Armenian Assembly of America Participates in Genocide Commemorations in Armenia

By Danielle Saroyan

Armenian Agenda Associate Editor

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YEREVAN, AM – The Armenian Assembly of America
(Assembly) partook in the Armenian Genocide Commemorations this past weekend in
Yerevan, Armenia. The commemorations began with a wreath laying ceremony,
following by the Global Forum, a special ceremony at the Armenian Genocide
Memorial, and concluded with the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity.

Friday
afternoon, the Assembly staff laid a wreath at the Armenian Genocide Memorial
to pay their respects, on behalf of the Assembly, to the victims of the
Armenian Genocide. The memorial was filled with wreaths and flowers, with
schoolchildren reciting poems and singing songs.

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The next
day, on April 23rd, the Second Global Forum, titled “Against the
Crime of Genocide,” took place. This forum featured The Washington Post Associate Editor and Columnist David Ignatius,
George Clooney, International Association of Genocide Scholars President Dr.
Andrew Woolford, 100 Lives Co-Founder Vartan Gregorian, and International Court
of Justice Ad hoc Judge Dr. Joe Verhoeven, among other scholars.

On Sunday,
April 24, a morning ceremony was organized at the Armenian Genocide Memorial. President
Sargsyan, His Holiness Karekin II, and other officials, along with the Aurora
Prize for Awakening Humanity founders and delegation, diplomatic missions
accredited in Armenia, and many other guests from all over the world visited
the Armenian Genocide Memorial to pay their respects. Tens of thousands of
people paid their respects to the Genocide Victims and visited the Genocide
Museum-Institute.

During the
evening, Assembly Yerevan Regional Director Arpi Vartanian attended the Aurora
Prize for Awakening Humanity’s Inaugural Award Ceremony.

“This
monumental, amazing initiative undertaken by founders Noubar Afeyan, Ruben
Vardanyan, and Vartan Gregoryan is an inspiration to all of us,” Vartanian
said. “It was an incredible, moving ceremony. Throughout the ceremony, you
could hear a pin drop. People were riveted to their chairs.”

Clooney, one
of the Selection Committee Co-Chairs, gave a speech at the award ceremony. He
spoke about the current refugee crisis and honored the victims of the Armenian
Genocide. “Hitler once famously said, ‘But, who remembers Armenia?’ The answer is
the whole world. That’s who,” Clooney stated in his speech.

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH GEORGE CLOONEY’S SPEECH

The
Selection Committee received 113 unique stories and 186 nominations from 27
countries. The four Aurora Prize finalists were Marguerite Barankitse, from
Maison Shalom and REMA Hospital in Burundi; Dr. Tom Catena, from Mother of
Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan; Syeda Ghulam Fatima, the General
Secretary of the Bonded Labor Liberation Front in Pakistan; and Father Bernard
Kinvi, a Catholic priest in Bossemptele in the Central African Republic.

Serving as
Co-Chair of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee with Elie Wiesel, Clooney had
previously commented on the opportunity” to highlight and reward the relentless
work of individuals who have made personal sacrifices to help other less fortunate
people around the world.”

Clooney
announced Marguerite Barankitse from Maison Shalom and REMA Hospital in Burundi
as the inaugural Laureate of the $1 million Aurora Prize for Awakening
Humanity. She was recognized for the extraordinary impact she has had in saving
thousands of lives and caring for orphans and refugees during the years of
civil war in Burundi.

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“Our values
are human values. When you have compassion, dignity and love then nothing can
scare you, nothing can stop you – no one can stop love. Not armies, not hate,
not persecution, not famine, nothing,” Barankitse said, as she was accepted the
award.

 Several
hundred people attended the ceremony, with many guests who travelled from
around the world. The theme music for the ceremony was written by Serj Tankian,
titled “Aurora’s Dream.” Ignatius – whose paternal grandparents were from Agin,
near Kharpet – and Hasmik Papian – one of the most successful lyrical-dramatic
sopranos in the world – were the emcees of the evening. At the event, the State
Youth Orchestra performed, as well as the Two Suns Valley, a ballet performance
composed by choreographer Roudolf Kharatian, based on St. Gregory of Narek’s
Book of Lamentations.

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Caption 1: Armenian Assembly of America Yerevan Regional Director Arpi Vartanian
laying a flower at the Armenian Genocide Memorial.

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Caption 2: Armenian Assembly of America Summer Internship Program Coordinator in Armenia Ani Boghossian, Translator Nelli Tulumbajyan, Regional Analyst Alin Ozinian, Regional Director Arpi Vartanian, Finance and Human Resources Director Ani Arshamian, and  Administrative Director

Armen Simonian laying a wreath in honor of the
victims of the Armenian Genocide.

Photo Caption 3: 

Aurora Prize Selecting Committee Co-Chair George Clooney (RFE/RL)

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Caption 4: Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity Inaugural Awards Ceremony

About Armenian Assembly of America

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.

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