Darfur

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Torch for Darfur comes to Armenia

Armenian Assembly of America
PRESS RELEASE
September 25, 2007

ARMENIAN ASSEMBLY ORGANIZES SYMBOLIC OLYMPIC TORCH RELAY IN ARMENIA

Event Uniting Genocide Survivors Calls for End to Darfur Atrocities

Yerevan, Armenia - As part of its ongoing commitment to increase awareness of past and current genocides and end the atrocities in Darfur, the Armenian Assembly today joined His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, the Archbishop of Canterbury [[Rowan Williams]], Armenian Genocide survivors and other human rights activists for a symbolic torch lighting ceremony honoring genocide victims and survivors worldwide.

Dream for Darfur, a global advocacy campaign, organized an "Olympic Torch Relay" which aims to use the Olympic ideals of peace and international cooperation to raise awareness of Darfur as a step toward building an international anti-genocide movement for the future.

During today's event, held at the Tsitsernakaberd Genocide Memorial, Archbishop Williams lit the torch from the eternal flame and passed it among survivors of genocide in remembrance of all those who lost their lives in Darfur and in previous atrocities.

"Today, we honored victims and survivors of genocides of the past century, linking them together through our passing of a torch signifying the hope that we share for an end to the violence in Darfur," said Archbishop Williams. "I join these survivors in standing up to say that although the international community has stood by silently again and again while the blood of innocent human beings is shed, we must now make the phrase 'never again' a reality."

"This flame honors those who have been lost and those who suffer; this flame celebrates the courage of those who have survived; this flame represents the hope we all share for an end to the violence and a safe return home," said Omer Ismail, a Sudanese survivor from Darfur living in the U.S.

The Armenian Assembly, through its Yerevan Office, has been leading efforts on the ground in preparation for the Olympic Torch Relay.

"Armenians worldwide understand the realities and pain of genocide, even today, 92 years after the Armenian Genocide. Today's event demonstrates our solidarity with the people of Darfur, and with all those who have been subjected to genocide," said Assembly Country Director for Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh Arpi Vartanian.

Armenia was the third stop on the Olympic Torch Relay that began on August 9 near the Darfur border exactly one year before the summer Olympics to call attention to the constructive role that China could play in the Darfur crisis. On August 15, the torch was lit in Kigali, Rwanda, at a site where thousands of Tutsis were killed after UN forces withdrew.

After Armenia, the torch will travel to various countries, including the U.S. where a relay will be held in 25 states. On October 7th, the torch will travel to Massachusetts, where communities throughout the state, including Cambridge, will be holding their own local torch relays and torch events. His Holiness Karekin II will light the torch subsequent to the Divine Liturgy at HolyTrinityArmenianApostolicChurch. Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, incoming president of the National Council of Churches in the USA and Legate of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America (Eastern) will then bring the torch to City Hall Plaza in Boston for the culminating torch lighting ceremony with communities from around the state.

"Just as important as it was for Armenians to come together in Yerevan, it is critically important for the people of Massachusetts to stand united to help bring an end to the ongoing violence and humanitarian crisis in Darfur," said Jirair Ratevosian, an activist who works closely with the Armenian Assembly and is co-chair of Massachusetts Dream for Darfur.

The Torch Relay lighting will take place on Sunday, October 7th at HolyTrinityArmenianApostolicChurch at 1:00 p.m., before joining torches >From across the state at CityHallPlaza for a culminating torch lighting ceremony at 3:30 pm. For more information, please visit www.madreamfordarfur.org.

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

NR#2007-111

Photographs can be viewed on the Assembly's Web site at the following links:

Sep._25_Photo_1_01.jpg

Caption: At a genocide commemoration ceremony at the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan, religious leaders passed a symbolic Olympic Torch to call for an end to the genocide in Darfur. From left: Samuel Kobia, General Secretary, World Council of Churches; His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians; the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Sep_25_Photo_2.jpg

Caption: Participants in the Olympic Dream for Darfur Torch Lighting Ceremony at the Armenian Genocide Memorial read a poem after lighting an Olympic-style torch. From left: Jill Savitt, Director, Dream for Darfur; Arpi Vartanian, Country Director, Armenian Assembly of America, Anoushik Boghossian, descendent of an Armenian genocide survivor; Omer Ismail, Darfurian genocide survivor; Samuel Kobia, General Secretary, World Council of Churches; His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians; the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and members of his delegation.

Sep_25_Photo_3.jpg

Caption: Jill Savitt, Director, Dream for Darfur; Anoushik Boghossian, descendent of an Armenian genocide survivor; and Omer Ismail, Darfurian genocide survivor lead religious leaders from the Armenian Genocide Memorial after lighting an Olympic-style torch to send a message to China, as host of the next Olympics, to "Bring the Olympic Dream to Darfur."