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      "Far from sight, but very close to the heart"

"Far from sight, but very close to the heart"   14/12/2006

"Far from sight, but very close to the heart"

By Mayda Kuredjian –Keleshian
California Courier Online
December 14, 2006

 

BEIRUT - The Lebanese Armenian community recently had the honor and privilege of welcoming Harut Sassounian, the President of the United Armenian Fund and the Vice Chairman of The Lincy Foundation. The well-known activist of Armenian issues and the Publisher of the California Courier were on a unique mission to bring financial aid of $4,500,000 to 28 Armenian schools to help them at this time of great economic crisis.

As we all know, Lebanon is facing new political and regional difficulties. The country's economy is in a terrible shape. The Lebanese not only don't expect a bright future, but are afraid to lose what they have today. Sassounian's unexpected visit came to bring much needed hope, not only because it came from Armenian-Americans who had not forgotten their compatriots in Lebanon and were ready to extend a strong helping hand, but also because they believed that the Armenian community of Lebanon had played and will continue to play an important role in educating and preparing leaders for the entire Diaspora.

The Lebanese Armenian Community met with Sassounian on several occasions. They were amazed by the information he presented to them regarding developments in the United States and worldwide about the Armenian Cause and explaining to them the huge efforts Armenians are making for its just settlement. A highly organized agenda was being implemented to rightfully demand what Armenians had lost and what they demanded. One can't help but wonder if enough is being done in the Middle East which is so close to the historical Armenian lands, and having access to documents and whatever else is left from those times after Armenians settled in Lebanon and neighboring countries. There are still remnants of camps that were settlements for thousands of Armenian refugees. Armenian organizations, institutions, compatriotic societies, schools and churches have archives, documents, and photographs that need an umbrella organization or a Genocide Research and Documentation Center where scholars can collect, organize and preserve all such materials so that they will not be lost or destroyed.

Isn't it reasonable to expect that Armenians preserve what they have before they can get back what they had? Fortunately, we have the museum of the Armenian Catholicosate in Antelias, the Armenian Catholic Church museum in Bzoummar, St. Joseph and Haigazian Universities in Beirut and few other centers, but these are not easily accessible. There is a wealth of neglected information in the drawers or attics of private homes, deeds of trust, documents or even needlework and handicraft that preserve the traditions and folklore of different regions of the Armenian homeland. Who should invite, sponsor and give Armenian scholars and historians a plan to work on? The political parties? The editors of newspapers? The heads of the churches? The cultural organizations? Who? We need a well planned and executed "Project Rescue."

Usually, when we talk about a just settlement of our cause, we think about the land and the lives that were lost, and the families that were deported or massacred. When we think about it a little bit more, we realize the emotional dimension of what was lost. Our people were uprooted and separated from their personal belongings, leaving behind not just what they owned, but also memories related to personal events and places. They left behind their dreams, hopes and identity.

Sassounian's visit was for a benevolent purpose, returning to Lebanon after an absence of 37 years. He did not just bring with him a very generous and valuable gift. He brought with him grace and values. His message was loud and clear. He is a man of action who despite his emotional attachment to the Armenian Cause is very professional and demanding in his approach.

One cannot help but bow with respect for this man of vision who felt and shared our difficulties, even though he lives thousands of miles away from us. This should be a wake up call for the Lebanese Armenian community, leaders, organizations, political parties, educators, and even clergy. We have to think what role each one of us could and should play with whatever means we have and direct the youth to be a part of it. After all, when we get what we want from Turkey -- and I believe we will get it sooner or later -- the new generation will have to keep and maintain what we have. It is necessary to teach Armenian history, but we are concentrating so much on the past that we are not talking enough about what we are doing now, and where we are going tomorrow.

It is said that if you want to educate a nation, educate the women. Mothers have an important role to play and have played during the tough times when we were deported from our lands. They were the first educators who taught the Armenian alphabet on the sands of the Syrian Desert. They taught us how to pray and how to keep our traditions. Mothers were the activists who reminded their kids about what had happened and raised them to be fighters for their freedom and their lands. What is the role of the Armenian mother in Armenia and in the Diaspora today? Where are they taking their kids and what environment are they guiding them to? How much they know and care about our national demands from Turkey and how are they keeping their Armenian family values? What percentage is involved in a political or national organization and how are they countering the cultural genocide?

I am sure that there are those who are doing a great job, but unfortunately, there are many who are running away from their responsibilities by taking the easy way out. Isn't it about time that women played a more active role in lobbying for our demands and raising their voices to be heard around the world? Sometimes, small efforts lead to great accomplishments. We need orientation workshops to educate and motivate Armenian women to be more active politically. They are doing a great job in benevolent organizations and church groups. But that is not enough. It's time to see more women in leading positions in their communities.

I would like to take this opportunity to salute the great benefactor Kirk Kerkorian. The Lincy Foundation's generous contribution of $4,500,000 to our 28 schools through the United Armenian Fund was not just the greatest gift that the Lebanese Armenian Community ever received, but it was the attention and care that this great Armenian gave us at this time of major financial crisis. We are all short of words to express our gratitude for this humanitarian aid. This is sure to put our school principals, administrators, students and parents under extra responsibility, to reevaluate their work and renew their commitments.

Very special thanks to Harut Sassounian who triggered and successfully completed this unique mission. He made sure to personally visit every single school where he met and listened to all educators and students with patience. His remarks were very inspiring and hopeful. There is a famous quote: "Far from sight, far from heart." This is not always true. In this case, although far from sight, the American Armenians have not just kept us close, but right in the center of their heart.


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