A Holy Pitch for Syrian Relief

A Holy Pitch for Syrian Relief
by Tom Vartabedian

December 12, 2012

Rev. Karekin Bedourian is on a new mission these days, one that leaves
him staggering in his tracks.

In addition to spreading the word of God, the young pastor of St.
Gregory Church in North Andover, Mass., is making an active pitch for
Syrian relief efforts in his beloved city of Kessab and other Armenian
districts throughout the land.

His inspiration and drive come from the stoic pictures he shows on the
screen of devastated villages and churches turned to rubble. These
same places of worship were once places of spiritual worship that
warranted his services as a man of the cloth.

Among the casualties are St. George’s Armenian Church in Aleppo and
Holy Martyrs Madoor in Der Zor, where the remains of genocide victims
yearn for justice.

A man of unbridled strength, a tear is apt to cross his eyes when he
sees the carnage of bodies being lifted and children wailing.

`It’s very sad when I see and hear that in all the places we used to
spend our time, there is death and destruction now,’ he says. `We
don’t know what the future is holding for our people in Syria but the
damage has already been done. Among them are members of my own family
and many friends.’

A headline in a local newspaper stretches across the page: `Priest
from Syria finds things in which to be thankful.’

The photo shows Father Bedourian seated in a pew inside his church,
wearing a stern look. In this spirit of Thanksgiving, all is not
despair for the beloved cleric of just two-and-a-half years.

`We’re thankful to have life and a church community where we can
worship in peace and security,’ he says. `Being thankful is the core
of this holiday and it’s a good occasion to evaluate what we have.’

After rallying his own community at a Family Night dinner and raising
$1,500 for relief efforts, Father Bedourian took part in an interfaith
ecumenical service in North Andover. With clergy and congregation from
area churches filling the pews, once again he spoke of the situation
in Syria.

Earlier, a special plate collection in his church turned up $1,300 for
the cause. More important than money, the word was being disseminated.
A missionary had spoken. Many of those who donated had opened their
generous hearts in other collections tendered by the ARS and other
charitable groups.

`People are killing one another and we condemn that,’ he speaks out.
`We don’t know when it’s going to end.’

Growing up, he recalls Syria as a peaceful country with freedom for
Christians to worship. His parents, two brothers, and two sisters
still live in Syria, along with his in-laws. One brother was here
visiting while Father Karekin was making the rounds.

Although there is no confirmed number of Armenian fatalities, Father
Karekin feels it’s more than 50, with several more missing. The vast
number represents the Armenian community in Aleppo.

Father Bedourian was born and raised in Kessab. He attended seminary
at the Armenian Orthodox Church in Bikfaya, Lebanon. Upon graduating,
he served as a deacon in Greece before being ordained in 2009.

Traditionally, the newest pastor in town is chosen to give the sermon
at this Thanksgiving Interfaith service. He felt humbled by the

Meanwhile, millions of dollars are required to meet the urgent appeal
of Armenians in Syria and those who have sought refuge in Armenia and
other places throughout the Middle East.

`Armenia has opened its doors to those victims in Syria but their
plight remains severe,’ Father Bedourian confirmed. `Thousands of
families fled to Armenia and neighboring countries to save themselves.
They need our support.’

It was just a year ago that Father Bedourian and Yeretsgin Sevan
returned to their native Kessab to have their daughter Meghti
baptized. The atmosphere there at the time could best be described as
tranquil. Since then, the Bedourians have welcomed a second daughter
to their midst. Her name is Nareh.

While there, he took part in the funeral service of 104-year-old
Kalila Yeralian-Manjikian, the town’s oldest resident, who they called