By: Janet Shamilian
It is in times of distress when a people’s true dedication and unity are tested. Simplicity is adapting to surroundings that pose no threat or discomfort; however, true character is displayed when one takes initiative to help others in their team. This is how I view us Armenians. We are a team. Individual success and self-centered motives will only crumble our nation. When we focus on our team’s overall interest, we promote what I believe defines us all: eternal strength, unwavering courage, and unparalleled belief. Whether fortunate or not, members of our team have dispersed all across the globe. If troubles of torment are present anywhere involving our teammates, it is our obligation as members of this team to extend assistance and guidance. This is our call to action. We must act now.
The unrest in Syria began when students were tortured for putting up anti-government graffiti. The government responded with brutal force, leading to demonstrations across most of the country. In April 2011, President Bashar al-Assad commanded tanks to intervene cities and open fire on protestors. Seventeen months later, the United Nations estimates the number of victims harmed in the conflict exceeding 17,000. 230,000 people have become refugees, and nearly 3 million residents of Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance. Currently, the fighting between the government and the rebels has encroached cities with high populations of our fellow Armenians.
The clashes in Syria, which extended to the city of Aleppo, took the lives of several Armenians and left other Armenians injured. Though the attacks are not directed towards Armenians, inevitably, our people are in great danger with the increasing conflict and turmoil in the country. We need to display the exact camaraderie that was presented by Armenians worldwide during the devastating earthquake in 1988, during the war in Artsakh, and during the civil war in Lebanon.
Two organizations within our team have made efforts towards the dire need of our fellow Armenians. The Armenian Relief Society of Western USA (ARS) and the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) have created means for humanitarian assistance as a response to the resulting chaos and political disorder in Syria. The ARS, remaining loyal to its reputation as the “Armenian Red Cross”, has established the “Fund for Assistance to Syrian Armenian Schools.” Donations can be made at www.arswestusa.org/donate, or can be sent in through check to the ARS Western Regional Headquarters at 517 North Glenoaks Boulevard, Glendale California 91202. Similar to ARS’ effort, AGBU has set aside $1 million in emergency funding for the Armenian community in Syria. Arrangements are also being made in AGBU centers located in Aleppo, Damascus, and Kamishli aimed towards relief efforts.
The aforementioned paragraph emphasizes the essence of a team and group work. Being a part of this team has helped formulate my perspectives and has developed my growth, but most of all, it has nourished me with pride and trust. Pride because I am an Armenian, and trust because I believe we will come together to help our teammates.