PUBLIC MEETING HELD ON 28th MARCH, 2004 LONDON—GB
The website of the Armenian Community of the United Kingdom
The Following Report was delivered verbally by Mr Ara Palamoudian, Chairman
of the Armenian Community & Church Council–GB :
CHAIRMAN’S REPORT – 28th March, 2004
Your grace Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian – President of the Armenian
Community& Church Council, fellow members of the Armenian Community of
the United Kingdom.
May I first of all on behalf of the Council of the Community thank you
all for coming here today and thus showing your interest in the
matters of your Community. A Community which would be considered a
small one if compared with the many other ethnic groups in this
In the early fifties, when I first came to England, the Armenian
Community numbered perhaps not more than a thousand, it could easily
have been described as a “religious group” since the only activity
then was to congregate around its church.
As our community gradually grew larger and larger and in fact also
more and more diverse in character since there was an influx of
Armenians from a variety of Countries and cultures, the community
naturally evolved from merely a religious group into a thriving and
multi-faceted Community with of course its growing religious needs but
now also with its most important secular – social, educational and
political – needs that are so essential for the survival ofa racial
community in a European Country where the dangers and pressures of
assimilation and losing ones ethnic identity are so immense and so
attractive to the new generation.
Over the last forty years your Community’s constitution has also
evolved together with the Community’s needs and character, until today
the Community and Church Council not only has responsibility for the
maintenance of the Community’s Apostolic Church, but also attends to
the numerous other needs and interests which give this Community its
most important Ethnic Identity – without which we would be just a
religious group and likened to a sect rather than a proud and
self-respecting Ethnic Community of British Armenians.
Your Community’s Council, of which I have the honour to be the
Chairman in its current term of office is elected by democratic public
ballot every four years and comprises 15 members.
The other members of the Council are:
Zorig Gasparian – Vice Chairman
Zepur Kiledjian – Secretary
Hovnan Hampartsoumian – Financial Controller
Souren Saroukhanoff – Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Council
In accordance with the Community’s current constitution any Armenian
who satisfies certain simple requirements such as age, residence etc
is entitled to be elected to the Council and any Armenian over 18, who
is registered as a member of the Community, is entitled to vote.
The current council was elected to office in December 2002 and
therefore has about three years left to serve.
The Community’s structure of Organisation is as follows:
With regard to the Church – We are extremely privileged to have as our
Primate, Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian, who has been our primate for just
overtwo years. Previous to coming toEngland Bishop Nathan was Primate
of the Ukraine where he was personally responsible in the
establishment of a Diocesan Structure and for his work there, he was
awarded the Ukrainian National Medal of Honour by the Ukrainian
Government. So we are very privileged indeed in having him as our
Primate and of course the Community’s Churches are under his direction
– naturally under the jurisdiction of His Holiness, the Catholicos of
All Armenians of Etchmiadzin.
Whilst the Churches’ Ecclesiastic matters are attended to by the
Primate, the physical administration of the Community’s Church falls
within the responsibilities of the Council, and as such, on behalf of
the Community weare responsible for the Stipends and salaries of our
clergymen, and all other secular matters of the Church.
The Council appoints its EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE which in turn appoints
and assumes responsibility for the proper functioning of its various
sub-committees which comprise:
– The Church Committee
– The Ladies Committee
– Youth and Cultural Committee
– Membership and Electoral Register Committee etc .
The total number of persons serving in all the various Committees
which comprise the Community Council’s Structure of Organisation is in
excess of 53 men and women, who give up their time freely and happily
to serve their Community.
I should like to extend my thanks to every single one of them – too
many to name here – , on behalf of the Community and of the Council
for all they are doing for their Community. The names of all the
Members of the various Committees are listed in our website –
In a few minutes I shall be asking Souren Saroukhanoff, Chairman of
the Executive, to give you a report on the activities of the Executive
and of their various sub committees.
In addition to the Executive and its sub-committees, the Council also
has direct responsibility for the appointment of the Trustees of the
Community’s K.Tahta Armenian Sunday School, and in this connection, I
should like to express the Council’s appreciation to the Headmistress
of the school, Mrs. Anahid Kazarians for her devoted service for the
last 20 years or so, which has contributed to its success, with about
250 students. The Council of course makes an annual financial
contribution to the school and also covers any deficit it may have.
The Chairman of the School Trustees, Doctor Tarverdi will be giving us
a report also, this afternoon.
