AGBU Press Office: AGBU Hosts 83rd General Assembly and World

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Tuesday, November 2, 2004



On the occasion of its 83rd General Assembly, which took place from
October 1-7, 2004, in Yerevan, over 350 AGBU members and supporters
from 25 countries convened in Armenia’s capital to attend a multitude
of events and activities: including a three-day World Conference,
visits to AGBU’s Armenia projects, the Biennial General Assembly
meeting, and cultural evenings. Delegates also paid an official visit
to Karabakh from October 7-9.

Welcoming representatives from around the world, AGBU provided
simultaneous four-language (English, French, Spanish and Armenian)
translation for all participants that attended the Opening Session,
the General Assembly, and the Conference meetings.

During Saturday’s Opening Session, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme
Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, applauded the
organization’s continued dedication to Armenians during his
blessing. “Today, parallel to their mission in the Diaspora, the
activities of the Armenian General Benevolent Union, as well as of all
the other national and religious institutions, should be aimed at the
development of the Motherland, the strength of which will make the
Diaspora even stronger.” President of the Republic of Armenia, Robert
Kocharian, and President of the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh, Arkady
Ghoukassian, sent messages of support and praise.

Armenia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vartan Oskanian noted AGBU’s
long history of service to the Armenian people and its unwavering
dedication to its mission, “in reality from the very beginning of the
century until World War II and beyond, and today, AGBU in every
instance has demonstrated its ability to adapt to any given situation
and has been able to make the right decisions for the betterment of
our people.”

AGBU’s record of support to Armenia goes back as early as the 1920s,
when its donors contributed towards the construction of an eye clinic,
maternity hospital, several schools and the town of Nubarshen. From
these early years, the organization had established deep roots in
Armenia in furtherance of its mission and since its independence there
has been a renewed sense of commitment in the country.


AGBU delegates traveled to the Nork AGBU Soup Kitchen and Children’s
Center and personally observed its accomplishments in the eastern
district of Yerevan. The Nork Center educates over a thousand young
talents and the Soup Kitchen provides daily meals for hundreds of
senior citizens. Combined, AGBU’s six Soup Kitchens serve 1,200 people
daily and three Children’s Centers instruct over 3,500 children and

Members were also treated to a showcase of music, dance, and gymnastic
feats performed by the students. Since their inception in 1993, the
Centers, a joint project of AGBU and the Holy See of Etchmiadzin, have
provided training in the arts, language, history, gymnastics, and
computers to thousands of youth.


Sunday, AGBU members participated in the Divine Liturgy at Holy
Etchmiadzin and met with His Holiness Karekin II, where they were
welcomed to a reception in their honor. Before arriving at
Etchmiadzin, the AGBU group paid a brief visit to the Holy Trinity
Church being constructed in southwest Yerevan with funds provided by
an AGBU donor. In Holy Etchmiadzin, AGBU donors are also providing the
finances for various projects including the construction of clergy
housing and the renovation of the residence of the Catholicos.

AGBU delegates were on hand for the official dedication of the
AGBU-sponsored dormitory at Vaskenian Seminary on Lake Sevan. The
inaugurated facility includes staff rooms, offices, library and living
quarters for a hundred seminarians. The building is part of the larger
campus that provides religious education and training to clergy who go
on to serve Armenian communities throughout the world.


With 30 day and Saturday schools around the world, AGBU’s dedication
to scholastic excellence is unparalleled among Armenian
organizations. Two AGBU-initiated projects have contributed to quality
post-graduate education in Armenia.

Beginning in 1992, AGBU partnered with the University of California to
establish the American University of Armenia (AUA), an institution
dedicated to the education of the country’s future leaders with
graduate degrees in business management, engineering, law, public
health, political science, and computer and information sciences.

AGBU delegates also attended AUA’s commencement ceremony where 133
graduates eagerly awaited their diplomas. Dr. Haroutune Armenian,
President of AUA, officiated the ceremony and captured the spirit of
AGBU, “Over its close to a hundred year history, this organization has
been able to turn beautiful dreams into reality…AGBU has been at the
forefront of creating opportunities for future generations of

Another AGBU-initiated educational project in Armenia, which plays a
key role in the country’s medical community, is the AGBU Ultrasound
Center. Founded through a partnership with Philadelphia’s Jefferson
Ultrasound Research and Education Institute, the Center is a
state-of-the-art diagnostic facility and housed on the Yerevan State
Medical University campus. Made possible with funds provided by an
AGBU donor, the project was established through the dedication of
Dr. Levon Nazarian, who spoke to delegates about the facility and
noted that doctors from Russia, Ukraine, India and China study at the
center because of its quality instruction. In addition to these
projects of higher learning, AGBU also supports the Yerevan State
University, which is the country’s leading undergraduate institution.


Monday’s General Assembly at the Armenia Marriott Hotel was chaired by
AGBU President Berge Setrakian and attended by AGBU members and

The AGBU president reviewed the accomplishments and activities for
2002 and 2003, noting that AGBU cannot rest on its laurels. “We must
live up to our collective responsibilities of promoting and preserving
our common heritage…As we look to the horizon, to our Centennial and
beyond, I ask each and every one of you to consider what you can do
today that will make a difference in the life of an Armenian

Central Board Member Sinan Sinanian presented the organization’s
2002/2003 Biennial Financial Report, which was distributed to all
members and available in four languages, pointing out that AGBU’s
program expenditures for 2002 and 2003 totaled nearly $57 million,
which represents an increase of over $12.5 million when compared to
1992 and 1993. During the last ten years, AGBU’s net assets increased
by nearly $100 million to $250 million.

