Commemoration of a Former Armenian Evangelical Scouting Program of Beirut, Lebanon

By Zaven Demirjian

Former Scouts with their Scoutmaster
Names of people from Left
1st Row: Zaven Demirjian, Dr. Steven H. Aharonian, Rev. Dr. John Khanjian, Raffi Aposhian, Nishan Basmadjian, Robert Meneshian,
2nd Row: Dr. Vicken Aharonian, Dr. Ivan Shnorhokian, Dr. Ara Tilkian, George Keushguerian, Vatche Kasparian, Barkev Tashjian

The former members of the Junior Christian Endeavor Organization of the First American Evangelical Church of Beirut, Lebanon, hosted a dinner and program on January 17, 2009 at 7:00 p.m., in the Derian Hall of the Armenian Cilicia Evangelical Church, in Pasadena, California. The guest of honor for the evening was Rev. Dr. John Khanjian, who was the organization’s prominent Youth Leader and Scoutmaster during the years of 1957 to 1962.
Rev. Kevork Terian, Pastor of the Cilicia Church, gave the invocation. He thanked God for the virtuous character and dedicated service of Dr. Khanjian, who has been a role model to his students.
Zaven Demirjian described some of the activities of the scouts. He stated that the church provided a room, that was used as a meeting place and storage area. Tents and sleeping bags were purchased at a discount from Hagop Salibian’s business. The scouts went on camping trips to different mountain locations, such as Brummana. In the winter a popular trip by train was the snow covered mountain at Dahr El Baydar.
Nishan Basmadjian presented the biography of Dr. Khanjian who was born in Aleppo Syria. He graduated from Near East School of Theology and the American University of Beirut in 1962. He also graduated from Claremont Graduate School with a Ph.D. degree in 1974. He has taught at Aleppo College,Near East School of Theology, Kansas Wesleyan University and University of La Verne. He was Dean of Students from 1987 to 1993 at the Armenian International College/University of La Verne, where Nishan also worked as Librarian. From 1995 to 2002 he was President of Haigazian College, which became a University in 1997. At Haigazian University he upgraded the academic program, the infrastructure, including the renovating and moving back to the old campus in West Beirut. Presently he is the Provost of the Evangelical Theological Academy (Seminary) of Armenia in Yerevan, which aims at training ministers and Christian workers.
Some of the former scouts shared interesting events and experiences.
Dr. Steven H. Aharonian stated that he had served with Dr. Khanjian in the Haigazian University Board. As the President of AMAA he regarded the success of the Seminary in Armenia very important for him. He was confident that Dr. Khanjian will apply his administrative experience in laying a solid foundation for the Seminary.
Dr. Vicken Aharonian appreciated the fact that his father, Rev. Hovhannes Aharonian, the President of the Near East School of Theology, had assigned Dr. Khanjian to be Youth Leader and Scoutmaster. He recalled a camping trip at the Litany River,where the scouts tried to catch frogs.
Dr. Ara Tilkian said that his father, Rev. Garabed Tilkian, being the Pastor of our church in Beruit was very busy, and he was glad that Dr. Khanjian was helping him by working with the youth. He also reminded us about “Kchag” Summer Camp, located on a beautiful Lebanese mountain covered with pine trees. Christian Endeavor groups held their summer camps and retreats in “Kchag.”
Dr. Ivan Shnorhokian reminded us about an injury to his nose after a scary fall at a campsite. First aid was applied, the wound healed, and no trace of injury remained.
A plaque was given to Dr. Khanjian in appreciation of his services to our organization. He was grateful for the affection shown to him, and he said he still considered his scouts to be adolescent “badani” at heart.
The scouts were thankful to their Scoutmaster for teaching them survival skills, endurance,moral values and to be “always ready” to serve the Lord, the church and humanity.

Source: FORUM, Sept-09 Issue

"About fifty percent of the spiritual leadership of Armenian Evangelicals was obliterated."

