BETHESDA, Md. (A.W.)—Concerned community leaders, activists, and members from throughout the Washington, DC area gathered at Soorp Khatch Armenian Church Arabian Hall on Sunday Aug. 12 for an update on the challenges facing Syria’s Armenian community and to explore ways to help support the community and the welfare of individual Syrian Armenians.
The Washington ARF Sebouh Gomideh organized the event, which featured remarks by local leaders Hovsep Avakian and Vahe Tanashian, who are in close touch with the situation on the ground and are coordinating with international efforts to help the Syrian Armenian community. Avakian and Tanashian placed special emphasis on the need for assistance for Syria’s Armenian schools, which will, amid the continuing turmoil in Aleppo, Damascus, and other areas of Syria, face the challenge of opening their doors to thousands of students in just a few weeks. They spotlighted recent calls for humanitarian assistance by His Holiness Aram I, Patriarch of the Great House of Cilicia and efforts by the Armenian Relief Society (ARS), and the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU). Many attendees offered immediate financial assistance for the ARS “Fund for Assistance to Syrian-Armenian Schools,” in the hopes of alleviating both the financial burden on needy Syrian-Armenian families, and, at the same time, promoting the continuity of the educational mission of the schools.
In response to questions about ANCA efforts to address the Syrian Armenian community challenges, Communications Director Elizabeth Chouldjian noted the organization’s efforts to secure language in the U.S. House version of the 2013 Foreign Aid Appropriations Nill calling for funds to be allocated for humanitarian and relocation assistance for Armenians and other Christian minorities in Syria. The ANCA continues to lead the grassroots effort to ensure inclusion of that mandate along with the ongoing foreign aid priorities for Armenia, Karabakh and Javakhk in a continuing resolution, likely to be acted upon by Congress in the next two months.
The event was the first of several local updates and fundraising opportunities planned to address the Syrian Armenian situation.