Fr. Mesrop Aramian: “We should bolster the present”

On the threshold of the Armenian Genocide Centennial, Mediamax continues a series of interviews with the intellectuals of Armenia and the Diaspora. It is an attempt to collect opinions as to whether the Armenian Genocide Centennial will serve a certain “New Beginning” for Armenians or not.

Our today’s interlocutor is Fr. Mesrop Aramian.

- What significance does the centenary of the Armenian Genocide bear for you?

- It’s difficult to give one clear definition. Since childhood it has been an oppressive topic for me and I have always had the desire to liberate myself from it. But is it possible to liberate from the memory, which is a constituent of your identity?

When shooting “From Ararat to Zion” movie I had the chance to be in the land of my ancestors. I visited Mush and went to Holy Apostles Church of Mush. It was a frightening feeling… there were bones scattered around as some are constantly looking for the “gold of Armenians.” You don’t know who those bones belong to. Do they belong to Movses Khorenatsi or to David the Invincible? No trace of the grave of our greatest figures remains.

I had the feeling of a stolen history. Genetically, we are an ancient nation, but in reality there is the abyss of the Armenian Genocide between our antiquity and present. The Genocide severs our natural link with our antiquity and complicates our communication with our own history over-the-top.

In this regard, we are also new nation and our present is somehow accounted by the Genocide. This tragedy has rifted our identity and it’s hard to understand how we should treat it.

The Centenary should serve as a new beginning and new thoughts. Memory is a sanctity for us owing to which we should purify ourselves and get rid of certain complexes and realize that our power should be in creation. It has been the significance of our nation. We have been a creative nation for ages. For many ages we have managed to create our own in the sphere of art, education and spirituality. We have managed to leave unique traces in everything. Owing to that, we can overcome the implications of the Genocide, the complex of a victim.

The Genocide severs our natural link with our antiquity and complicates our communication with our own history over-the-top.

I would like the millennium to be a millennium of a creative soul for Armenians. The challenges are a myriad – we live in a painstaking period. Nowadays, spiritual, cultural and educational genocides can be implemented without shedding blood. Nations that will not comprehend the gravity of the moment will very quickly appear in the margins of the history.

-What should be done to shun it?

-Nations should be united not only by their history and present but also by their future. If we understand where we are heading to together and if that path is encouraging, then we can forget the current contradictions as the goal is stately and inspiring.

Any program for future depends on human qualities and resources. Unfortunately, Armenia and the Diaspora love erecting buildings but they very often forget to inhabit those buildings with capable people. Investments made in projecting human resources and creating relevant qualities are very poor. It is vivid in the education sector. We must understand what type of person we are preparing through education to carry out that program.

We tend to think that if our fathers were smart, then we are ensured against stupidity. But we are not.

What has made us strong through the ages? Which is the phenomenon of Armenians in the history? It’s our unique spiritual values and education. It’s owing to what we have survived at least in the last 1500 years. In the 21st century that all people have entered a phase of rapid development of education we have no right to cede our positions. Today we cannot claim to be one of the leading countries in the education sector just like we used to be in early 20th century when the Armenian schools of Constantinople, Tbilisi and Moscow were deemed to be the best.

Our attitude to the spiritual also needs to be changed. We tend to think that if our fathers were smart, then we are ensured against stupidity. But we are not. Wisdom was carved out owing to a certain soul. If we have that soul, then we are its successor, if we don’t, then we are poor.

Very often parallels are drawn between Armenians and Jewish people. There do exist similarities but there are also a number of differences. They are well obvious in the attitude of Jewish people to their religion and spiritual values, and it’s what transforms them into a powerful force in the world.

Culture is not just a heritage. It should be alive and live in the human’s life. When you take something for a sacred object, you stand ready to fight for it.

- Can the National Program for Education Excellence developed by you contribute to overcome the mentioned issues?

- The National Program for Education Excellence is one of the most important programs among reforms in the education sector. Based on the elaborations and practices of Ayb Educational Foundation and Ayb School we have worked out a program, which is competitive in all terms. Reputable international experts and organizations assert this. We had the wish to make our best practices available for all the Armenian children for no child to be deprived of that opportunity.

