Moslem Armenians

Souren Seraydarian, Chairman, National Congress of Western Armenians
Paris, 19 August 2015

During the last two years representatives of the National Congress of Western Armenians (NCWA) raised this issue with senior clerics of the Armenian Apostolic church in Armenia, Turkey, USA, the United Kingdom, France and Germany and never received a clear answer. For example, whereas the bishop in Germany accepts to consider every bona fide request for baptism favorably, Bishop Atachian in Istanbul creates many obstacles and tries to accommodate the authorities in Turkey and avoid "trouble". What is missing is a clear and unequivocal policy and decision by the highest church authorities, i.e. the Catholicos.

Recently clerics refused to baptize three Moslem Armenians during their pilgrimage to Armenia. It is worth reminding the public that not all Armenians belong to the same church.. Indeed some are Catholic, evangelist, Mormon, atheist, etc. This does not prevent them from being recognized as Armenians of different beliefs. It is discriminatory not to recognize Moslem Armenians if they feel they belong to this nation.

Souren Seraydarian, Chairman, National Congress of Western Armenians
Paris, 19 August 2015

During the last two years representatives of the National Congress of Western Armenians (NCWA) raised this issue with senior clerics of the Armenian Apostolic church in Armenia, Turkey, USA, the United Kingdom, France and Germany and never received a clear answer. For example, whereas the bishop in Germany accepts to consider every bona fide request for baptism favorably, Bishop Atachian in Istanbul creates many obstacles and tries to accommodate the authorities in Turkey and avoid "trouble". What is missing is a clear and unequivocal policy and decision by the highest church authorities, i.e. the Catholicos.

Recently clerics refused to baptize three Moslem Armenians during their pilgrimage to Armenia. It is worth reminding the public that not all Armenians belong to the same church.. Indeed some are Catholic, evangelist, Mormon, atheist, etc. This does not prevent them from being recognized as Armenians of different beliefs. It is discriminatory not to recognize Moslem Armenians if they feel they belong to this nation.

It is high time to distinguish between ethnicity and religion and get rid of medieval thinking and to adopt a conciliatory approach towards all those who identify themselves as belonging to the Armenian Nation. On the other hand there are tens of thousands of baptized Armenians who do no longer wish to be identified as Armenians and are satisfied with their status as fully integrated persons in foreign societies and countries. Enough is enough. It is time to get our act together since at this delicate political juncture we do need the support and cohesion of all Armenians.
 

15 comments
  1. Baptism

    Whoever feels he or she is Armenian, regardless of religion, is Armenian. It is a shame to refuse any one to be baptised. I would like to remind our clergy that Jesus did not baptize his apostles, but he told them to go and preach and baptize all over the wold.

    We need not forget that one day when we get our land back from Turkish occupation our 4- 5 millions non-Christian Armenians will be the land owners to protect the land. We have to be ready to accept Kurds and Armenians living side by side on that land.

    Hagop Karlozian

    1. non-Christian Armenians

      We need to shed outdated, irrational and shortsighted views about Kurds and non-Christian Armenians. Getting back our lands will be thanks to the hidden Armenians, their allies Kurds and other people living in the area. The new formation may not be called Armenia, but it will be a huge blow to Panturkism and the dream of uniting Turkic people from Central Asia to the shores of Europe.

      Isn't that prospect feasible and potentially a major option to secure safety of Armenia and the Armenian nation?

  2. It’s mind boggling

    It's mind boggling that the church hierarchy in Armenia did not (or did it?) interfere and address the matter appropriately, particularly after government agencies being involved, such as the ministry of Diaspora.

    This brings the list of alleged failings of the catholicos to 24.

    Catholicos Karekin II Stands Accused

  3. Un-Armenian

    Very well said and  a most true and sincere statement.

    Sadly, during the span of history, the Armenian Church has made many mistakes, that has cost us dearly.

    Now this unfortunate and puzzling episode about the baptism of Moslem Armenians sheds a very dark shadow on the humanity and  conscience of the Armenian Church's leadership.

    This is not only mind boggling, it is shameful, disgraceful and Un-Armenian.
    Vart Adjemian

  4. Moslem Armenians

    I strongly believe first the state of Armenia should give them citizenship. They should go through some kind of preparation to join the state of Armenia and the Church of the Armenians, because in our existence state and religion are inseparable.

  5. To Baptise Or Not To Baptise

    In the absence of any other tool to underline our so called Armenian-ness as a nation we baptise our children. Christian values only just come into it…

    I remember grandparents NOT kissing their grandchildren until they were baptised "Daha Hai Che" was the reason why they wouldn't.

    In the days of the Soviet Union I have heard of quite a few government functionaries secretly inviting Armenian priests to baptise and "Yerekhen Hai sarki" at home.

    In a Moslem country like Turkey I can see priests being apprehensive about being
    accused of facilitating a Muslim's changing of their religion an offense that could
    land them in hot water but in Armenia?

    With every iota in my being I protest and condemn any and every Armenian priest in Armenia who hesitates or refuses to baptise any and all who ask for it.

