Fresno Armenian Community to Mark Historic Battle for Religious Freedom

First Armenian Presbyterian Church in Fresno (Photo: fapc.com)
First Armenian Presbyterian Church in Fresno (Photo: fapc.com)

First Armenian Presbyterian Church in Fresno (Photo: fapc.com)

FRESNO, Calif.—Members and friends of the Armenian Churches of the San Joaquin Valley will gather for a special service of worship and civic observance to commemorate an ancient battle fought to preserve their religious freedom.

The Central California Armenian Community will observe Vartanantz at 6:30pm on Thursday, February 23, 2017. The commemoration will take place at the campus of the First Armenian Presbyterian Church, 430 South First Street at Historic Huntington Boulevard near Downtown Fresno. The commemoration is without charge and open to the public.

On the Thursday preceding Lent each year, the Armenian people worldwide commemorate the anniversary of a conflict between Christian Armenians and Zoroastrian Persians in the year 451 A.D. The Battle of Avarayr came to symbolize the heroic efforts of the Armenian people to remain free from subjugation and steadfast in their faith.

General Vartan Mamigonian commanded an Armenian force of 66,000 against a Persian army more than four times as large. Mamigonian was martyred during the battle and the Armenian forces were defeated in the war. The Armenian people were still successful in affirming and maintaining their Christian faith.

The 2017 Vartanantz Commemoration is co-sponsored by the Knights of Vartan Yeprad Tahlij and Daughters of Vartan Alidz Oytag. Established in 1916, the Knights of Vartan is a fraternal service organization that encourages members to assume leadership roles in cultural, educational, religious, and charitable organizations and to better the Armenian nation worldwide.

Participants in the 2017 Worship Service and Civic Observance include the students of the Charlie Keyan Armenian Community School of Clovis, the Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church, Saint Paul Armenian Apostolic Church, St. Gregory the Illuminator Apostolic Church of Fowler, Saint Mary Armenian Apostolic Church of Yettem, Pilgrim Armenian Congregational Church of Fresno, and the host congregation.  Appellate attorney Philip Tavlian, the Secretary of the Ararat Armenian Cemetery Association, will offer special remarks at the 7:15 p.m. Civic Observance.  The Vartanantz Commemoration will conclude with a fellowship reception featuring Armenia appetizers on the FAPC Campus.

Forty immigrants from Marsovan chartered the Fresno congregation in a rented hall on July 25, 1897. The boyhood church of authors William Saroyan and A.I. Bezzerides and filmmaker J. Michael Hagopian, FAPC today is a multigenerational evangelical congregation drawn from the Old and New Worlds.

The FAPC ministry team includes Senior Pastor Gregory Vahack Haroutunian; Reverend Mike Mekredijian, Associate Pastor for Young Families; and Reverend Philip C. Garo, Jr., Associate Pastor for Youth Ministries.  FAPC is a member congregation of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) and the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America.  The 120th Anniversary theme of the congregation is: “FAPC is a house of prayer for each person knows their role.”

More details about Vartanantz and the 2017 Commemoration are available by calling (559) 237-6638 or visiting fapc.net.

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