News > Iraqi Kurdistan Armenians > Archbishop Asadourian visits the Armenians in the Iraqi Kurdistan
For the past 30 years as Primate of the Armenian Diocese of Iraq, Archbishop Avak Asadourian constantly visited the Armenian communities throughout Iraq.
During the past 30 years Iraqis have witnessed three wars and a 13 year old embargo which had grave consequences on all Iraqis, including the Armenians. It is for this specific reason that His Eminence saw it his duty to constantly visit his flock especially during times of upheaval and difficulties.
This time Archbishop Avak paid a pastoral visit to the Kurdistan region of Iraq accompanied by Mr. Baruir Hagopian, chairman of the Diocesan Council.
From 18 to 27 August 2009, Archbishop Asadourian and the accompanying delegation visited the Armenian communities of Erbil, Duhok, Avzroog, Havresk, Zakho and then back to Erbil.
On 18 August 2009, in the city of Ankawa, Province of Erbil, His Eminence and Mr. Hagopian had a meeting with Fr. Arakel Kasparian, parish priest of the Holy Echmiadzin Armenian Church of Mosul and two parish council members. Because of the dangerous situation in Mosul city, half of the Armenians of that city relocated their residence to the cities of Erbil, Duhok, Zakho and the-totally-Armenian village of Havresk. At this time there are 91 families in Mosul totaling 252 Armenian individuals.
The parish priest and the parish council members of Kirkuk paid a courtesy visit to His Eminence.
Next day, on 19 August 2009, Archbishop Asadourian and the delegation traveled to the city of Duhok, accompanied by Mr. Razmik Muradian, the chairman of the newly established Armenian community of Erbil. Mr. Muradian is the general manager of Ishtar TV. He accompanied the delegation coming for the entire time they were in the north of Iraq.
Saint Nersess Shnorhali Church of Duhok city was consecrated almost a year ago. On 19 August 2009, His Eminence was welcomed by Fr. Masis Shahinian, parish priest of the Armenian community of Duhok, together with parish council members. After welcoming ceremonies His Eminence and Mr. Hagopian held extensive meetings with Fr. Masis and parish council members regarding the issues facing the newly established Armenian parish of Duhok . There are 49 families totaling 226 Armenians in Duhok city, some of them coming from Mosul and Baghdad.
On 20 August 2009, His Eminence and Mr. Hagopian together with the other members of the delegation, paid an official visit to Mr. Gorgis Burwari, the lieutenant-governor of Duhok Province. Archbishop Asadourian presented the needs of the Armenians of Duhok to the city officials with the understanding that these needs will be attended to soon.
On 21 August 2009, the Primate celebrated Divine Liturgy and delivered the sermon at St. Nersess Shnorhali Armenian Church in Duhok. After services a luncheon was hosted in honor of the guests. In the afternoon the Archbishop visited a number of Armenian families.
On 22 August 2009, the delegation traveled to the totally-Armenian-village of Avzroog. At the entrance of the village Archbishop Asadourian was met by Fr. Apel Aprahamian, Fr. Artoon Khalatian, parish council members together with a big number of villagers. His Eminence celebrated Divine Liturgy at St. Vartan Church of Avzroog village. His sermon was translated to Kurdish by Fr. Apel as most of the Armenian villagers speak only Kurdish. In his sermon the Archbishop emphasized that "becoming and remaining good Christians is an everyday decision that will help us to stay Armenians throughout our lives true to our Christian faith, Mother Church and national heritage of our forefathers". After the Liturgy a lunch was hosted in honor of the Primate and Mr. Hagopian with the partaking of the entire village. In the parish hall a program was presented by the Sunday School youngsters that included Armenian songs and poems. There are 70 families in Avzroog totaling 560 faithful souls.
In the afternoon of the same day, Archbishop Asadourian and the delegation visited the newly constructed village of Havresk. They were met at the entrance of the hall named after Levon Pasha Shaghoyan, who was a general from Van and had fought against the Ottoman Empire and then led many Vanetsee people to this region in the late twenties of the 20th century. After a meeting with the appointed committee members of the village a special program was presented by the youth of this village which included national songs. Here Serpazan spoke about "the necessity of maintaining our language and Christian faith which will sustain our Armenian soul to stay healthy and able to face the difficulties of everyday life which has become plentiful since the war of 2003."
The village of Havresk was reestablished in 2005 through a very generous donation by Mr. Sarkis Aghajan, at that time the minister of finance of the Kurdistan autonomous region of Iraq, who built 115 homes for former people of Havresk to relocate from Baghdad due to the lack of security in the capital of Iraq. At this time there are 115 homes adding up to 575 individuals. The Diocese is approaching some humanitarian institutions with a request of building a church and a school in Havresk.
On Sunday Morning 23 August 2009, Archbishop Asadourian and the delegation visited the city of Zakho which has had an Armenian population since the early 30's of the last century. At the entrance of St. Asdvadzadzin Church His Eminence was met by the parish priest Fr. Artoon Khalatian, parish council members and many Armenian faithful. During the Holy Liturgy (Badarak), His Eminence was assisted by Fr. Apel Aprahamian who translated Serpazan's sermon into Kurdish. After Liturgy a special meeting took place with the parish priest and the parish council members followed by a luncheon which was hosted by the Armenian population of Zakho. There are some 234 Armenian families here, totaling more than 1170 faithful.
On 24 August 2009, Archbishop Asadourian, Mr. Hagopian and the delegation returned to Erbil.
On the way His Eminence visited Aghajanian village, which is home to 24 Armenian families who had fled the city of Mosul due to the dangerous situation in this city. There are 146 Armenian faithful living here. Scattered around this area live about 32 other Armenian families with 156 individuals in the Christian cities of Qaraqosh, Bartalla and Karemles.
The blessing of grapes ceremony was conducted in the Armenian center of Ankawa city adjacent to Erbil. After the ceremony His Eminence delivered an exhortation for more than half an hour touching on numerous subjects which are of interest to the newly established community in Erbil. The number of Armenians in this capital city of Kurdistan Region is comprised of 95 families totaling 483 faithful. There are plans to build a new church with a parish house hopefully in the next year.
During the eight days of his visitation and in his capacity as General Secretary of the Council of the Christian Church Leaders in Baghdad, Archbishop Avak Asadourian met with the primates of sister churches discussing with them the important issue of establishing the Council of the Christian Church Leaders of Iraq.
It must be mentioned with gratitude that Mr. Sarkis Aghajan, previously the finance minister of the Kurdistan autonomous region in Iraq, has extended a generous helping hand to the Christian population in Iraq building for them churches, community halls, villages with living quarters. For this Christian act of generosity many patriarchs bestowed upon him medals of honor as did His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians.
As for the Armenians of Iraq His Excellency Mr. Sarkis Aghajan helped us by donating an apartment compound for the needy Armenian families in Baghdad, a new church and parish house in Duhok city, apartment complex in Zakho, two community halls one in Avzroog and another in Havresk. Also, 20 residential units were built near Karemles which Avak Serpazan named "Aghajanian village" in honor of Mr. Aghajan.
And although the donations have been generous, it must be emphasized and not forgotten that the needs, wants and requirements are much greater across all of Iraq due to the severe circumstances that all Iraqis underwent for the past six and a half years and continue to do so.
His Eminence and the delegation returned to Baghdad on Wednesday 26 August 2009.
Source: Divan of the Diocese (excerpts with adjustments)
August 30, 2009, Baghdad
Photos by Deacon Sevan Palanjian and Vahe Avedisian.
Source: Ara Ashjian's blog