Motions to approve the Financial Report, re-elect Central Board
members and other organizational business were unanimously approved.

AGBU members, Hratch Manoukian of Cyprus, Berdj Terzian of Egypt and
Hrant Bardakjian of Canada, received recognition for their longtime
service to the organization and their respective communities.


Built on the success of the 2002 Worldwide Convention in New York, the
Yerevan Conference sessions at the Armenia Marriott Hotel and the AUA
Business Center, began on October 4th.

Cognizant of the major population shifts that have taken place in
Armenia and the Diaspora which dictate new realities and complexities,
the Conference addressed current needs and future challenges facing
the Armenian nation and AGBU.

Taking to heart Mr. Setrakian’s message that together, “we can make
certain that a hundred years from now, another President of AGBU will
be reporting on AGBU’s current activities and will take great pride,
as I do, in knowing that there is a past filled with a rich history
and a future filled with tremendous promise.” District and Chapter
Chairs discussed and evaluated AGBU’s programs, including the
importance of addressing the needs of Armenian youth in the
twenty-first century, and ensuring that established projects continue
to serve their purpose.

The participants also listened intently to a keynote speech by Nagorno
Karabakh President, Arkady Ghoukassian, who briefed the delegates on
various aspects of life conditions in Karabakh, as well as the present
geo-political issues. He described AGBU’s various projects in
Karabakh, which include the construction of one of the largest streets
in Stepanakert, the construction of an apartment building for war
veteran families, the renovation of a school, the construction of the
village of Norashen, and the funding of the Karabakh Chamber

“In my opinion, if other pan-Armenian organizations had the same
devotion and enthusiasm, many of our problems would have been solved
by now,” President Ghoukassian said in his remarks.

Other speakers included Noubar Afeyan and Ruben Vardanian of Armenia
2020 and Arpi Vartanian of the Armenian Assembly of America.

In a special session with President Kocharian, AGBU Central Board
members and District Chairmen discussed issues of mutual concern and
the ongoing challenges faced by Armenians not only in Armenia, but
throughout the Diaspora. President Kocharian particularly praised
AGBU’s vital role both in Armenia and the Diaspora and paid tribute to
its past and present leadership.


AGBU ensured that guests were able to partake in the riches that have
once again become part of the city’s artistic life thanks in part to
AGBU’s support of excellence in the arts. At the Armenian State Opera
House, participants attended the National Theatre of Opera and
Ballet’s performance of “Anoush”. The production was made possible by
a grant from AGBU, and marked the first time in years that the classic
Armenian opera was mounted.

AGBU hosted an official reception in the medieval wing of the National
Gallery of Art on Republic Square that was attended by 1000 guest,
including government officials from Armenia and Karabakh, foreign
ambassadors, leading cultural figures, representatives of various
organizations and institutions and AGBU supporters. His Holiness
Karekin II, Karabakh President Arkady Ghoukassian, Armenian Foreign
Minister Vartan Oskanian, and former President of the Republic of
Armenia Levon Ter-Petrossian were among the distinguished guests in

The Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra, which has been financially
supported by AGBU since 1992, performed a concert at the Khachaturian
Concert Hall dedicated to AGBU’s 83rd General Assembly, and included
music by Khachaturian and Tchaikovsky.


At the conclusion of the General Assembly and World Conference in
Yerevan, a hundred AGBU delegates journeyed to Karabakh for a more
in-depth look at the organization’s projects and met with the
Republic’s elected leaders, including President Arkady Ghoukassian and
Foreign Minister Ashot Ghoulian.

After paying respects to the Alex Manoogian memorial (dedicated to the
Honorary Life President of AGBU) built on a street that bears his
name, AGBU supporters also visited the Karabakh War Memorial to
remember the fallen soldiers buried there. Some of the group continued
from these morning tributes onto the medieval monastery of Gandzasar
north of the capital, while many chose to brave the still war-ravaged
roads to Norashen-a village repopulation project spearheaded by AGBU
France and adopted by AGBU’s Central Board as a centennial
project. Norashen is home to 22 families and is the first of a cluster
of villages to be built in Karabakh.

Returning to Stepanakert, the AGBU group was officially received by
President Arkady Ghoukassian in the National Assembly building, where
they asked questions about the continuing work to rebuild the Republic
and heard the president’s evaluation of their progress. The event was
followed by a performance of the 26-member Karabakh Chamber Orchestra,
which was recently founded through AGBU funds.


Like any young democracy, Armenia faces many challenges and
obstacles. Independence has brought greater responsibilities not only
for the elected leaders of Armenia, but also for the entire
Diaspora. With a clear understanding of its Armenia programs, AGBU
members left with a renewed enthusiasm to confront new challenges with
innovative ideas, or as Mr. Setrakian noted during the General
Assembly session, “rather than employ old strategies to meet new
realities, we must evaluate what is working and what is not, and seek
out new programs that will attract and excite the next generation of

With AGBU’s centennial fast approaching, the organization will
continue its quest to meet the challenges of tomorrow and provide
meaningful programs that improve the lives of Armenians across the

AGBU is the largest non-profit organization in the world and reaches
400,000 Armenians annually in 34 countries through its educational,
humanitarian and cultural projects. For more information, pictures and
the full text of speeches presented at the General Assembly and World
Conference, please visit