Journey to a Brighter Future

Bishop Bagrat Galstanian
Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Canada, 22 Oct. 2010

Sireliner,

It has been seven years since I was elected to serve as Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Canada. Being born and raised in Armenia, I had my own perception of our communities in the Diaspora, and serving outside Armenia was a new experience that redefined my perspective.

Bishop Bagrat Galstanian
Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Canada, 22 Oct. 2010

Sireliner,

It has been seven years since I was elected to serve as Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Canada. Being born and raised in Armenia, I had my own perception of our communities in the Diaspora, and serving outside Armenia was a new experience that redefined my perspective.

During these years I extensively visited our parishes and communities across this beautiful country, seeing first-hand and listening carefully to the needs, demands, aspirations and dreams of our people. The one message that was conveyed to me most frequently and strongly was the need and desire to live together as one united people, united in faith, heritage and identity, and with a strong sense of belonging to an indivisible community.

Earlier this year, inspired by the successful jointly organized commemoration of the 95th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, I wrote two letters on the subject of unity addressed to our churches and community organizations. Today, sensing the urgency of achieving unity in our community, I appeal with this open letter to every Armenian living in Canada. It is written from my heart with love and without any hesitations or reservations, suggesting that we start a community-wide dialogue that can eventually lead us to a more united and stronger community for the benefit of all and most especially for our future generations.

Over the past seven years, I have witnessed numerous conflicts and experienced difficult and frustrating situations that could have easily been avoided. I have seen the continuing loss of Armenian identity of our young generation, their indifference and apathy towards our heritage and values, and their resentment of those who claim to lead our people in Canada. The issue that concerns me the most is the lack of unity in our community and of unbiased and non-partisan loyalty to our Armenian identity.

Dr. Philip A. Salem, a highly decorated American physician, educator and humanitarian and winner of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor from the National Ethnic Coalition Organization, describes the importance of identity as follows: "Those who forget who they are, and where they come from, have a vision which is permanently out of focus and a life which is permanently marginal. Identity not only gives you character, it also gives meaning to your life. Without it you also lose direction. To achieve identity and maintain it, you must preserve heritage". While we all have certain aspects of commonality, our identity is unfortunately sometimes tainted with our narrow partisan or sectarian loyalties. Do we all belong to the same people, or are we each just members of our own organizations and parties? Are we not all Canadians with our roots in Armenian culture and Christian faith, which we were the first nation to adopt as the "colour of our skin"?

It is high time that we overcome the psychological obstacles to unity that are based on ecclesiastical, historical and political issues with courage, honesty and intelligence. I urge everyone, both individuals and organizations, to send a strong message that henceforth we must learn to act together as one united people of God in a spirit of brotherly love and joint victory. This spirit of oneness must go beyond just coming together each April 24. It must become a continuous, sincere and all-encompassing unity, through which we can resolve our divisions and problems, and through which we can work together to create a newly invigorated and exemplary community ready to face the challenges of our times.

Unity in and of itself is not the goal or final objective. It is the means by which we can fulfill our aspirations, build on our strengths, and realize our dreams, while respecting our individuality and each other’s points of view and the respective missions and values of our various organizations.

Today we face a number of serious challenges concerning Armenia, Artsakh, our Church, the identity crisis in the Diaspora, our schools and education. These issues require long and tireless efforts to bring about resolution. They require frank and honest dialogue in complete humility, not just between "this" and "that" side but also among all Armenians.

I am convinced that urgent actions are required if we care about the assimilation of the new generation, if we care about losing our heritage and our unique culture, if we care about our Diaspora which was built on the blood of our martyrs, and if we care about the achievements that you have made thus far with personal sacrifices at times at the expense of your families.

We are living at a point in our history when crucial decisions must be made, and when we need to take concrete actions and new initiatives. We are all inclined to blame others for the lack of unity that we now find ourselves in, but we often forget that it is WE who are responsible for the present. It is therefore OUR responsibility to take the right steps to ensure a brighter future. Do we have any other choice but to stand and work more closely together? The time has come to make a difference.

There are many specific suggestions that could be made on what to do. As a start I propose that we hold a meeting of all the Armenian organizations in Canada to jointly decide on how best to proceed. We can then form specific committees to oversee the joint organization and execution of those actions that are most urgently needed, building on them with time and as we receive encouragement from our community. A friend of mine rightly said: "It will be difficult for us to reach agreement on the past, but there is certainly much ground for agreement when we think and plan for the future." Let us heed the wise words of one of our greatest Patriarchs St. Nerses Shnorhali: "UNITY in important matters, LIBERTY in secondary matters, and LOVE IN EVERYTHING".

