Since the launch of the Armenian Communities Department’s Programming Plan in December, the Department has garnered extensive press coverage.
In a commentary in the Armenian Mirror-Spectator, Edmond Y. Azadian talks about the current challenges to Western Armenian, a language which has been sustained by a diaspora spread across a number of continents but with no remaining centre.
The main focus of the Department’s work for the next five years is to reinforce Western Armenian by focusing on education and technology, to ensure that it does not go the way of other languages that have perished after three generations without a sizeable, concentrated community.
Mr Azadian highlights the Department’s approach and how it is different to that of other diasporan institutions:
“Enter the Gulbenkian Foundation’s Armenian Communities Plan, introducing a new approach and a new optimistic view to the entire endeavor vis-à-vis the Western Armenian language and heritage. Since its inception the Foundation has supported many worthy projects around the globe, but its new five-year plan, published on December 11, 2013, brings an entirely new approach to charity with its focus on the orphaned Western Armenian language and culture.
The vision, the detailed plan and the reliance on modern technologies to implement the plan, are the brainchild of its new leader, Dr. Razmik Panossian. The published plan states its mission as: “to create a viable future for the Armenian people in which its culture and language are preserved and valued.” And then under six segments the implementation of the plans are detailed.
The five-year plan is motivated by a deep concern over the danger hanging over the Western Armenian language and education as well as the recognition of the historic timing to react. Indeed, it is stated that, “Western Armenian is an endangered language,” according to UNESCO, under the threat of disappearing if serious initiatives are not undertaken to reinforce it. This generation is probably the last generation that can help or possibly reverse this process of not-so-gradual loss of a language that was a vibrant source of Armenian culture only half a century ago.”
As we go through the plan we realize that it is proactive and interactive. It does not have a confrontational approach nor does it try to underestimate other efforts towards the realization of the same goals. On the contrary, it paves the way for broader cooperation with other projects and institutions striving along with the same concerns.
Regarding the third ‘pillar’ of the Armenian Communities Department’s work, the development of positive relations between the Turkish and Armenian peoples, Azadian writes:
The plan also addresses a very sensitive issue of Armenian- Turkish relations in its third part, with the following careful statement: “Improve Armenian-Turkish relations by sponsoring projects that encourage a common understanding of their shared history.”
The prudent approach indicates here that Armenians, through their meager resources are not in a position to force the Turkish state to recognize the Genocide nor consider any compensation; that leaves the only alternative of cooperating with honest and progressive Turkish historians and human rights activists to bring about quantitative and qualitative changes in public awareness in the Turkish population, which eventually can influence the political direction of the state.
This is a welcome plan by a major institution which combines its funding resources with strategic vision for maximum impact. It is more realistic than optimistic and it brings with it not only a distinct course of action but also a source of thinking in diasporan guiding principles.”
Extract reproduced by kind permission of Edmond Azadian.