Archive for March, 2014

An Attack on Kessab

March 28th, 2014    |    No Comments »

On Friday, March 21, the Armenian-populated town of Kessab, Syria, was invaded by armed rebels affiliated with international terrorist organizations. The attacks were reported to originate from across the border in Turkey.

An estimated 670 Armenian Christian families—the majority of Kessab’s population—have been evacuated by the local Armenian community, and have taken refuge in the nearby towns of Basit and Latakia. But a number of Kessabtsi Armenian families have remained in their homes, to care for elderly members too old to move.

This week His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, issued a statement condemning the seizure and destruction of Kessab, and has been in contact with His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, and Bishop Armash Nalbandian, Primate of the Diocese of Damascus, regarding the situation in Kessab and the relief of the people.

The President of Armenia, Serge Sargsian, also issued a statement. In this country, the Armenian Assembly and the Eastern Diocese have sent separate letters to President Barack Obama asking the United States to take steps to safeguard the Kessab Armenians. The Diocese’s Ecumenical Director, Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, had a meeting at the U.S. State Department on the subject. And the National Council of Churches in the USA has sent a letter to President Obama asking the United States to restore stability in Kessab.

Kessab is an Armenian stronghold since the Middle Ages, with Armenian roots dating even farther back, to at least the era of Tigran the Great. Armenians have long been the vast majority of its population, promoting a humane, tolerant, and vital civil, cultural, and religious life. The city has had episodes of tragedy in the past.  In 1909, Turkish armed detachments invaded and expelled the Armenian people, at the cost of nearly 200 lives; and in 1915, during the Genocide, thousands of Armenians were killed in the forced death marches into the deserts of Deir ez-Zor and Jordan.

In a directive issued this week, Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian called on the parishioners of the Eastern Diocese to offer prayers for our brothers and sisters in Kessab. The Diocese continues to accept donations on behalf of Syrian relief, which are distributed through the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. Individuals may make secure online contributions on the Diocesan website (please select the “Syrian Relief” item in the drop-down menu).

A view of Kessab.

A view of Kessab.