PRESS OFFICE
Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)
630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Contact: Jake Goshert, Coordinator of Information Services
Tel: (212) 686-0710 Ext. 60; Fax: (212) 779-3558
E-mail: [email protected]
Website: www.armenianchurch.org

July 7, 2004
___________________

IRAQI ARMENIANS STILL FACE DANGERS FROM LACK OF SECURITY

Leaders from the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) are
continuing to discuss ways to help the Armenian community in Iraq with
leaders from other Armenian-American organizations, such as the Fund for
Armenian Relief, the Armenian General Benevolent Union, and the Armenian
Assembly of America.

The latest reports to date from Iraq's Armenian community is that a lack
internal security of continues to affect their lives. Two Iraqi
Armenians were killed during the short war between the U.S. and Iraqi
forces. However, since the end of combat, about eight Armenians have
been killed and scores others injured by bombings, including the bombing
of the headquarters for the United Nations and for the Red Cross.

A handful of prominent Iraqi Armenians have also been kidnapped and
released after a ransom was paid.

However, leaders of the Iraqi Armenian community say none of the
Armenian victims have been targeted because of their heritage or faith,
they have simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

HELPING THE COMMUNITY

Already, parishioners in the Diocese and members of other
Armenian-American organizations have sent financial aid and resources to
the Iraqi Diocese, which has a well established Women's Guild designed
to help the poor. The Iraqi Diocese says there are roughly 265 Armenian
families in Baghdad which are in need; Armenians elsewhere are less
affected from the lack of security found in Iraq's capital. Through
that effort, the parishioners of the Eastern Diocese have already sent
more than $13,000 to the Diocese in Iraq.

Armenian community leaders in America have been discussing a variety of
ways to pool resources and target support to the Armenians in Iraq.
They have asked the leaders of the Iraqi Armenian community to create a
prioritized list of needs. Once that list is received, the
organizations will mobilize their members to address those needs.

MEETING WITH LOCAL OFFICIALS

One issue the Armenian Diocese of Iraq has been discussing with local
leaders is regaining control of Armenian community schools, which were
nationalized in 1972.

The Armenian community was building a new school building at the time
schools were nationalized, and that building ended up being used for
government offices, which were looted and burned after the fall of
Saddam.

Since the fall of the former regime, the public schools with Armenian
students were allowed two periods a week to teach Armenian language,
history, and culture to the Armenian students, and other ethnic groups
have been allowed to do the same. Now, the Armenian Diocese of Iraq is
working on reopening full-fledged Armenian community schools.

OPPORTUNITY TO STRENGTHEN

While there are many immediate hardships in Iraq, the community has
potential for growth. Throughout the nation there are 22,000 Armenians,
15,000 of whom live in Baghdad. The Diocese has nine churches
throughout Iraq, which have not been targeted during the fighting so
none was seriously damaged.

Services have not been held in the St. Gregory Cathedral in Baghdad
since the start of fighting, due to difficulty to move about in that
part of town, which is now filled with traffic and congestion. Services
have been held in the smaller St. Garabed Church, built next to the
Armenian old-age home in a part of Baghdad that is easier to reach.

A priest training program, started in 1984, continues to thrive, with
five students currently participating. Since its beginning in 1984, the
program has ordained 12 priests.

A Sunday School program which began in 1985 with 25 students now has
430. A youth group which began in 1986 with just 12 young people, now
brings together 387.

Once the community schools are again fully operational, Diocesan
officials say they expect more than 500 young people to attend,
receiving a full education with a thorough Armenian focus.

The Eastern Diocese, along with other Armenian groups in America, will
remain in contact with the Armenian Diocese in Iraq to formulate a
coordinated effort to aid the community as the country stabilizes and
will keep Armenian Americans apprised of the situation.

-- 7/7/04

E-mail photos available on request. Photos also viewable on the Eastern
Diocese's website, www.armenianchurch.org.

PHOTO CAPTION (1): This building, originally a school built by the
Armenian community of Iraq in the early 1970s, was taken over by the
former regime and turned into government offices, which were looted and
burned during the recent war. The Armenian Diocese of Iraq is working
with local Iraqi officials to regain control of its schools program, and
the trust funds to operate them, which were taken by Saddam.

PHOTO CAPTION (2): The St. Gregory Cathedral in downtown Baghdad was
not damaged during the recent fighting to liberate Iraq, however
services have not been held there for a year because of an increase in
traffic congestion.

PHOTO CAPTION (3): Services normally held in the Armenian cathedral in
Baghdad, have been held in the St. Garabed Church, next to the Armenian
old age home, because it is a more convenient location.