After a tour of Yerevan, we left the city center and traveled to Zvartnots Cathedral, a UNESCO site which includes the ruins of the 7th century cathedral which in its day was the largest round church in the world. We were treated to breath-taking views of snow-covered Mount Ararat to the south across the border in Turkey and Mount Aragats to the northwest.
We continued on to Echmiadzin, founded as Vargarsapat in the year 117 as the capial of Armenia. Echmiadzin is now home to the spiritual center of Armenia and the seat of the Patriarch. It too is a UNESCO World Heritage site and includes the first Christian church built in the world (4th century). The center which includes the current cathedral (7th century) is vast, larger than the Vatican in Rome and has an exceedingly wealthy treasury.
As we returned to Yerevan, we stopped to visit The Armenian Genocide Memorial. We ascended the path to the museum and memorial, passing a grove of trees each of which was donated by a supporting-nation of the world.
The Memorial is haunting in its stark elegance. While genocide has long been a gross failing of humanity, the Armenian Genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Turks was the event for which the term “genocide” was coined. According to scholarly estimates, over 1.5 million Armenians perished between 1914 and 1918.Thousands more were deported to Syria and faced starvation in the desert. Others fled and their descendants now make up the Armenian Diaspora which is composed of more people than inhabit current Armenia. Armenians march to the Memorial on the eve of every April 23rd, in memory of those massacred. April 24th is Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.
This evening we attended our Farewell Dinner in Armenia and awarded our Mary Pomeroy Awards. Again, our decision was a difficult one, and we decided to present two. The first award was presented to to Maro Matosian and The Women’s Support Center. The Women’s Support Center is a highly protected domestic violence shelter in Yerevan. Maro could only allow three of the Delegates to visit in order not to attract unwanted attention. The women in the shelter are given support, training and basic tools with which to earn money to support themselves and their children. The second Mary Pomeroy Award in Armenia was given to The Human Rights Common Platform.
[Mary Rohman, Recorder]