February 22, 2014 - 15:09 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - In an era marked by violence and chaos throughout the world, more and more schools throughout the Merrimack Valley [a bi-state region along the Merrimack River in the states of New Hampshire and Massachusetts, United States], are looking to learn about the Armenian Genocide. Whether it’s in the form of a classroom presentation or panel discussion on human rights, schools are looking for answers to help curb dissention and turmoil among their fellow man, the Armenian Weekly reports.
Members of the Armenian Genocide Education Committee of Merrimack Valley have embraced a more active stand in what has become their seventh year of activity inside public high schools and colleges.
Joining the group is Dr. Ara Jeknavorian, an ANC activist and church deacon, replacing Albert S. Movsesian, a longtime presenter who retired due to health reasons.
“Ara’s presence on this committee adds a new dimension,” said Dro Kanayan, committee chairman. “His knowledge of world history and genocide studies makes him an important teaching tool in our schools. He’s prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice of time and commitment.”
A number of schools have already been approached this year, joined by newcomer Pentucket Regional High School of West Newbury, Mass. Four separate classrooms were taught about the genocide, numbering some 100 students.
More than twice that number attended an assembly on human rights titled, “The Causes and Legacies of Genocide.” Among the speakers was George Aghjayan, an historian, writer, and political activist.
Aghjayan drew from his own family accounts, including a grandmother who escaped brutality by becoming a slave.
“Prejudices still exist,” he said. “We’ve become children of the sword. Desecration is still taking place in Turkey with no admission of guilt. It behooves us all to approach the United States government and demand recognition. I hope to see the day when Armenians will have their land restored.”
Aghjayan was joined by Dr. Ivy Helman, speaking on the Jewish Holocaust, and Claude Kaitare, telling of the Rwandan Genocide.
Aghjayan was asked, “What are your impressions of why the Turkish government is not recognizing the genocide?”
“I think it’s coming,” he answered. “Whether to join the European Union or to avoid greater embarrassment. It’s been tremendously harmful to the Turks. Just look at all the money they’re spending to deny the genocide.”
At Chelmsford High, students held up signs commemorating the Armenian Genocide, joined by their instructor JJ Doak, a long-time catalyst toward genocide studies at this school.
“As young adults, make yourselves aware when you see violence in the world,” she told the students during her introduction. “You need to be upstanders, not bystanders.”
Jeknavorian presented an overview of Armenian history, covering the turbulent years and leading into the immigration process and current status. He, too, talked about his family’s experience in the genocide.
“It’s inconceivable for me to see my own children ever facing such a horror,” he lamented. “During an actual genocide, don’t assume that some guardian angel will come to the rescue. It just won’t happen. We need an action plan to stop it. We need to remain vigilant. Make your voices be heard among deniers.”
He was joined by Dr. Helman and Azem Dervisevic, who spoke about the Bosnian Genocide.
The programs have drawn press coverage from local papers. In all, a dozen schools will hear the Armenian Genocide message, including a double session at Northern Essex Community College. Two Greater Boston schools have also joined the curriculum: Melrose and Newton South. A North Shore home schooling consortium also recently welcomed Armenian Genocide education.
Additional support is being rendered through the organization Facing History and Ourselves, based in Brookline.
This April, a delegation of students and instructors from Wilmington High will be recognized during a commemoration at the Massachusetts State House for their proactive role as lobbyists.
With next year’s Centennial approaching, efforts are being made to reach out to the private school sector as well, along with major programs at the college level.
“Many of the students who have learned from this platform have turned into ambassadors for Armenian issues,” said Kanayan. “They’re writing their political constituents and federal authorizes, demanding justice for the Armenians. We’ve mobilized teachers in these schools to play an assertive role. We’ve gotten the point across and intend to continue with our mission.”