History

Learn about the history of Jinishian

The traditional homeland of the Armenians has been in the mountainous and agricultural areas of the Caucasus (former Soviet Union) and Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). Their history has been characterized by successive periods of conflict and relative peace, occupation and independence, persecution and resilient recovery.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, nearly 1.5 million Armenians perished in the Turkish and Ottoman Empire, the result of genocide attributed to the Turks. That most Turks dispute these facts is the principal reason for continuing enmity and distrust between many Turks and Armenians, who are both ancient and contemporary neighbors. Due to dispersion caused by this post-World War I genocide and deportation, Armenians can be found today on all continents. The Republic of Armenia came to present-day independence in 1991, at the time of the demise of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Its capital is Yerevan.

Armenians have been Christian for more than 1,700 years, although administratively divided into two autonomous churches, the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox of Etchmiadzin and of Antelias, Lebanon. The acknowledged spiritual head of the ancient Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church is His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos and Supreme Head of All Armenians, resident at the Holy See of Etchmiadzin, Republic of Armenia. Significant numbers of Armenian Catholics and Armenian Evangelicals are present in the Republic of Armenia and especially in the diaspora.

The Jinishian Memorial Program (JMP) has operated in the Middle East since 1967 and in the Republic of Armenia since 1994. Prior to the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, JMP programs were active in those two countries.

In the 35th year after its founding by Vartan H. Jinishian and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Jinishian Memorial Program (JMP) published a brief historical account of its own origins and the resulting humanitarian and spiritual work among Armenians as an ecumenical relief and development agency. “Serving the Least of These” by Sylvia Casberg Guinn-Ammons, published in 2001, is available to order free of charge or you may download a printable online version. You may order a copy by calling (888) 728-7228 x5293.

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Click on the questions below to learn more about the Jinishian program.

Who was Vartan H. Jinishian?
How and when was the Jinishian Memorial Program founded?
Why is the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) involved?
Where is the Jinishian Memorial Program active today?
How is the Jinishian Memorial Program administered?

WHO WAS VARTAN H. JINISHIAN?

Vartan H. JinishianVartan H. Jinishian was born in 1870 in Marash, Turkey, the oldest son of the Reverend Haroutune Jinishian and Mrs. Catherine Jinishian. He later named his endowment fund in honor of his parents, emigrants to America in the early 20th century. Near the end of the 19th century, he moved to France and finally to the United States. After arriving in New York, his first job was as an English teacher. He later joined a firm owned by another Armenian, Mihran Karageuzian. He became a partner in that firm, and it pioneered the manufacture of oriental rugs and carpets. Vartan H. Jinishian was also a collector of fine art and imported oriental carpets. He invested in real estate in New York City, especially in Manhattan. He maintained membership in both the Armenian Evangelical Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

HOW AND WHEN WAS THE JINISHIAN MEMORIAL PROGRAM FOUNDED?

In 1966 when he was 95 years old, Vartan H. Jinishian and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) agreed to establish an endowment fund under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Although administered by the church, the agreement stipulated that it should seek the advice and counsel of a joint advisory committee, composed of five persons, both ethnic Armenians and Presbyterian officials. In the years after his death in July 1966, the fund benefited from more than $9 million in bequests. Only the interest and dividends of this fund were to be used to benefit poor and needy Armenians who lived outside the United States. The first steps of the Jinishian Memorial Program were in Aleppo, Syria, and Beirut, Lebanon.

WHY IS THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (U.S.A.) INVOLVED?

The last will and testament of Vartan H. Jinishian named the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as the recipient of the bulk of his estate. The church, therefore, has a legal obligation to carry out his wishes as expressed in the will. This was agreed to in 1966 before Jinishian’s death. It continues to be possible since the social and religious purposes set forth in Jinishian’s will coincide with the broad ecumenical and mission goals of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Expenses incurred in carrying out Vartan H. Jinishian’s stated purposes in his will are borne by the fund.

WHERE IS JINISHIAN MEMORIAL PROGRAM ACTIVE TODAY?

JMP carries out the purposes for which it was established at seven different sites in five countries, the Republic of Armenia and four countries of the Middle East. In areas where governmental social services are deficient or nonexistent, JMP offers medical, social and employment assistance to poor and needy persons as well as holistic programs, such as summer camps, for children and youth and otherwise vulnerable population sectors of the local Armenian communities.

Read illustrative stories from the Republic of Armenia and the Middle East describing how the Jinishian Memorial Program is being used.

HOW IS THE JINISHIAN MEMORIAL PROGRAM ADMINISTERED?

The Fund is invested and held by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Foundation. International program delivery is the responsibility of the General Assembly Mission Council of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) administrators of the Jinishian Memorial Program benefit from regular advice and counsel as offered by the United States Advisory Committee (USAC) as established in the Jinishian will and local advisory committees in each of the seven sites where the program is active.