We are directly responsible for the appointment of the Executive
Committee of Campaign for the Recognition of the Armenian Genocide
(CRAG) which over the past many years has incessantly taken on the
task of campaigning in any way possible to further the national cause
of recognition of the Genocide. CRAG as it is popularly know had for
the last ten years or so, been under the most able Chairmanship of Dr
Rostom Stepanian who has retired only recently and the Chairmanship
has now in the care his Deputy, Mr. Raffi Sarkissian. Mr Sarkissian
will of be speaking to us today also, to give us a report on CRAG’s
activities. In connection with CRAG and its activities, over the
manyyears, there have been numerous dedicated ladies and gentlemen who
have given so much of their time and energy for this most important
national cause, but I would like to mention some names who I know do
not expect thanks, but I feel I must extend our appreciation to
dedicated persons such as Mr Bagrad Nazarian who until recently and
for over ten years has worked with great devotion and energy for CRAG
and all it stands for. Appreciation also goes to – among many others
– Ara Sarafian, Hratch Koundarjian, Andrew Kevorkian, Armine
Gasparian, Shiraz Vartanian, Raffi Sarkissian and of course its
current Executive Director, Mr Harry Hagopian.
CRAG carries out a most essential function in keeping alive the
interests of the Armenian nation and the continual struggle for the
recognition of the awful and unforgivable Genocide perpetrated against
our nation. It operates as an autonomous unit and because of the
nature of its activities, it does incur certain expenses. The
Community Council has for many years made an annual allocation of
about £4000 to it and since the total expenses of CRAG are far greater
than that, we are most grateful to those persons who recognise its
value and well knowing the nature of its expenditure, have contributed
to its funds so that CRAG can continue with its mission.
The larger portion of Community activities are undertaken by our
Executive Committee and its Sub-Committees so Mr Saroukhanoff will be
including thosein his report .
The Council, for the first time as a Community Function, this year
celebrated the 12th Anniversary of the Independence of the Republic of
Armenia. The function was held here to a full house and in the
presence of the Armenian Ambassador as well as the British Ambassador
to Armenia, Miss Abbott-Watt (whose name you may have heard, or read
about in the last few weeks related to a most unfortunate and
inappropriate statement she made recently.)
For those who may not have heard, – – during an interview with a
reporter in Armenia, Miss Abbott-Watt – the British Ambassador –
remarked that the atrocities perpetrated upon the Armenians did not
qualify to be described as GENOCIDE as specified by the 1948 United
Nation Convention, and went on to say =3D “but I do not think
recognising it as genocide would be of much use”I .
Such a statement coming from a British Ambassador was most
inappropriate and especially since it was stated during an interview
in Armenia, her statement created an immense and robust reaction from
Armenian Communities throughout world, some even going as far as to
demand that she be declared a persona-non-grata in Armenia.
Our Council gave this matter its most serious consideration and as
British Armenians, we have decided to write to our Prime Minister, Mr
Tony Blair, complaining against the inappropriate statement made by
the Ambassador, which not only could be considered insulting and
hurtful to the dignity and memories of the Armenian Nation but also by
denying a historical fact in the face of overwhelming evidence, it
represented a denial of the human rights of British Armenians whose
parents or greatparents were the very ones who had been subjected to
We shall, of course also urge the Prime Minister that the time has now
come that our Government should put aside economic or political
considerations and should join other World Power countries such as
France, Switzerland, Greece, together with many others, including the
European Parliament, and declare that the atrocities committed upon
the Armenian peoples in Ottoman Turkey qualify to be designated as
GENOCIDE, and must be condemned as GENOCIDE.
The letter will be delivered and published within the next few days.
Administrative Visit by His Holiness:
In November, last year, we were honoured by the visit of His Holiness
Catholicos Karekin II with whom the Council had extended discussions
on various matters with regard to this Community and in particular
with regard to his wish that all the Armenian Apostolic Churches in
the UK should agree to unite under one Diocesan Structure – albeit as
a loose federation – with each Church still functioning autonomously
under the terms of their relevant Constitutions or Trust Deeds. For
this purpose His Holiness suggested some changes could be considered
to the Community’s Constitution.
We have of course agreed to undertake that responsibility and shall be
holding appropriate meetings and consultations with a view to making
appropriate amendments to the Constitution so as to meet the wishes of
His Holiness, always respecting of course the principles fundamental
to the democratic functioning of the Armenian Community of Great
I must add here that all three Churches – Manchester, St Sarkis and
the Community’s Church functioning from this Church, the St Yeghiche,
are on excellent terms with each other and co-exist in harmony. I
therefore do not foresee any impediment to acceeding to the wishes of
I am also very happy to report that your Community Council enjoys an
excellent relationaship with the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia.
