To commemorate the 106th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and pay tribute to all of its victims, the University of La Verne’s Office of Religious and Spiritual Life hosted a candlelight ceremony and gathering last Friday via Zoom.
Faculty of Armenian descent also shared their personal testimonies in regards to this tragedy.
In April of 1915, during World War 1, the Ottoman Empire began the systematic killing and deportation of 1.5 million Armenians, resulting in today’s eradication of Armenian civilization in their place of origin.
There were over 30 people in attendance and the event was recorded.
Seta Whitby, professor of computer science, was the one who began this tradition of gathering in front of Founders Hall to commemorate the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
Zandra Wagoner, university chaplain, was the main organizer of the event.
“We are a living witness to the significance of why we are gathering here today,” said Wagoner. “We are bearing witness to an atrocity that took place 106 years ago; we are gathered to remember and give a voice to one and a half million lives who were lost.”
Wagoner said the purpose of this gathering was to give a voice to a tragedy that has often been denied and made invisible, causing even greater pain to the people affected by the Armenian Genocide.
At the beginning of the event, the audience was invited to light candles in remembrance of those who perished and for all of the ripple effects caused by this tragedy.
The candles represented a symbol of light, hope, and peace, as well as a call to illuminate and inspire a better future for this world.
Three speakers shared their personal views on how this event has affected their personal lives.
Nelly Kazman, interim dean of regional and online campuses, said the Armenian Genocide has shaped the ethnicity and identity of the Armenian people. She is a proud descendant of the Armenian Genocide survivors.
“Today, we commemorate the 1.5 million lives of Armenian people who were massacred by the Ottomans in 1915,” said Kazman. “For many Armenians, this tragedy is not only a historical event but a personal story.”
As part of the Armenian community, Kazman said Armenians were deported and sent to the desert to die.
Kazman also said she is proud of the Armenian people’s resilience and their determination to survive and strive.
She said the Armenian Genocide represents not only the evil but the good that can reside in human nature, as Armenians also experienced goodness, kindness, and generosity from others amidst this atrocity.
Kazman’s grandparents were saved by the Near East Foundation, founded in 1915 as the American Committee on Armenian Atrocities.
Similarly, countries opened their doors to Armenians refugees, including the United States, Lebanon and France.
Steven Adamian, senior director of development, planned giving, said 100 years later history has repeated itself and the world did nothing to help the Armenian people.
“One hundred years later and the ethnic cleansing continues,” said Adamian. “I don’t think the word genocide is the right word anymore.”
A minute of silence was held for reflection and prayer and to honor those who have perished and for the losses associated with this tragedy even today.
Kerop Janoyan, provost and vice president of academic affairs, said his father and uncle were both survivors of the repercussions of the Armenian Genocide. His father and uncle were orphaned at a very young age.
“I not only want to pay tribute to the survivors but to my parents especially for being so strong,” said Janoyan.
Moreover, Janoyan’s grandfather from his mother side was a direct survivor of the Armenian Genocide. His grandfather was shot and buried in a mass grave.
Janoyan said the stories he would hear were unexplainable. Before the mass shootings, Armenians were robbed of any possession they had, including their clothes. He said Armenians were robbed of their dignity before they died.
Halladjan Kevork, University of La Verne graduate, offered a prayer and a short gospel reflection for the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide.
At the end of the event, the audience was invited to share any personal story they thought was needed to be said.
Andrea Molina can be reached at email@example.com.