TBILISI (Armenpress)— The year was filled with achievements, new initiatives, and challenges for the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia. During an interview, the Leader of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia Right Rev. Vazgen Mirzakhanyan explained the work done by the Diocese and also touched on the issue of the returning of the Armenian churches. The following is the interview:
Armenpress: If we sum up 2015, how did it go for the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia? What achievements did we have in 2015?
Right Rev. Vazge Mirzakhanyan: The year started with the formation of the committee for the Armenian Genocide Centennial, and also the beginning of preparation and realization of the events. Installations of cross-stones, publishing of books, ecumenical commemorations, and protest actions were intended in the framework of those events. The reconstruction and official opening of Armenian Cathedral of St. George in Tbilisi was a very significant event. Important events were also held in Javakhk; restoration of St. Khach Armenian Church of Ninotsminda region which had big regional significance.
Armenpress: 2015 was a year of commemoration; you mentioned that in your speech. According to you, what lesson that must be learnt from the centenary of the Armenian Genocide?
VM: Our biggest lesson is unity: unity in our interpersonal relations and Homeland-Artsakh-Diaspora ties. These are not words; this is the basis of our survival. There have been activities held in terms of learning lessons, especially at the level of individuals. The way of thinking is different than that of one hundred years ago, because we have a state today, it guides us so that the Armenians learn a lesson. Work must be done, so that the situation on the border, rear, Diaspora be in harmony. One cannot be happy, live in joy, when a soldier dies on the border. All of us must live by national spirit. All our strength must be united. We have both human and material resources so that the liberated territories become populated and in order to prevent this inhuman emigration, and in some sense to promote immigration. If we do this, than we have been able to learn lessons from what happened with us one hundred years ago.
Armenpress: The events showed that there is still pain, suffering and hatred in our hearts, even one hundred years later. Can we look in the future having so much pain in our souls?
VM: When there’s pain in you, it pushes you toward healing and remedy. People try to heal their physical pain by means of remedy. The same is true about the pain that overtook the Armenians one hundred years ago. We responded to that pain by our independent state and liberation of Artsakh. Our wounds are healed by our science, cultural achievements, and achievements of the Armenians all over the world. These are our remedies. No matter how much pain and hatred there is, that must not impede our common development. On the contrary, we must develop by unity, we must love, help each other.
Armenpress: On the other hand, is it not possible to do that without memory?
VM: Yes, that memory is in our genes. For instance, we have mixed families in Tbilisi and when their child goes to a Russian or Georgian school, you cannot imagine what can happen, when something negative is said about the Armenians at school, how those children lift up their voice against that. This is memory of generation, it is there, but it must not prevent us from moving forward.
Armenpress: We talked about the relationship between Armenia and Diaspora. How tight are the ties between Armenian Community in Georgia and Armenia?
VM: It is one of the strongest ties. Not only that, we are close to each other, but the Armenian government works very well with us. The best example of that work is Alexander Mantashov cultural center in Batumi. We receive material support from Armenian government and Armenian Ministry of Diaspora covers some of the care of Tbilisi pantheon. We are cooperating with the Embassy of Armenia to Georgia very well.
Armenpress: Bishop, let’s talk about one of the most sensitive issues: On Armenian churches’ belonging in Georgia. The question remains on hold. What was the year over resolution of that issue?
VM: Georgian new government launched a solution to this problem. Confiscated property during Soviet years is gradually returned to Muslim and Jewish communities. We have submitted the list: the complete list at first – 442 structures but now we work in groups. We presented history of 20 churches to the country’s government in Georgian. We will wait for the response on January and we are going to appeal for other 32. And so, we will appeal step by step and reach the return of our historic churches and we will be consistent over this issue.
Armenpress: What is new in respect of destroyed churches?
VM: Armenian Ministry of Culture and Agency of Georgian Monuments Protection and Reconstruction undertook that issue and the agency appealed to the municipality now to ensure the people, living nearby churches, with apartments to make it possible to restore St. Nshan and other churches there. The situation is difficult at St. Nshan: Repair works are carried out in relation to the fortification grounds but there is no water there. The design works were not quite enough, and we turned to Armenian Minister of Culture twice for responsible people to come and review the project with the Georgian side as water should be burst out under the church according to the design.
Armenpress: Did Ministry of Culture respond to your letters?
VM: Unfortunately, they have not responded yet.
Armenpress: What are the challenges of 2016?
VM: The complete renovation and furnishing of Tumanyan’s house will be the key issue. This should be a matter of Pan-Armenian significance. It is also very important for the Armenian-Georgian cultural relations.