We feel it is our national duty to support the Embassy in any way
possible within our scope and ability and the Council makes an annual
contribution on behalf of the Community towards the funds of the
We are doing, and shall continue to do all we can to establish closer
ties between Armenia and the British Armenia Community and shall
encourage the furthering of ties, be they Cultural, Social, Sports or
any other. We shall also encourage the establishment of business
relations between British and Armenian Companies.
I should like to express my especial thanks and appreciation to
Ambassador Gabrielyan for his keen, cooperative and helpful attitude
which has createda fresh and friendly atmosphere between the Community
Council and the Embassy, which is greatly appreciated.
We have followed with deep concern the developments at the Centre for
Armenian Information and Advice and noted the continued disagreements
and disputes between the various Trustees. As the Council considered
the Centre to beof great benefit to the Community, we made attempts at
mediation between the two main differing groups, once in June 2003 and
once more very recently – in December/January of this year.
Unfortunately in both instances we were unable to secure the
acceptance of all parties concerned for our intervention with a view
to brokering some agreement whereby a properly assembled General
Meeting could be held and a new, legally and universally accepted
Board of Directors/Trustees could be elected.
I was informed a few days ago that the Charity Commissioners have
taken the step of appointing a group of five Trustees and removing all
the other Trustees from office, thus creating a situation whereby the
appointed five Trustees will be able to proceed to govern the centre
and hold a General Meeting without much delay. The Council has never
at any time shown bias to any group of Trustees, nor to any individual
Trustee. Our concern was simply for the future of the Centre and a
wish for peaceful co-existance by its members.
We wish the appointees every success in the responsibilities they have
undertaken and the Council will be happy to extend any assistance that
it is able to, if requested.
The Community’s Church:
For the avoidance of any misunderstandings or misconceptions that
might exist within the Community, I should now like to give some
details with regard to our Community’s Church. That is to say, the St
No doubt you are all aware that since the mid-1970’s, this church
previously named St Peters, together with the adjacent Church Hall and
offices building, was leased to the Council for use as our Community’s
Church. Whereas the Church was on a peppercorn rent of I think £10
per annum, the adjacent building which the Council was obliged to
lease together with the Church was at Market Value and although
initially the rent was an affordable figure of some few thousand
pounds, the rent demanded by the landlords – the Church of England-
for renewal of the lease in around 1995 was in excess of £35,000 per
annum. There was no way such a sum could be raised by the Council
every year and therefore they were forced to decide to give up the
Church. Furthermore, the church building was in need of extensive
renovation and the Council had no funds to meet these expenses.
At this juncture, Mr Vatche Manoukian offered to purchase the freehold
of the Church with the declared intention of renovating it and
returning it for the use of the Community. As you can see, this
benefactor has indeed renovated the Church and having re-consecrated
it the St Yeghiche Church, Mr Manoukian has graciously made the Church
available for use by the Community for its Ecclesiastic needs, free of
any charges. The Manoukian Foundation undertakes all the physical
expenses of the Church building including heating, lighting, cleaning
Mr Manoukian has no wish to become involved with the functioning of
the administration of the Community’s Church and the management of our
church is our responsibility. The Council appoints the Community’s
clergymen and is responsible for all the matters to do with the Church
such as payment of salaries to our clergy, etc etc. and for that
purpose, our Executive Committee appointsa “Church Committee” which
attends to the day to day matters.
We are most grateful to Mr Manoukian for his generosity in allowing us
to use the Church building.
With regard to the Community Council offices, we are also grateful to
Mr. Manoukian for the offer he has made of advancing £200,000 towards
the purchase of offices.
Mr. Manoukian has also informed us that he has applied for planning
consent to build an annexe to the Church on the space on its left hand
side which would comprise cloakrooms and extensive lobby area where
refreshments could be served.
Future and Finances:
Future plans and Finances are very closely inter-related and I should
like to talk about them jointly.
We have distributed by post the accounts of the Community for 17
months ending 2003. You will note that we have again had to draw from
very precious reserves to a very large extent.
Up to about three years ago the Community’s “Reserves” were NIL and
therefore a large portion of the expenditures incurred would not have
We were extremely lucky about three to four years ago that the Council
received some legacies and donations as follows:
a) From the Will of Miss K Baronian : A bedsitter flat in Wimbledon
which produces a rental income of £6000 per annum.
b) From the Will of Miss Sonia Keshishian : The sum £137,305
c) From the Beneficiary of the Will of Mrs Mania Baker: A donation of
Hence the Community was fortunate enough to have acquired some capital
to fall back on.
However, as we said in our report last year, we must repeat with even
greater emphasis that unless our annual income is significantly
increased, this Community can be considered “Bankrupt”.
