Armenians Must Focus on the Future, the Positive, Says Archbishop Khajag Barsamian
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, the Armenian Apostolic Church Pontifical Legate in Western Europe, spoke to Hetq about several issues raised at the Future Armenian convention that recently took place in Yerevan.
Referring to the possible participation of diaspora Armenians in the governance of Armenia, an issue voiced at the convention, Barsamian neither supported or rejected the notion.
He compared Armenia to a “child” on the path to maturity making mistakes along the way. I think the experience of the past thirty years should also be looked at in that comparison, as a child who has just learned to walk,” Barsamian told Hetq, noting the convention has afforded people from Armenia and the diaspora to exchange views in a civilized way.
“The most important thing for me in all this is to focus on the future. Life is like that, you must dream and plan the future based on the experience of the past,” Barsamian said.
The clergyman, who represents the Catholicos of All Armenians at the Vatican, stressed the need to “focus on the positive” when it comes to Armenia’s development.
He compared the Armenia he first visited in the 1990s, a country lacking electricity, bread, and heating, with the Yerevan of today.
“Today, Yerevan has become one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. How did it happen? There were mistakes and successes in the past thirty years, so let's remember the positive. We have a wonderful young generation. Who brought that generation into the world, who raised them?”
When asked who should implement the proposals and ideas voiced at the convention to facilitate Armenia’s development, Barsamian said some programs need state-society cooperation and others can be implement by non-government actors.
“For example, in 1988 during the earthquake, we established the Armenian Relief Fund in the USA and we are still implementing very successful programs through it,” Barsamian said.
He said programs to foster immigration to Armenia can be organized by private organizations working in tandem with the Armenian government.
When asked to comment on what support Armenia can expect from the diaspora today, when the country faces a new set of challenges, including security and statehood sustainability, Barsamian noted that influential Armenians overseas can play an important role in the diplomatic sphere.
Barsamian confessed that Armenians have failed to clarify a vision for the country’s security and stability, and that this is the first step needed before any united strategy can be crafted.
‘Today, the most powerful weapon in the world is diplomacy. Recently, I was reading again how Israel became a state. There are many interesting things in that book. There’s the example of how one of the leaders of Israel wanted to meet with the US president, but his request was rejected. A Jew living in one of the distant American cities, who was once a close friend of the U.S. president, visited him and convinced him that the meeting should take place.”
When asked to comment on proposals raised at the convention for Armenians to follow the example of Israel to facilitate immigration to Armenia, Barsamian said the positive stories of diaspora Armenians relocating to Armenia must be publicized to encourage others to do the same.
“The psychological factor has a great impact. You must present the positive in everything, and it has an impact. We are now in a psychologically sick state because we haven’t thrown of the psychological onus of the Genocide. Our youth died; we lost our lands. Therefore, we must help each other and be strong to get rid of that psychological condition.”
Barsamian said the initial enthusiasm in the diaspora regarding Armenia following the country’s independence has died down.
He stressed the need for greater transparency in relations between Armenia and the diaspora.
“When I ask for people's support to implement a project, I present the purpose of the project, how it should be implemented, how much it will cost, etc. At the end of the project, we provide a report to those people who invested money. The next time, when I appeal to the same person again, if he gave 1,000 dollars last time, this time he gives 10,000 dollars. Therefore, connection, communication and transparency are very important to inspire confidence.”
(Archbishop Khajag Barsamian served as Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America from 1990 to 2018.)
(The Future Armenian convention bills itself as a “citizens assembly” with 200 participants from the Republic of Armenia, Artsakh and Diaspora, selected through transparent drawing process. The convention was organized by the Future Armenian Development Foundation funded by Noubar Afeyan, Artur Alaverdyan, Richard Azarnia, Aram Bekchian, David Tavadian, Ruben Vardanyan.)