The annual convention of the Armenian Evangelical Union of Cilicia was to take place during the week of April 11, 1909, in Adana. Pastors and delegates from various churches set out for Adana on April 12, not knowing that they and their many friends were to be martyred. On the dawn of April 13, 1909, the massacre of the Armenian Evangelical leadership took place. Armenian Evangelical lay and clergy leaders were brutally murdered at the following four locations: Osmaniye, Chayer Aghzu, Hamidiye and Sigh Getchid.
Below are the names of those ministers and the churches they served, as well as the sites where the massacres took place:

At Osmaniye (in the Armenian Evangelical Church).—
Prof. Sarkis Levonian—Prof. at the Central Turkey College, Aintab;

Rev. Giragos Zhamgochian—Pastor, Armenian Evang. Church, Severek;
Rev. Nazareth Heghinian—Pastor, ThirdArmenian Evang. Church, Marash;
Rev. Zakaria Bedrosian— Pastor, Armenian Evang. Church, Garmouch;
Rev. Nerses Kuyumjian— Pastor,Armenian Evang. Church,Adiaman;
Rev. Setrak Ekmekjian—Pastor, First Armenian Evang. Church, Urfa;
Rev. Jirjis Shemmas—Pastor, Assyrian Evang. Church, Urfa.

At Chayir Aghzu (between the towns of Hamidiye and Osmaniye).—
Rev. Hagop Koundakjian—Pastor, Armenian Evang. Church,Hasan Beyli;
Rev. Stepan Hovhanessian—Pastor, Armenian Evang. Church, Kharne;
Rev. Garabed Kupelian—Pastor, Armenian Evang. Church, Osmaniye;
Rev. Takvor Hagopian—Pastor, Armenian Evang. Church, Baghche.

At Hamidiye.—
Rev. Markar Kaloustian—Pastor, Armenian Evang. Church, Hamidiye;
Rev. Hovagim Kayahian—Pastor, Armenian Evang. Church, Albustan.

At Sigh Gechid (near Sis).—
Rev. Hagop Albarian—Pastor, Armenian Evang. Church, Geben;
Rev. Levon Soghovmeyan—Pastor, Second Armenian Evang. Church, Hadjin;
Rev. Asadour Topalian—Pastor, Armenian Evang. Church, Fekke;
Rev. Melidon Malian—Pastor, Armenian Evang. Church, Sis;
Rev. Ardashes Boyajian—Pastor, Armenian Evang. Church, Shar;
Rev. Samule Bedrossian—Pastor, Armenian Evang. Church, Fekke.

Along with the martyred Armenian Evangelical pastors, two American missionaries, Rev. Daniel Rogers and Rev. Henry Maurer, as well as 13 lay delegates (nine men and four women) were martyred.
The Adana Massacre proved to be a rehearsal for measuring the depth of Turkish animosity in the Ottoman Empire toward the Armenians. It also became a prelude to the 1915-1923 Armenian Genocide.

One of the survivors of the Adana Massacre, who miraculously survived this calamity, was the Rev. Hampartzoum Ashjian (1863-1938), the Pastor of the Armenian Evang. Church in Adana. He played a very important role in the aftermath of the Massacre. He served as a catalyst to bring together the leaders of the various Christian communities, as well as becoming the spokesman of the Armenian community. Immediately after the great tragedy, an Inter-Church Council was formed to deal with this catastrophe. Rev. Ashjian served as the Executive Secretary of the Council. He conducted extensive correspondence with the local and central government officials as well as its chief spokesman.
Ten months of intensive work—complaints, negotiations and demands—paid off. The Governor of the Province of Adana, Jemal Bey, organized a Reconciliation Banquet on February 5, 1910, which was attended by more than 400 Turkish officials and Christian notables.
During the banquet, many speeches were made by government officials and Christian community leaders. The last speaker was Rev. Ashjian. Outraged at the terrible Massacre and carnage, and filled with a passion to cry against the Turkish iniquitous injustice being perpetrated against Armenians and other Christian minorities, he boldly made a historic speech, excerpts of which follow:

“ … trusting your eminent forgiveness, I would like to make a few requests and demands. First, we beg of our government to abstain from condemning a whole race on account of a few ignorant people. Second, we beg of Muslim compatriots not to seek their gain in the loss of others. Because of the catastrophe of Adana, we, Christians, were humiliated... Do you think this misfortune elevated our compatriots?…They fell, too… in character and moral point of view. Third, we demand from our Muslim compatriots justice and rectitude…One more word, Muslim compatriots, trust us, we sincerely love this country… Don’t torment us so much… Don’t hurt this race which has no other protector than God. Lest the patience of God be ended and His wrath be poured on this country… If you love your country, your government, your God, put an end to such conducts…let us commit no foolishness which may cause the weakening of this homeland and nation” (Rev.H.Ashjian, The Catastrophe of Adana [New York, 1950], pp. 108-112, in Armenian.

By Rev. Dr. Vahan H. Tootikian

Source: FORUM, March, 09