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A Piece of the
When I deal with other Christians around the world, I feel
that Armenian Apostolic Christians have this rich legacy that
we have sort of kept to ourselves. Other Christians are always
interested in knowing about this first Christian nation. They
want to know how we developed our unique witness to Christ starting
from Thaddeus and Bartholomew and continuing almost 2000 years
to the present. Historic Armenia is a country that lays claim
to Noah's Ark, and, at the site of Etchmiadzin, our Holy See,
in 301 A.D., Christ came down in a vision to St. Gregory. There
are only a few places in the world where that has happened.
For people who really do believe in Christ, I think Armenia carries
part of the mystery. There's an allure-sort of like a Christian
Tibet. I'm not saying that we necessarily live up to that, but,
for people seeking to understand Christianity better, I believe
our church and our traditions and our religious sites offer a
lot of answers. We are part of the greater Christian puzzle.
And we are a part of the puzzle that very few people understand.
I am not sure even we understand how valuable our piece of the
Although we're not a proselytizing church, a part of faith and
of one's spiritual growth is getting to the point where you understand
yourself and your relations with God well enough to talk about
it with other people. I think it's also part of how we should
relate to other Christians and the rest of the world community.
At the parish I attend regularly in Armenia, we have been holding
catechism-type, question-and-answer sessions as a part of our
religious education program. One of the issues we discussed recently
was our Christian calling. As Christians we are asked to be the
salt of the earth, the light, and the yeast of the bread-the
leaven and lump. When I talk about the leaven and lump, one of
the things I always emphasize is that each Christian, as they
come to better understand the faith and their role in it, has
a duty to explain it to others. That is how the lump becomes
leaven; how the yeast raises the world.
I think this calling is an aspect of our faith that many Armenian
Christians don't take seriously or haven't taken the time to
understand well enough. I think that, if we tried passing our
understanding of Christianity along to others, we might discover
a great truth: By your students you will be taught.
That has certainly been my experience. I've discovered time and
time again that, in trying to learn something well enough to
teach someone else, even if you don't learn it well enough, just
the act of trying gives you insight, helps you grow, and helps
them grow as well.
Teaching others is at the core of Christianity. It's the basic
message, the great commission. Not just the apostles were given
the task of spreading the good news. It was given to them and
to everyone else. Thaddeus and Bartholomew passed their mission
on to us and that commission continues to this day. We are an
important part of that commission, and I think we have carried
that on within our own community. It is time we reach out to
other communities as well. Not necessarily to proselytize and
bring them into the Armenian Apostolic faith, but to let people
know that in over 2000 years we have come to understand God and
Christianity not just by learning and teaching the faith, but
also by living it through our history.
I want to share the lessons we have learned with the rest of
the world. One way I see of sharing our unique witness is by
being empathetic with people who are being oppressed, by being
voices for justice or voices against injustice, and by trying
to be peacemakers. We have experienced all these things as a
nation, so I have found it very easy to work in the area of human
rights and for organizations like Amnesty International, because
as an Armenian it is as if you are raised with a sense of injustice
and the need to champion the causes of the oppressed.
I think that we have that kind of empathy if we want to tap into
it, but oftentimes we don't. We become inward-looking, and we
see ourselves as victims, but that victimization is also a source
of strength. We need to turn those feelings around because in
doing so we will show others, and ourselves, that we are able
to overcome the injustices we have faced.
Miraculously, for 2000 years we have overcome a great deal of
adversity. I think this is largely because we have a faith that
gives us hope that things will get better-not only that things
will get better but that we have a duty to make them better.
Tom Samuelian, Yerevan, Armenia
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