Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)
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Contact: Jake Goshert, Coordinator of Information Services
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E-mail: [email protected]

May 2, 2006


As he stood before 15,000 people on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.,
Fr. Tateos Abdalian, pastor of the Holy Trinity Church of Cheltenham, PA,
thought about his father Manoog, a survivor of the Armenian Genocide.

Fr. Abdalian was representing the Armenian Church during a rally calling for
action to end the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. It was fitting,
he thought, for an Armenian to address the thousands of activists gathered
in the nation's capital.

"The Armenian Genocide was the first genocide of the 20th century, and this
is the first genocide of 21st century," he said sadly. "In 100 years
nothing has changed. We still kill each other. We have that connection
with Darfur, and as Armenian people, we need to learn the lesson of going
outside our selves to help our brothers and sisters."

In Rwanda, a region racked by its own genocide, there is a museum dealing
with the on-going violence, Fr. Tateos said. And a wall in that complex
deals with the Armenian Genocide.

"These African people associate and identify themselves with us through the
evil of genocide. We need to do the same, not only with them but with all
the people who suffer," he said. "It is Christ who compels us to do this.
We can't proclaim being the first Christian nation unless we translate that
into action. And there's no greater action than to try to stop genocide."


Organized by Million Voices for Darfur, the rally in Washington, D.C., was
joined by others throughout the world. Supporters of the quest to end the
violence were also encouraged to send postcards to President Bush and other
lawmakers, urging American action. One million postcards were sent through
the campaign.

Bishop Vicken Aykazian, legate and ecumenical officer of the Diocese of the
Armenian Church of America (Eastern), was actively involved with the
organizing of the campaign, though unable to attend because of a prior
commitment with the Midwest parishes.

Several Armenians from Washington, D.C., and nearby parishes, including many
members of the Armenian Church Youth Organization of America (ACYOA),
attended the rally on the National Mall. Before the day's activities, Fr.
Abdalian celebrated a special Divine Liturgy at the St. Mary Church of
Washington. At the rally, Fr. Tateos delivered an invocation and then
briefly spoke to the activists.

"I stand before you on this day, humbled to be one among you who have united
in a collective voice of indignation crying out to the world against the
brutality of genocide," he told the thousands of protestors. "With sorrow,
we testify that the spirit of hatred, the pure evil which is the genesis of
this crime against humanity does indeed exist in our word today, as it has
in the past."

The stage was filled with speakers from the world of religion, politics,
academia, and entertainment. They spoke about the need for action and
compared the genocide in Darfur to other dark chapters in human history.

But for Fr. Tateos, the focus was on speaking as an Armenian, personally
touched by genocide. He highlighted the damage genocide does for

"The cruelty we are witnessing in Darfur and in other parts of the world is
just the latest step in a long and terrible journey for man, which began
when one brother found it possible to kill another," he told the crowd. "I
myself am a survivor of genocide: the 1915 genocide of the Armenian people,
the genocide committed by the Turkish Ottoman government against its own
minority Armenian Christian citizens. That terrible episode still casts its
shadow over mankind 91 years later, and in a profound way."

He urged the activists to follow in the footsteps of leaders like Martin
Luther King and Pope John Paul II, who relied on their hope-filled faith to
overcome evil.

"As people who are concerned over the continuing fact of genocide, we must
combat that darkness with weapons of light," he said. "These weapons are
within the grasp of each person here, so long as we have the courage, the
resolve, the faith to uphold that light and shine it to the dark places of
our world."

"Do not let the darkness of evil doers overshadow God's light of love," he
added. "Hold his lamp high. Do not be silent. Let your voices be heard by
the perpetrators of genocide, those of today and those of the past, so they
may be judged in this world and hereafter."

Fr. Tateos' three-minute remarks were interrupted by applause four times.

"It was one of the most humbling experiences I ever had in my life," he said
afterward. "I was honored and I spoke as a survivor. My father was a
survivor, as was my father-in-law and mother-in-law. I spoke on their
behalf and on behalf of others I knew."

During the rally Fr. Tateos connected via phone with young Armenians
attending the coinciding rally in San Francisco, CA. That group was
organized by Fr. Vazken Movsesian, priest at the St. Peter Church and Youth
Ministries Center, in Glendale, CA, who has traveled to Rwanda and spoken
out against the ongoing killing in Darfur.

"The Armenian voice was being heard from California to D.C.," Fr. Tateos

In the Sudan, the Janjaweed -- a government-backed nomadic Arab tribe -- has
raped, killed, and burnt the homes of black, non-Arab residents in the
nation's Darfur region since 2003. The violence is an attempt to get them
to leave their lands, which the Arab government has promised to the
mercenaries. According to reports by the World Food Program, the United
Nations, and the Coalition for International Justice, 3.5 million people are
now hungry, 2.5 million have been displaced due to violence, and 400,000
people have died in Darfur so far.

For more on the rally or how to add your voice to end the genocide, visit

-- 5/2/06

E-mail photos available on request. Photos also viewable in the News and
Events section of the Eastern Diocese's website,

PHOTO CAPTION (1): Fr. Tateos Abdalian, pastor of the Holy Trinity Church
of Cheltenham, PA, is seen on a giant TV screen as he speaks about the
genocide in Darfur to 15,000 activists gathered on the National Mall in
Washington, D.C., on Sunday, April 30, 2006.

PHOTO CAPTION (2): Fr. Tateos and Yn. Margaret Abdalian with actor George
Clooney, one of the other speakers during the Darfur genocide rally in
Washington, D.C.

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