15 May 2017
The organization continues to expand the reach of the global Armenian nation
For the third year in a row, the Central Board gathered in London for a critical conference that brought together leadership and the local community for a weekend of events that emphasized the role of young leaders and provided an opportunity to cultivate a shared vision.
The weekend featured a series of meetings to expand the reach of the global Armenian nation. The meetings welcomed participants from the AGBU Central Board, Europe District Committee and 16 Young Professionals (YP) groups from around the world to build on the on-going dialogue that AGBU began at its 89th General Assembly and 110th Anniversary Weekend in New York last October. The lively discussions in London focused on four key pillars of the organization (humanitarian; culture and identity; education; and socio-economic development) to develop ways and means to move forward as a people and an organization.
The topics addressed the vision of AGBU and its goal of increasing the visibility of Armenians on the world stage. AGBU’s role in Armenia as an agent for change was a prominent focus of the meetings as well as discussions surrounding local strategy for attaining exponential reach by forging ties beyond the Armenian community. Partnerships have been a major means through which AGBU has sought to make its mark. In the past year, the organization has engaged in strategic partnerships with international organizations, including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Smithsonian Institution; the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); the European Union and the Eurasia Partnership Foundation; and most recently the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF) and the Shoah Foundation. These partnerships provide AGBU with new opportunities to make a more profound impact in reaching out to the global community.
The participation of the Young Professionals (YP) in implementing ideas was also underscored as essential for the success of AGBU initiatives. “These meetings were designed to bring in the YP leadership from around the world, to connect them and provide an opportunity to share respective experiences. Gladly, we covered many topics and I am confident that the leaders will continue based on what we saw,” said AGBU board member Yervant Zorian.
The weekend closed with an intimate dinner on Saturday, hosted by AGBU Central Board member Dr. Armen Sarkissian and his wife Nouneh, at the Dorchester Hotel. The evening, emceed by Camilio Azzouz, featured a keynote address by Eric Esrailian, who was also honored with his wife Melina, for their tireless work on The Promise and its worldwide promotion. “When there has never been a major motion picture on the Armenian Genocide that has reached millions of people, you have to design a film that is accessible. The most important aspect of The Promise is that it is not just for Armenians. Silence and denial are destructive for generations because we all bear the scars of what our ancestors have gone through and not just Armenians—African-Americans, Native-Americans, people around the world who have dealt with atrocities feel these scars generations deep,” said Esrailian. As part of the weekend, the meeting participants were treated to a special screening of The Promise, the first big-budget, wide-release film to depict the Armenian Genocide, and encouraged to reflect on the universality of the its message.
Saturday evening saw The Promise’s impulse to give non-Armenians insight into Armenian experiences manifested in yet another way. Benjamin Devoy—a British student at Queens’ College in Cambridge, England—was invited to speak before the guests about his experience during the Yerevan Summer Internship Program (YSIP) last summer. Devoy was the first intern to participate in YSIP’s Dikran Knadjian Medical Internship, which enables one non-Armenian medical student to pursue a fully-funded internship in Armenia: “A continuing theme I experienced in Armenia was the collective effort of individuals who wanted to help. Armenia has gone through a lot and still faces some major problems. It is a testament to the people there and Armenians abroad that has propelled a huge movement to improve conditions. I’m very grateful to have had my internship experience and to learn firsthand about the country,” said Devoy.
While the weekend of events emphasized young AGBU leaders, it was also a chance to pay tribute to two members who have served as remarkable local leaders: Berge Azadian and Assadour Guzelian, two former chairmen of the AGBU London Trust and prominent figures in the community, who have offered AGBU decades of dedicated leadership and service. They served the organization with a life-long commitment and are examples from which the burgeoning generation of leaders can draw strength.