Friday Flavors of Armenia returned to St. Peter's Armenian Church in Watervliet Friday night, where they hosted another opportunity for the community to come through and get Armenian meals to go. While the church hosted a similar event earlier in the year to replace its annual festival, due to COVID-19, there is even more purpose this time around as they raised money for a war going on in a small territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
What You Need To Know
- St. Peter's Armenian Church hosted its second week of Flavors of Armenia, a drive-thru meal experience it offered in lieu of its annual festival earlier in the year, but for the last two weeks, they have been donating proceeds to relief efforts in the Republic of Artsakh
- Between last week's event and recent Capital Region rallies, the group sent a $23,000 donation to ArmeniaFund
- Several weeks ago, Azeri aggressors began to try to take control of a small territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan, known as Artsakh
"The greater Armenian community they love our food, they love our people, they get to drive by the church, they can pick up a meal and they can donate towards our relief efforts to Armenian and Artsakh," said Rev. Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian, the parish priest at St. Peter's Armenian Church.
Doudoukjian says between last week's drive-thru Flavors of Armenia and the local rallies the Armenian community in Upstate New York have hosted so far, they donated $23,000 to relief efforts overseas.
But they're not stopping there. Sonya Minassian, an organizer of the local rallies, says they want people who are not Armenian to know what's going on.
"When you have two very large, predominantly Muslim countries, essentially trying to swallow up a very small Christian nation, it really raises a huge red flag," Minassian said.
Both Doudoukjian and Minassian say it's important for all people to be educated and informed about what's happening in Artsakh. The region, which is also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, is a disputed territory that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.
It is a small territory with an overwhelming Armenian ethnic majority that is governed as a de-facto independent province called the Republic of Artsakh. Turkey and Israel are aiding Azerbaijan in a war for control of the territory, a war that Armenians say they don't want.
"We are not the aggressors in this situation," Doudoukjian said. "We're really fighting in self-defense to protect our people and our homeland."
It's all too familiar for Armenians, who feel Turkey is aiding Azeri forces to finish what they started in 1915. The Armenian Genocide has still not been formally recognized by any U.S. president, but last year, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution recognizing it, and the U.S. House of Representatives also passed it with an overwhelming majority. But today, few lawmakers have said anything about the conflict.
"We want our government to be engaged," Minassian said. "I think that we're such a powerful country that we really do have the power to kind of intervene and say, 'What are we really arguing about here? Let's try to come to some sort of a resolution in a peaceful way.'"
While the food is bringing folks together, they're hoping this will also start an education campaign among non-Armenians who aren't aware of the issue.
"This isn't an Armenian issue alone, it's really a humanitarian type of issue," Minassian said.
"All Armenians throughout this earth are right now are as unified as they ever have been. It doesn't matter if you're a quarter Armenian, a tenth Armenian, married to an Armenian, adopted Armenian, or even just a friend of an Armenian, we're all threaded together in the fight for this land, for who we are as a people," Doudoukjian said.
There have been rallies happening across the United States for several weeks now.
Armenians across the Capital Region are also coming together again this weekend, hosting a car Rally for Artsakh leaving from St. Peter's Armenian Church at 1 p.m. on Saturday, October 17.
There are two additional local rallies planned next weekend as well:
- One rally is planned for Saturday, October 24 at the corner of Wolf Road and Central Ave. in Colonie at 1 p.m.
- The second, Rally for Armenia, an educational event, is set for Sunday, October 25 from 2-3 p.m. at Niskayuna Town Hall.
Both events require masks and social distancing.
You can find out more information about the conflict and about rallies happening across the country at ANCA.org.