We do not have unlimited capital resources to draw upon, and the
Community must realize that if they wish to enjoy all the Community
facilities that they knowingly or un-knowingly enjoy currently, then
the Community’s funds must break even every year.
In fact that is not at all difficult to achieve. The figures are as
We send out Levy demands every year to approximately 3000 addresses.
Assuming an average of 2 adults per address, we should be receiving
levy payments from 6000 persons.
At £20 per person, that amounts to £120,000 per annum which not only
would amply pay all the Community’s expenses, but would also provide a
tidy sum to be put aside for Capital reserve.
In fact, as you can see from the accounts, instead of £120,000 income,
we actually receive about £20,000 which means that out of about 6000
Armenians, only 1000 actually pay their community levy. This is a
shameful situation and I appeal to all members of our Community to
realize their national responsibility and to contribute their annual
dues. The amount asked forper year, per person, represents the value
of less than five packets of cigarettes.
Unless our Community realizes its responsibilities and decides to come
forward with some positive action, I regret in the course of the next
year or two the capital fund will have receded to ZERO and it will not
be possible to administer this Community and Church in the way we have
The old custom of one or two wealthy benefactors underwriting the
Community have long gone and it should not be expected of such
This Community comprises an immense number of comfortably off
families. The potential benefactors know this fact and one would not
blame them at all when they show reluctance to contribute. It should
be insulting to the dignity of each member of this Community to allow
such a situation to develop, and I personally am not prepared to
approach any person with a begging-bowl just because the Community is
not realizing its responsibilities.
I appeal to every Armenian to please send in your levy payment without
I would even venture to suggest that if the family total is too much
to pay in one go, the Treasurer of our Executive will I am certain, be
happy to hold one or two post-dated cheques so that effectively
payment of the full amount is made in one or two instalments.
At the beginning of our term just over a year ago we had “plans” for
the future – – – plans for a Community Centre for Social, Cultural and
Sport facilities – plans for a School building to accommodate our
Sunday School as well as provide facility to offer accommodation to
the Saturday School ( Both schools have been served notice to vacate
within the coming two years as the schoolis being closed down and both
schools have nowhere to go! ) – Plans for an Old Peoples Home etc etc
We even established a special Committee with the sole responsibility
of going out and finding suitable premises.
They did find suitable properties – all with a price tag of one to two
million pounds. We have no such funds and it has become patently
clear to us that this Community which does not even bother to pay its
annual levy of 20 pounds, cannot raise one or two million.
Very regretfully, all those plans have had to become “aspirations” or
“hopes” since the financial future of our Community under the present
circumstances is extremely bleak and pitiable.
I suggest to those who neglect to pay that when they ask the all so
easily uttered question ” What is the Council doing about such and
such”, then one ought to ask oneself, even if it is a matter of
writing to the Prime Minister — “Have I contributed towards even the
postage stamp of that letter??”
At Church : “what have I contributed towards the salaries of the
clergy, and payments to the choir, the servers etc”
When Commemorating for example the Armenian Independence Day: “where
is the money coming from to pay all the expenses”
When you receive a mailshot – 3000 addresses – postage, printing –
each envelope costs a at least 30 pence including postage. Ask : ”
What have I contributed towards all these” “How is it being paid for?”
“What right have I to expect anything from my Community”.
Nothing comes free…
I have great pleasure in announcing that for the first time since his
enthronement, His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians,
shall be making an official Pontifical Visit to our Community in June
of this year.
The planned dates are the 15th, 16th and 17th of June.
Naturally the Community together with the other Churches will organize
appropriate functions about which notices will be distributed in due
course. (Please bear in mind a Dinner Reception is planned for the
night of June the 17th. )
News Letter and Website.
Before I close I should also like to inform you that we are currently
considering the publication of a Community Newsletter – probably
monthly – which will contain comprehensive information about our
Community in England and we are of the hope that it will be
informative and helpful to everyone.
I would also like to inform you that the Community Council has
established an Internet Website which is functioning now and where
readers will find a large variety of information. There are separate
sections allocated for Community News, International Armenian News,
Church Mews, messages and announcements including the Church Calendar,
Embassy News and Announcements, Numerous Links to various other
Armenian websites and a very useful “Events Diary” where all events
and functions happening in the United Kingdom are listed. This isan
excellent reference source both for the Community as well as the
various organisations who would like to plan their activities.
Over the past months that it has been operative, visits to the site
have gradually increased and we were very happy indeed to note that in
February,the site recorded a total of over 1000 visits.
We are planning to enlarge the website in due course. We will be very
happy to receive any advice and any news items or articles that you
may wish to e-mail in.