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Armenian struggles are topic of peacemaker visits this fall

Tamar Wasoian to bring personal perspective to churches and presbyteries

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

Dr. Tamar Wasoian. (Photo provided)

Dr. Tamar Wasoian. (Photo provided)

LOUISVILLE – For Dr. Tamar Wasoian, the historic genocide of the Armenian people between 1915 and 1918 is more than just a history lesson. Her grandparents escaped the killings of Armenian, Greek and Assyrian Christians in Asia Minor by Ottoman Turkey and relocated to Aleppo.

The centennial commemoration of the genocide has opened new wounds as violence has erupted in Syria in recent years, something that concerns Wasoian a great deal.

“Although the Armenian population in Syria increased since the genocide, Armenians are not latecomers to the region,” she said. “The descendants of the genocide survivors are reliving it all over again. Armenians living in Syria identify with the country as their historic homelands and continue to carry their cultural and communal life in spite of the grave dangers.”

Wasoian is one of the international peacemakers scheduled to speak to Presbyterian churches and synods this fall. She began her seminary education at Near East School of Theology in Beirut, Lebanon and was later appointed as youth worker in the Armenian Evangelical Church in Syria where she was responsible for Sunday School.

Once the Republic of Armenia declared its independence from the Soviet Union, the Armenian Missionary Association began work in the homelands. Wasoian answered the call, joining the church team and was in charge of the Christian Education Ministry in the Republic of Armenia and Mountainous Garapagh. In 2001, she entered McCormick Theological Seminary to complete her education and then returned to teach and minister in Armenia.

Wasoian returned to the U.S. to complete her doctorate and currently lives in Chicago, teaching both at McCormick and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminaries. Her fields of interest include Armenian history, communal traditions, faith and identity.

Wasoian is hopeful the churches and presbyteries she speaks with this fall will get a better idea of Armenian struggles both historic and current, especially as it relates to what is happening in Syria.

“My cousin said to my mother ‘Tell Tamar to write what’s happening here in English. People should know what is really happening here,’” she said. “She says there is a tremendous amount of misinformation regarding the situation in the Middle East in general and the situation in Syria.”

Wasoian is actively involved with the Armenian community and is on the steering committee of Syria Lebanon Partnership Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Middle East Task Force.

She says she’s happy to be involved with the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program to share the stories with U.S. congregations.

“Seeing all the destruction and hatred in my homelands, I wonder how all of these came about?” she asked. “How did we, faith communities of all colors, fail in recognizing the ‘god’ in each other? Peace on Earth is not just a season’s greeting but an existential necessity for us, now more than ever.”

Carl Horton, coordinator for the Peacemaking Program, says this year’s group of peacemakers is rather unique.

“This year, most of our peacemakers are women. Many times, our partner churches tend to nominate men to this role,” he said. “We have intentionally sought out and suggested particular women leaders in our partner communions and churches from whom we would like to hear. We were also deliberate in wanting to address the crises around the world of immigrant and refugee populations.”

The peacemakers will visit churches, presbyteries and synods from September 23 to October 17. Since 1984, more than 220 international peacemakers from more than 57 countries have been hosted by Presbyterians.

Click here for more information about this year’s group of peacemakers.

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