AGBU President Berge Setrakian Underscores Organization’s Dedication to Homeland-Diaspora Symbiosis in Latest Visit to Armenia

sarkisian  On March 22, 2009, AGBU President Berge Setrakian arrived in Yerevan for
discussions with Armenia’s leaders on the challenges faced by the
Armenian people and issues pertaining to homeland-diaspora relations, in
light of new international, regional and Armenian community realities,
as well as to follow up on, give new impetus to, and bring into focus
the goals of AGBU’s programs in the homeland.
In the course of this visit, Setrakian met with His Holiness Karekin II,
Catholicos of All Armenians, Serge Sargsian, President of the Republic
of Armenia, Tigran Sargisian, Prime Minister of Armenia, Hovik
Abrahamian, President of the National Assembly, Hranush Hakobyan,
Minister of Diaspora, Edward Nalbandian, Minister of Foreign Affairs,
and Spartak Seyranian, Minister of Education, accompanied by members of
the AGBU Central Board of Directors, Vasken Yacoubian and Yervant
Zorian, the Vice Chairman of the AGBU SCDC Haig Messerlian, and the
directors of the AGBU Representative Office in Armenia.
vaskenAt his March 23 meeting with the Minister of Diaspora Hranush Hakobyan,
Setrakian stressed the necessity of adopting a strategy that goes beyond
traditional approaches and organizations, taking the new diasporan
realities into consideration. A strategy based on a clear analysis of
priorities that address the interests of young diasporan Armenians who
are not involved or feel distanced from traditional Armenian community
life. During the meeting, Minister Hakobyan expressed her satisfaction
about the productive activities being carried out by AGBU in both the
homeland and the diaspora. She also presented a brief overview of the
ministry’s programs for maintaining national identity and bringing
Armenians together, along with programs adopted by the Armenian
president and government to foster cooperation between Armenia and
Armenian communities around the world.
Setrakian acknowledged the importance of the activities of the Diaspora
Ministry, wherein the balanced merger of civil society and governmental
approaches will inevitably lead to anticipated results. Special emphasis
was placed on programs developed by AGBU in recent years that provide
social and academic experiences to diasporan Armenian youth in Armenia,
in light of the potential these programs have in raising awareness and
cultivating a sense of national identity.
Following this meeting, Setrakian met with Spartak Seyranian, Armenia’s
Minister of Education and Science. During the meeting, issues of mutual
interest were discussed, especially those pertaining to AGBU’s
educational programs, and particularly the soon-to-be-launched AGBU
Virtual College. Through the application of the latest information
technology, this new AGBU initiative creates opportunities for
individuals scattered all over the world to access credit-bearing and
in-depth information on topics of Armenian language, history, and
culture.
The same day, Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargisian received
Setrakian and Vasken Yacoubian of the AGBU Central Board. Prime Minister
Sargisian expressed thanks to AGBU and its leader personally, adding
that he was satisfied with the course of the implementation of projects
underway by AGBU. Setrakian stated that through its projects in the
homeland, AGBU is engaged in the task of connecting members of the young
diasporan Armenian generations to their national roots and inspiring
them with the reality of the homeland. He expressed the conviction that
while the impact of traditional organizations and their activities has
weakened in the diaspora,
and the new generation is distancing itself from Armenian life and
gradually losing the language, Armenia remains the only strong foothold
that can inspire and energize the youth and ignite in them an interest
and pride in their identity and heritage.
On March 24, President Setrakian and Vasken Yacoubian were received by
Hovik Abrahamian, President of the National Assembly of the Republic of
Armenia. The president of the National Assembly highly praised AGBU’s
activity in Armenia and welcomed the programs aimed at acquainting the
youth with national traditions, culture and history, while strengthening
their ties with the homeland. Setrakian underlined AGBU’s commitment to
continue its extensive programs in the homeland despite the
international financial and economic crisis. He noted AGBU’s vision of
building a contemporary center in Yerevan for young Armenian specialists
and intellectuals, endowed with all the necessary resources.
Later on, Setrakian and Yacoubian had a meeting with Armenian Foreign
Minister Edward Nalbandian and they discussed supporting Armenia’s
foreign policy, defending Armenian rights and assisting Armenian
diplomatic missions abroad.
The same day, His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians,
received Setrakian at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. During the
meeting, Setrakian underscored the important role of the Armenian Church
and clergy in the spiritual and national life of the Armenian people,
pointing out the necessity of putting the priority of that role above
other issues.
On March 25, the opening of the new building of the sports and cultural
center took place in the Nubarashen district of Yerevan. In cooperation
with the World Bank and Armenian Social Investment Fund, AGBU helped
realize the Nubarashen Sports and Cultural Center by underwriting more
than 55 percent of the overall cost. In response to journalists’
questions, Setrakian expressed joy for the opening of such a building in
the community founded by Boghos Nubar, which can be considered a payment
of respect for the memory of AGBU’s founder. Participating in the
opening ceremony were President Setrakian, AGBU Central Board of
Directors members Vasken Yacoubian and Yervant Zorian, World Bank
Executive Director Rudolf Yan Trefers, Armenian Social Investment Fund
Director Ashot Kirakosian, Nubarashen community leader Mher
Hovhannisian, colleagues of the community administrative center, and
prominent community figures.
The same day, Setrakian and other AGBU leaders attended an awards
ceremony for the Yerevan finals of the Yerevan Republican
Interscholastic Chess Olympiad. For the second year in a row, AGBU is
sponsoring the interscholastic chess Olympiad, together with Armenia’s
Ministry of Education and Science and the Chess Academy of Armenia. The
sponsorship of the interscholastic chess Olympiad is one of AGBU’s
newest youth programs and it is designed to generate interest in chess
and identify future talents, through whom Armenia can maintain its
standing as a frontrunner in international chess competitions.
In the evening of the same day, President of the Republic of Armenia
Serge Sargsian received AGBU President Berge Setrakian. During their
meeting, President Sargsian expressed high appreciation for AGBU’s
activity in Armenia and the diaspora for the benefit of the nation and
preservation of the Armenian identity. He also hailed the organization’s
new programs in Armenia.
Setrakian, in turn, briefed the Armenian President on AGBU’s upcoming
programs. They spoke about preserving the diaspora’s potential, rallying
diasporan Armenians around national goals and maintaining the Armenian
identity. During their meeting, Sargsian and Setrakian exchanged
opinions about certain national issues of political significance.
On the evening of March 25, Berge Setrakian and the members of the
Central Board of Directors had a meeting with the staff of the AGBU
Armenian Virtual College (AVC), to assess the work being done in the
various developmental aspects of the program. AVC has already launched a
pilot version of their initiative which is open to the public for review
and feedback at www.avc-agbu.org.

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