[Dallas, Texas] The Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee sponsored a Candlelight Vigil in front of the Dallas City Hall on Friday April 24, 2015. The event drew about 400 attendees on one of the stormiest afternoons Dallas had ever seen.
On that somber occasion, there was a lot of excitement, because the day before, on Thursday April 23, 2015, the Armenian Church had canonized the martyrs of the Genocide who perished adhering to their faith. The loss was transformed into a celebration of their sainthood.
The hall was filled with the Armenian community wearing “a sea of purple”, the t-shirts commemorating the Genocide, as well as many from sister churches and communities who brought their flags to display. The Centennial commemoration was heightened by the solidarity shown for the common cause of stopping genocide worldwide.
The City of Dallas provided a huge hall inside the building to host this event. Members of the media were present, along with a mega screen behind a makeshift stage, and even the darkest weather could not dampen the spirits of the attendees. Diran Aznavour wowed everyone with a masterful creation of a video program to run simultaneously with some presentations, combining pictures, videos and music.
The Chairman of the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee of Dallas-Fort Worth Hamlet Sarokhanian welcomed everyone and emphasized that although we were commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, we were also mindful of the other genocides that happened around the world, and that our goal was to raise awareness of the destructive nature of genocide, and prevent future genocides.
The chairman of the April 24 event, Lusine Meeks, expressed the gratitude of the Armenians for the hospitality of the United States, Texas and the City of Dallas. She invited the flags of the United States, Texas, Armenia and the various nations represented in the hall on the stage.
Father Ghevond Ajamian took the stage and reiterated the joy we felt at the canonization of the martyrs, and encouraged all to pray for those who have, and continue to, harm others. As a Priest of St. Sarkis Church, he introduced the church’s choir, who sang “Soorp, Soorp” (“Holy, Holy”) soulfully led by Deacon Sarkis Altunian.
Dr. Rick Halperin, Director of the Embrey Human Rights Program at the Southern Methodist University spoke next with a message that more condemnation and world awareness will help decrease the occurrence of such heinous acts of genocide.
There was a very bright moment in the dark and stormy exterior of City Hall when Rita Katanjian, the lead soprano of the St. Sarkis Church choir took the stage to sing “The Prayer” much to the delight of all.
Ludmila Kachkar, publisher of The Dallas Telegraph newspaper, representing local Ukrainian community, built the bridge between Armenian Genocide and Ukrainian Holodomor.
She was followed by the outstanding Ukrainian Children’s Choir. Their performance and the colorful costumes of the representatives of the Ukrainian community reminded all that Dallas is a multicultural center.
Then Gene Wilkes, President of B. H. Carroll Theological Institute gave a positive message of the power of forgiveness and the bounty of the Lord’s promise to those who would follow in his path of righteousness and compassion. His message had a profound influence on the audience.
As the thunderstorms rolled outside, and darkness fell ominously on Dallas, there was a minute and a half of silence in memory of the Genocide victims. It was almost like the weather was angry at the perpetration of such inhumane acts in 1915.
When the event was almost over, the whole place boomed with a heartfelt singing of “Erebuni” along with the video of the Kohar ensemble. The skies became brighter, sunshine emerged, and there was a colorful rainbow as everyone went outside with candles in hand. Many of the candles could not be kept lit in the strong wind, but the storm had passed and everyone went home appreciating being part of this historic April 24 Centennial Commemoration.
By Mary Mukhtarian
Photo by Serge Taran