As a third generation Frenchman of Armenian descent, I woke up late to my Armenianness. I did not find my Armenian roots, its culture, its history and its Christian faith, until May 68. I am not a politician. The purpose of my cry of alarm is not to enter into the game of power struggles that divide and weaken. But, as a Shepherd (Hoviv, in Armenian), spiritual leader within our people, it is my duty to question.
After more than thirty years of humanitarian missions in Armenia, I return for the first time sad, worried and pessimistic about the future of our nation.
Never in a very long time have our people lived with so much insecurity and uncertainty about their present and their future. Never have our people been so alone, isolated and divided. I met a depressed, anxious population, which no longer knows where its help will come from.
As a third generation Frenchman of Armenian descent, I woke up late to my Armenianness. It was only at the age of 23 that I learned the Armenian language, it was at the beginning of my pastoral ministry. I visited “Soviet” Armenia for the first time in 1980 at the age of 30 at the invitation of Catholicos Vasken I.
But it was the terrible earthquake of December 7, 1988 that shook me deeply, to the point of marking a before and after in my life.
Among all my solidarity commitments with my people who have been bruised for almost 30 years, the area of the epicenter of the earthquake is one of my favorites in my actions to help the recovery of these children and families. This summer again, with a team of 12 volunteers from France: doctors, teachers, animators… we were in the field in contact with children, adolescents and their families.
I am not a politician. The purpose of my cry of alarm is not to enter into the game of power struggles that divide and weaken. But, as Shepherd (Hoviv), spiritual leader within our people, it is my duty to question our current leaders on the governance of our country and to express to him our concerns, our concern to see an Armenia which lives a peaceful, secure climate, respectful of the different political, religious, cultural, economic and social forces.
Faced with the multiple dangers that threaten us, it is urgent to form a united front, as we experienced during the victory of Sardarabad on May 28, 1918. Even if the international situation has changed, in 2022, we face the same dangers and challenges remain the same. To the same evils we must bring the same answers. Our people are very attached to the Bible. The Madenataran and thousands of manuscripts mostly related to biblical texts remind us of this.
Psalm 23, written by King David is of burning topicality. It begins like this:
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want, He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me by still waters. »
Our Armenian people, in Armenia and in the Diaspora, need Shepherds, leaders, both at the level of government, political parties, men of the Church, and actors of national renewal. True Shepherds according to Psalm 23, who care about the well-being of each member of the population who today lives in fear and uncertainty.
The role of the Shepherd, of our leaders, is to see to the good health of the flock, to lead it in the paths of justice, to provide for its food, its safety in the face of danger, to comfort and care for the more fragile, to allow each sheep to flourish and to show solidarity with the other members of the flock. And the last verse of Psalm 23 ends with a future perspective made of happiness and hope that I leave you to read.
With this modest message, my wish is to be a whistleblower following my return from Armenia.
Testimony of Pastor Gilbert Leonian back from his 3-week mission in Armenia.
Image: Courtesy ofHope for Armenia
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