In praise of Knights of Vartan

Published: Saturday May 14, 2011

Dear Editor,

As a member of the Knights of Vartan, it was with a great sense of pride that I watched the 96th Annual Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, broadcast live, for the first time, via the internet from Times Square (New York). This is the 26th year that the Knights and Daughters of Vartan have spearheaded this monumental undertaking, often under difficult circumstances due to Turkish pressure, not to mention needless competition among our own, diverse Armenian organizations, both secular and religious. The credit for unifying these Armenian groups on this important occasion belongs to the leadership, past and present, of the Knights and Daughters of Vartan who have worked diligently over the years to foster solidarity and bring singular focus to an event so relevant to all Armenians and their future.

As a non-partisan brotherhood, the Knights of Vartan accepts all qualified Christian, Armenian men regardless of religious denomination or political affiliation. It is in this light that our leaders and their diverse cadre of activists have been able to work within all Armenian organizations to convince them of the strength in unity. Hence, the formerly, fragmented commemorations with their attendant, competition-induced stresses and negativity are now solidified, much to the chagrin of our powerful and denialist adversaries.

It is most fitting that the Knights of Vartan sponsor the yearly commemoration of the Genocide at Times Square, for the organization was expressly instituted, in 1916, to aid and assist the remnants of the Armenian population which survived the Genocide. The primary aims of the twelve founders were to champion the Armenian cause, to alleviate the suffering of the Armenian people, to ensure their safety and to train leaders to serve the religious cultural, educational and charitable needs of the Armenian people. For ninety five years, the Knights of Vartan Brotherhood has served the needs of the Armenian people here and abroad and continues its mission of preserving and perpetuating our rich and unique cultural heritage.

I commend Grand Commander Dr. Dennis Papazian for his dedicated leadership of the Knights, and Grand Matron Melene Ouzounian for her caring and devotion as leader of the Daughters of Vartan. Both gave meaningful, emphatic speeches regarding the effects of genocide and the glimmer of hope for change within Turkey as intellectual "truth-seekers" question and challenge the denialist status quo. Keynote speaker, Dr. Richard Hovannisian gave a resounding presentation of the many political and psychological aspects of genocide and how the Armenian Genocide must become a part of human history so its legacy will never be forgotten. Only by re-committing ourselves to its memory will we achieve final victory in our quest for recognition and redemption.

Interspersed among their presentations were spirited speeches by various dignitaries, including Senators, Congressmen, New York City officials, members of the clergy and representatives from the various Armenian political, religious and benevolent organizations. Beautiful choral music was provided by the Arekag Children's Choir of the Hamazkayn Educational and Cultural Society of the Eastern U.S. In short, the entire program was outstanding. Excerpts of the event can be viewed on the Knights of Vartan website:

Dr. John Farsakian
Westlake Village, CA

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