diaspora is truly facing the danger of assimilation. Most of the Diaspora Armenian youth visiting Armenia within the framework of the “Ari Tun” program don’t speak or think in Armenian…A person who doesn’t speak or think in the native language is the bearer of another culture and has become alienated. Everything must be done to not let the 7 million Armenians around the world become attached to their roots, preserve the Armenian language and establish close ties with the homeland.

The Armenian government, heads of communities near Yerevan and the Union of Armenians of Russia have also participated in the “Ari Tun” program. They must do everything possible to make Armenia attractive for our fellow Armenians living abroad and make sure Armenian universities provide Diaspora Armenian youth with vast knowledge. It is desired that Armenian universities allocate spots for Diaspora Armenian youth not only in the Armenology departments, but also other departments, especially engineering and exact sciences.

“Ari Tun” (Come Home), is the name of the program, and the ones coming home are family members and relatives…

Levon Mutafyan

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