The National Program for Education Excellence has two elements. One of them is the educational program and the next is the teacher. Obviously, the quality of education depends on the quality of the teacher. Of course, the teacher should be armed with relevant educational technologies. Our education program – “Ararat Baccalaureate” – is currently being finalized. We are planning to complete its international registration by late this year.

We are presently engaged in creating the procedures for teacher training and are preparing the specialists. We are basically establishing an entire institution, which should be able to prepare new generation teachers.

The program has been debated over with all stakeholders in all regions in Armenia and has passed a large phase of public discussions. The interest to it was quite high. Thousands of people took part in discussions.

During the discussions we felt respect, love and trust to what we are doing. But people were coming not only to learn information about the program but to regain their faith in doing something together.

Although the discussions were large-scale, I have observed great lack of analytical and critical thinking and speech. In general, the idea and speech have retreated in our society.

- What can be done to make speech and content more important in our daily life? During one of discussions of your program you once said: “In early 20th century, Adjarian, Manandian, Yervandian and Komitas used to teach at Gevorkian Seminary. A meeting with them was enough to revolutionize the souls of people and to light a fire in their hearts.” But today we no longer have Adjarians or Komitases.

-There is really deficiency in intellectual authorities. But the epoch has changed and today we live in an epoch of technocrat thinking.

Yes, we don’t have Adjarians and Komitases in our present-day reality. But it does not mean we cannot have. Adjarians and Komitases should be a result of and be born from public longings. When you live clinging to certain ideals, in the end people complying with these ideals emerge.

If this nation has given birth to Narekatsi, it means there was a huge army of people seeking perfection through prayers. Tens of thousands of people had withdrawn from the world seeking spiritual perfection and had asked the brightest and most brilliant person to write a prayer guidebook for the spiritual life. It’s how the Book of Prayers (a.k.a. the Book of Lamentations) was created.

We need a process which will “produce” people. I am sure that we are continuously giving birth to talents and geniuses but they either “dissolve” or “decay.”

Adjarians and Komitases should be a result of and be born from public longings. When you live clinging to certain ideals, in the end people complying with these ideals emerge.

Very often societies get caught in a trap of fake values. And today as well the Armenian society has appeared in illusions of fake values. You can see it from what children want to become when they are called for interview for Ayb School admission. Almost all of them want to become an economist and work at the bank, close to money. Obsession with money has become one of the diseases of our society. Decadent times happen but if people find the right impetuses, then the reality changes. Sometimes people lie to themselves and end up confronting their own “hollow.” What matters are the subsequent steps – how and what to make up that hollow with.

A Greek philosopher once said “what I have is within me” and this should be adopted as an important motto for and among our people. If we want to be free people, we should first of all understand that what we have is within us. Money can’t make us a fortune and neither can it enlighten us. On the contrary, it can make us even poorer and blind.

-What should make the new generation feel proud of being an Armenian?

-Our heritage makes us one of the richest nations in the world. There are very few nations that have managed to accumulate such values.

But we also need to bolster our present. We need powerful stories and we also need to enlarge the scale of these stories. Ayb, Tumo Center for Creative Technologies and UWC Dilijan College are among those strong stories. There is need for such stories to increase and expand.

The National Program for Education Excellence is already a reality. We hope to have the international registration of “Ararat Baccalaureate” completed this year. It will be one of the few excellence platforms in the world and the only one in Armenian. By 2019, we will have 13 schools of “Ararat Baccalaureate” in Armenia and Artsakh. Afterwards, this education program will make its way to all high schools. The Diaspora has also expressed its desire to join with several schools to this network.

We must be proud to have overcome difficulties that other nations did not manage to overcome and simply perished. After all, we have overcome the Genocide and have become a surviving nation. Our today’s life is the pledge of it. There is need to reinforce that life.

It requires a dream and a vision and not reveries and ungrounded programs. A feasible dream is conceived from faith and is a service for all of us. We have all preconditions for a big flight and great human potential to overcome heights. All this is indeed possible. We just need to have faith and creation will follow.

Ara Tadevosyan talked to Fr. Mesrop Aramian

April 22, 2015 10:13