    For an old, very old nation like us we proved to be quite adept in keeping on,
    let us not fall into the trap of letting our religion define us.

  6. My question re: clergy

    My question is this, would the baptism of a person  and acceptance of Christ as the savior make you a better person ?

    If the answer is yes then all the clergy starting from the top have to be re-baptized and re-introduced to the teaching of Jesus Christ.

  7. Baptism

    Ha! those priests are not Armenian!  They belong to the Vasak clan. 

    Seriously, one is tempted to question whether it's the private pressure by the Turkish government or some other secret order that these clerics all belong to. It is obvious they had instructions not to baptize, which is absolutely the furthest thing from biblical teaching.

    If one feels they are prepared to be a Christian they are prepared. To rebuke someone ready to take a courageous step like that is the most callous and heinous crime imaginable.  No priest should stand in their way. At this point the Armenian Apostolic church may have committed a major sin, and it is in violation of Jesus's number one commandment. 

  8. What signs I should be looking for?

    I know many people who are baptized; so they claim. They sure are no different in looks or behavior.  Some speak fluent Armenian and some none at all.

    Please, can someone tell me what signs I should be looking for?

  9. Moslem Armenians

    Of course Mr. Souren Seyradarian is right, I find it shameful not to baptize the Moslem Armenians. What does it mean "If there is a will, there is a way"?

    If the Moslem Armenians ask to be baptized in the Armenian church, who has the right to forbid them to do so.

    We must put the history straight, because we are the ones who know the terrible sufferings of their ancestors. By fulfilling their wish it will give them and us internal peace.

    Unless we have different political goals in mind.

    Nicolai Romashuk Hairabedian

  10. Baptismal Reports

    Kantsasar, the official newsletter of the Prelacy of Aleppo, reported the following on its August 20, 2015.

    ‘Armenian Apostolic Church is shy readily baptizing Islamized Armenians for the two fundamental reasons.

    News.am reports that lately there have been many pro and con opinions regarding baptizing Islamized Armenians. Each camp has pushed forth its stand about the issue.

    Many Islamized Armenians after obtaining their baptismal confirmation letters go to Europe where they continue to attend mosques. There is also fear that they may be agents planted by Turkey to meddle into the affairs of the community.

    “During 80’s we would be saying if the person is Armenian, why should not we baptize the person, but we saw that a great majority of them were Kurds and not Kurdified Armenians” has said Father Gomidas Hovanaian adding that many of them used their baptismal documents to go to a European country and seek residence as (persecuted) Armenian Christians. But after securing their residency they started attending mosques.

    Father Gomidas has noted that in order to be baptized in Armenian Apostolic Church it is important to ascertain that they are Armenians and are not pursuing other goals. According to him the safeguarding of the Armenian community in Istanbul is also linked to the issue. Pretending that they are inheritors of Armenians who were forcefully Islamized, special Turkish agencies, may use them to meddle into the affairs of the community, whose early indications, according to him, have been noted.

    “Those who want to be baptized have to apply to the community expressing their desire to change their religion, after learning the tenets of our Church, they may be baptized. How do you envision us to baptize readily someone who approaches us with a Turkish name and tells us that he or she wants to be baptized, without us having information about the person?” has said the Father.’

    Հայ Առաքելական Եկեղեցին Կը Զգուշանայ Իսլամացած Հայեր Մկրտելէ` Երկու Հիմնական Պատճառով

    News.am կը հաղորդէ, որ վերջին հանգրուանին Հայաստանի մէջ իսլամացած հայերու մկրտութեան հարցին վերաբերող թեր ու դէմ բազմաթիւ կարծիքներ արտայայտուեցան եւ կեցուածքներ դրսեւորուեցան: Իւրաքանչիւր կողմ առաջադրեց իր տեսակէտն ու մօտեցումները: Այս հարցին առնչութեամբ 20 օգոստոսին լրագրողներուն հետ ունեցած զրոյցին ընթացքին Կոմիտաս վրդ. Յովնանեան յայտնած է, որ իսլամացած հայերը Հայ առաքելական եկեղեցին չի մկրտեր 2 կարեւոր պատճառով` անոնցմէ շատեր մկրտութեան վկայական ստանալէ ետք կ՛երթան Եւրոպա ու կը շարունակեն մզկիթ երթալ, նաեւ կայ մտավախութիւն, որ անոնք թրքական յատուկ ծառայութիւններուն կողմէ գործուղուած մարդիկ ըլլան եւ միջամուխ ըլլան համայնքին հարցերուն:
«80-ականներուն մենք կ՛ըսէինք` եթէ հայ է, ինչո՞ւ չմկրտենք, ինչո՞ւ անոր օգտակար չըլլանք, բայց տեսանք, որ մկրտուողներուն մեծամասնութիւնը ոչ թէ քրտախօս հայեր են, այլ քիւրտեր են», ըսած է Կոմիտաս վարդապետ` աւելցնելով, որ անոնցմէ շատեր իրենց մկրտութեան վկայականը կ՛օգտագործեն եւրոպական երկիրներ երթալու, իբրեւ հայ քրիստոնեայ կեցութեան արտօնութիւն առնելու, սակայն անկէ ետք մզկիթ կը շարունակեն յաճախել:
Կոմիտաս վարդապետ նշած է, որ հայ առաքելական եկեղեցւոյ մէջ իսլամացած հայերը մկրտելու համար անհրաժեշտ է վստահ ըլլալ, որ անոնք հայ են ու այլ նպատակներ չեն հետապնդեր:
Անոր համաձայն, Պոլսոյ համայնքի անվտանգութեան ու պահպանութեան հարցը նոյնպէս առնչուած է այս հարցին, քանի որ` ձեւանալով իբրեւ բռնի իսլամացած հայերու ժառանգորդներ, թրքական յատուկ ծառայութիւններուն կողմէ գործուղուած մարդիկ կրնան խառնուիլ համայնքին գործերուն, որուն նախադէպերը, ըստ անոր, եղած են:
«Մկրտուիլ ցանկացողը կրօնափոխ ըլլալու դիմում պիտի ներկայացնէ իր համայնքին, որմէ ետք, սորվելով մեր եկեղեցւոյ դաւանանքը, կրնայ մկրտուիլ: Ինչպէ՞ս կը պատկերացնէք թրքական անունով ոեւէ մէկը գայ ու ըսէ, որ կ՛ուզեմ մկրտուիլ եւ մենք առանց անոր մասին տեղեկութիւններու մկրտենք զայն», յայտնած է ան:

