Updated: Jul 6, 2021
By Danielle Saroyan, Armenian Agenda Associate Editor
Armenian Assembly of America Yerevan Regional Director Arpi Vartanian laying a flower at the Armenian Genocide Memorial.
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.
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.
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.
Aurora Prize Selecting Committee Co-Chair George Clooney (RFE/RL Photo)
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.
Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity Inaugural Awards Ceremony
“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.