On Saturday, March 25, some 700 people gathered at New York’s St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral for a remarkable musical event in remembrance of the late journalist Hrant Dink on the 10th anniversary of his assassination. The occasion also marked the 90th anniversary of the Constantinople Armenian Relief Society (CARS), which organized the concert and its related events.
The evening began with a grand choral concert piece by composer Majak Toshigian and lyricist Bercuhi Berberyan. The “Hrant Dink Contemporary Oratorio” was performed under the direction of Kris D. Kalfayan, with soloists Karin Cubukcuyan Bozkurt, Elie Berberian, and Bogos Yegyazar.
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), presided and made remarks about the legacy of Hrant Dink. “It is incumbent upon us to recommit ourselves to continuing the mission of Hrant Dink,” Archbishop Barsamian said. “That mission is to create awareness in Turkish society about the Armenian Genocide, and to seek ways to bring about a peaceful reconciliation with Turkey.”
The Primate said that Hrant Dink succeeded in reaching Turkey’s intellectuals and members of the media, but noted that the seeds he planted must continue to be nourished by the Armenian community.
He referred to Rakel Dink’s message, which Hrant Dink’s wife issued on the 10th anniversary of his assassination in January, in which she quotes from the Gospel of Matthew: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
A dinner followed in Haik and Alice Kavookjian Auditorium, where some 450 people gathered to mark CARS’ milestone. The organization’s president, Tamar Kayserian, was honored with a Pontifical encyclical of blessing from His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians.
“For more than ten years you have been leading CARS,” the letter from His Holiness said. “Thanks to the tireless dedication of people like you, our cultural organizations continue to serve our people in the diaspora and in our homeland. You are a true servant of the Armenian Church and an active participant in the life of the Eastern Diocese.”
Archbishop Barsamian expressed his appreciation to CARS for their work in the Armenian community. He recalled how he came to know the leaders of the organization decades ago, when he first arrived in the United States as a young clergyman.
“I know CARS continues to carry out its mission with passion and dedication, and it gives me great joy to see the fruits of their labor,” he said. “I congratulate Tamar for this well deserved honor.”
CARS was founded in Istanbul (Constantinople) in the late 1920s to help the city’s Soorp Pirgich Armenian Hospital, and soon expanded its mission to assist Armenian refugees in the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide. In the wake of the 1988 earthquake in Armenia, CARS was active in the relief effort and later channeled its energy to rebuilding independent Armenia.
“The fact that CARS is still around after 90 years of functional existence and beyond the scope of its initial purpose,” Kayserian said.
She added, “We are tremendously pleased with the outcome of this memorial concert, a huge crowd and a great enthusiasm.”
The March 25 event was organized by the Constantinople Armenian Relief Society with the participation of 13 cultural, educational, and philanthropic organizations: AGBU Performing Arts, Knights and Daughters of Vartan, Tekeyan Cultural Association of Greater New York, Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society, Armenian Missionary Association of America, Armenian-American Support and Educational Center, National Association for Armenian Studies and Research, Gomidas Choir, Esayan-Getronagan Alumni, Tibrevank Alumni, Armenian American Youth Center, Armenian Engineers and Scientists of America, and Armenian Radio Hour of New Jersey.