  11. What decides who is an armenian?

    I have been storming my brain for the past few months to figure out and find some written document that identifies what makes a person an Armenian. I came to the conclusion that there is no criteria to prove someone's Armenian heritage with the exception of the person calling himself or herself an Armenian. There is a video on You Tube I watched some time ago about the Hamshen folks in North East provinces of Turkey that are Moslems and they say they are descended from Armenian ancestors. Do we accept them as Armenians? What would be the difference of accepting a Hamshen as Armenian to that of accepting an islamized Armenian. I would be thankful if someone has the definition of an Armenian being, so we can all share. 

    1. The following is not mine: I

      The following is not mine: I am reproducing it here from a comment that was made at another Armenian web site. The person posts under the handle "Ararat". I think it is quite original and interesting.

      "Personally, the way I define an Armenian is by giving an analogy using a pie chart. This pie chart is composed of several slices of differing sizes. Each slice defines an aspect of our Armenian identity. The presence and the absence of each of the pie slices define our strengths and weaknesses, respectively. All slices put together collectively, whether they make a full pie or not describe how complete, or incomplete for a lack of better word, of an Armenian we are.

      I think the biggest slice in the pie is the genetics and the Armenian blood running through our veins which give us our physical characteristics. If you have this then you are an Armenian by default regardless of how much of the other slices you possess or not. I would argue that you can’t be an Armenian in the true sense of the word without this slice. Without it, you can only be “Armenian-like” or be an “Armenian national” much like ethnic minorities living or born and raised in Armenia are Armenian nationals while being non-Armenians ethnically. The same can be said of the Armenians living or born and raised in foreign countries in the sense that in every way, other than ethnically, they can be indistinguishable from the natives. In other words, you can speak Armenian, act and react like an Armenian but be French and that, in my opinion, does not make you an Armenian. It only makes you an “Armenian-like”.

      The Armenian language, thus the Armenian culture, forms another slice of the pie. The size of this slice depends on how fluent you are in the Armenian language and whether or not you practice the culture. Christianity forms another slice of the pie but, unlike the language and the culture, it does not define our Armenian identity on its own and instead it compliments it. Some may disagree with this assessment but regardless it is just another piece that further characterizes the Armenian identity. Since Christianity has had such a major influence in our lives and it has been a part of the fabric of our society and since it is practically interwoven into our culture, it is therefore inconceivable to most Armenians to be an Armenian and not be a Christian as well. Add to that the fact that Christianity has made us very distinct from our neighbors and has kept us in an island of our own.

      In summary, we were Armenians long before we became Armenian Christians. Even though Christianity has arguably been a major part of our national makeup for nearly two thousand years, our nation has existed prior and a lot longer than it has become Christian. The Armenian national identity will remain intact even if you take away Christianity from it BUT if you do the reverse then you no longer have a national identity.

      As far as the so-called Hidden Armenians are concerned, in my humble personal opinion, they have to have Armenian blood to qualify as Armenians and that they MUST renounce Islam and should have NO choice in that. Whether they get baptized or not, further adds or takes away from their Armenian makeup. Unless we as a nation and democratically make formal changes in our way of thinking, there should be no exceptions and that they should follow our Armenian traditions as we have for centuries."

  12. Instead of our church

    Instead of our church leadership becoming an asset and light of the Armenian nation it has sadly become a liability by their oligarchic practices to immorality and now this when up to 4 million hidden Armenians could be the core of our national cause regarding our occupied lands. It's a total disgrace by the present corrupt leadership under the helm of Karekin II.

    Something drastic needs to change. As it is we are heading to a cul-de-sac/nowhere.

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