I also propose that we bring together in a forum the leaders of our churches, parties and organizations with several prominent Armenian scholars, thinkers and academics specialized in contemporary Armenian history to provide advice.

I am not naive to assume that all of our differences and difficulties can be resolved immediately. It will take time, and it will require a lot of patience and dialogue and hard work as we slowly build mutual trust and understanding. But as the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said: "A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step".

This is my vision. I am ready to bear my share of responsibility in the process of healing the wounds of our precious community. I know that some may say that this is an unrealistic dream, and that "the devil is in the details". Yes, the devil may be in the details, but our loyalty is to God and Christ our Lord, to our Armenian identity, and to our future. We are above all Armenians, proud heirs of our martyred ancestors and bearers of our rich spiritual heritage, and witnesses of continuing heroic deeds in Armenia, Artsakh, and throughout the world.

I strongly believe that this is our destiny. We must follow this path to guarantee a brighter future as one, strong, united community, to rise above our individual colours and political attachments, to heal our wounds, to live in love and harmony, and together to achieve and celebrate new victories.

Let us do this so that we may be blessed by the generations to come. "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God" (Matthew 5:8).

Amen.

Related Article:

Reflections on Journey to a Brighter Future

 

5 comments
  1. Journey to a brighter future

    Bishop Bagrat Galstanian’s article is written so eloquently . Since I know him personally I believe how sincere he is in his wish for a journey to a brighter future for Armenians around the world .

    With all my respect to his suggestion to bring together in a forum leaders of our churches, scholars, thinkers and academics specialized in contemporary Armenian history, we depended on the above groups for too long, perhaps it is time to include and to  listen to the working class Armenians also , their voices have to be heard and their ideas should be considered .

    Vrejouhy.
    Calgary . Canada

  2. To Vrejouhi Atikian
    Dear Vrejouhi,

    Word Unity  has been so much repeated  within Armenian circles that it has lost  its meaning. Some think, a leftist Armenian (say Socialist or even communist-Maoist) will unite with ultra nationalist, say Nzhdeh’s Tseghagrons. Hogwash! 

    This has been intentionally introduced amongst Armenians  by adversaries’ agents systematically. Using such phrases as, "Armenians will never unite", "Armenians  are always against each other" etc., thus making it stick into the minds  of the majority  of naive Armenians.

    I do not agree with this, nor will those  who understand that ideologies cannot unite. Each has its seperate Dogma-objective. Though in socio-politically advanced  countreis  they cooperate when their country faces a danger.

    Thence, if  some on the present Armenian political or Socio-political scene advocate  it – inclusive  of our Spiritual sector, it is for maintaining their age old, more than 160 years old  "Sahmanatrutyun" drawn up in Bolis, under oppressive Ottoman rule. And this mainly by the clergy.

    We need according to this servant of the Armenian people "A  New Concept  of Electoral System and governance" (my intellectual property, registered at Washing D.C. and Yerevan. Also "Projections  on a New Statute for the Armenian Diaspora". The Latter, since more than a qtr century ago published in N. American Armenian press. The "Sahmanatrutyun" or other such that are used by some of our present entities…I dare say,  is not compatible  or in line with reality of a very Dynamic Armenian Diaspora, as well as well advanced Homeland. In sciences, IT,education and culture etc., etc., etc.

    The Diaspora -especially- is in need  of a long awaited  c h a n g e . Like you have  touched  just  the tip of the ice-berg, mentioing  the "working people".

    With your permission I’d like to rephrase  it  and expand further on it, as "Professional-working people", lest  the BBBs (this is property of Ara Baliozian, meaning Bishops, Bosses and Benefactors)  that  in his terminology describes  the present situation within the Armenian Diaspora.

    Anyhow, do please follow up on the idea  of letting in new blood and new breath  into our affairs. When indeed  dear Bishop’s NEW  Day will dawn and brightly.

    1. To Gaytzag Palandjian

      Thank you Gaytzag Palandjian for your most informative feed back you wrote. I had to read it twice to absorb your thoughts.

      Vrejouhy .
      Calgary .

  3. Unified Armenians in Calgary

    I agree with Bishop Bagrat about coming togther to strengthen our community. Our identity is beyond our personal belief, and as such our dream of a strong and safe Armenia should guide us to our main goal. Without Armenia to inspire us and give us hope, we will be lost. I am supporting the idea to organize a forum to address strategies for a unified people.
  4. Bishop Bagrat Galstanian
    Bishop Bagrat Galstanian,

    Just for the record if and when a forum could be put together, Inshalla, I as a nurse and a patriotic Armenian would like to be included.
     

    Vrejouhy.
    Calgary .

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