Ham Ziyarat, Ham Tidjarat: [Eastern] Diocese Sees $$$ in Diyarbakir Church Opening

Eastern Diocese Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian


The above saying means doing business while on a visit to somewhere—mixing business with pleasure.

Eastern Diocese Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, along with another Diocese-affiliated cleric, Archbishop Viken Ayvazian, led a pilgrimage of parishioners to the grand re-opening of the St. Giragos Church in Diyarbakir, which took place this past weekend.

According to Hurriyet Daily News, that’s not the only delegation they have led. According to the newspaper, the two church leaders headed a delegation of 26 Armenian-American business people who reportedly discussed investing in Turkey with Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbas and Turkish businessman Ahmet Calik, of Calik Holdings, one of Turkey’s largest corporations.

Given that such a series of business meetings could clearly not be scheduled at the last minute, one can conclude that in planning this pilgrimage to the historic St. Giragos church, doing business with Turkish businessmen—effectively Turkey—was always on the agenda for those on this religious journey.

In his reporting from Diyarbakir, Armenian Weekly editor Khatchig Mouradian observed: “Renovated by the Surp Giragos Armenian Foundation, with the support of the local Kurdish-controlled municipality, the church, which had witnessed a century of destruction, neglect, and denial, now stood as defiant as ever to the forces suppressing freedom in Turkey. And as the faithful of different religions prayed in unison, the political message wasn’t lost on anyone.”

One of the members of Arch. Barsamian’s delegation, a senior Diocese lay leader, Oscar Tatosian, reportedly told Hurriyet that the meeting with Calik was very important in terms of dialogue. Hurriyet quoted the Chicago and New York-based businessman as opining: “Our people should come together and enjoy a cup of tea. The dialogue starts with arts, culture, academic cooperation and trade. The rest will follow.” That sadly, is Ankara’s narrative, one that requires that Armenians set aside their quest for truth, justice, and security, in the name of just doing business.

Hurriyet also characterizes Tatosian as saying that the Armenian community abroad is wrongly considered a homogenous one by Turkish people. According to Hurriyet he added that many wanted a good relationship with the Turks. This has long been one of the most offensive, and transparent, traps set by the Turkish government: enticing Armenians to divide themselves into “good” Armenians (acceptable to Ankara) and “bad” Armenians (who fail to fall in line with Turkey’s commands). This destructive, self-imposed and demeaning distinction ignores common sense and insults all those, including a vast majority of Diocese parishioners, who, no doubt, believe that the desire for a “good relationship” with Turkey need not come at the expense of our national history, rights, security, or dignity.

[Hurriyet, and its Turkish-Armenian correspondent Vercihan Ziflioğlu, are notorious for twisting quotes from their interview subjects. I have experienced this first-hand. We invite Mr. Tatosian to dispute the remarks, if clarification is warranted. Nevertheless, the mere meeting with the business leader and Istanbul Mayor to discuss business prospects is at the center of this commentary. A.K.]

Indeed, the grand re-opening of the St. Giragos was a poignant political message and one of the many aspects of the war on stolen Armenian properties by the present day Turkish government, which continues the destructive policies of the Ottoman Empire.

At first glance, Archbishop Barsamian’s efforts to congregate parishioners and lead them on an historic pilgrimage is nothing but commendable. However, what is dubious is his role in engaging in a damaging “dialogue” with the business interests of private individuals, and the state behind them, with a powerful and vested interest in using their economic resources (much of it derived from the Armenian Genocide) to partner with Armenians, however token, to lock in the fruits of their crimes.

What is even more suspect is the Primate’s participation—leadership—of such an effort, given his role this past summer in the “Return of Churches” effort in Congress. His new role as a deal-maker it begs a larger question: What business do religious leaders have in commerce, especially in Turkey? Has the Church expanded its role of catering to the spiritual needs of the people and is now suddenly facilitating its parishioners financial gains?

Furthermore, by agreeing to participate in this meeting, the two church leaders and their delegation fell smack dab into the trap set by Turkish government, whose foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu has on several occasions expressed his desire to meet with Diaspora leaders to project a benevolent image of Turkey as part of its well-orchestrated Genocide denial policy.

How easily are people willing to become pawns of the Turkish propaganda machine? These Armenian-American businessmen may have personal gain—and profit—from their behavior. But, the Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America engaging in such blatant kowtowing is entirely unacceptable on a moral basis, and, as a practical matter, falls far outside his clerical and spiritual mission.

It is no secret that the Diocese was one of the signatories of a statement staunchly supporting the dangerous and ill-fated Turkey-Armenia Protocols. It seems Archbishop Barsamian and his friends did not get the memo that these accords, in the words of President Sarkisian himself, are all but dead. (Armenia must withdraw its signature from the documents, since they still pose grave dangers to Armenia’s national security.)

The fact that there are 26 businesspeople in the Archbishop’s delegation signals that someone wants to make a profit and the Primate is the perfect cover for money grabbing individuals, whose questionable morals and scruples allow them to trample upon our national interests and aspirations. In the early 1990’s Hrair Hovnanian set an early standard in this regard when, motivated by his greed, he pursued, along with then President Levon Ter-Petrosian, a Turkish port development project in Trebizond that would have made him millions of dollars richer.

As a leader of the Diocese of the Armenian Church, Archbishop Barsamian must explain his questionable actions to the public, or his shortsightedness and deep deficit of moral leadership will forever diminish the gains made by the message of the St. Giragos re-opening in Diyarbakir.

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  1. HARUT said:

    wow wow my people please look at it like the the truks stole from us in the past by commiting Genocide against us and now there is a new way t otake our money to manuplate in daylight and invest in turkey than we will take your money turkey sees money and smells money so now they are planing to take our money by offering halva, people wake up and if i’m wrong than more power to the Armenian business people maybe they are rebuilding western Armenia to start the migration of the world Armenians into Western Armenia

  2. hayrenaser said:

    a money worshiping scum is a money worshiping scum,
    whether armenian, turk, chinese, indian, russian, american, french, arab, jew, zwahili,
    doesn’t really matter,
    all the money loving amoral, thieves ( i mean business running criminal syndicates ) of the world are made of the same chemical structure
    the real shame is on the not so reverend agent of the devil Archbishop Viken Ayvazian…
    and to think that not so long ago armenians attacked president sargsyan ( a politicians who is generally expected to be not so…. )
    why is his boss the holier than thou, the extremely hayrenaser “aram I” silent???
    does the catholicosate of cilica condone this vial act or are they getting ready to ex-communicate this hay azgi amoth@, voch hargeli, stor, viken ayvaziann ou iren shrchapatatz armenants azgi davadganner@
    this truly makes my stomach turn…this is wrong on so many levels

  3. Daniel said:

    Does anyone else notice that there are two halves to this article, separated by the brackets? If nothing else, the first is properly edited while the second is not.

    • Daniel said:

      And it seems to be built on a assumptions. Asbarez, thank you for bringing this meeting to the public’s attention, but please don’t lose your professional touch!

  4. christo said:

    And this archbishop and his entourage want the Cilician catholicosate to merge, One CHURCH ONE NATION. The HELL WITH ALL OF YOU, I just wonder how and in what circumstances did Mr. Tatosian’s family depart Ottoman turkey? How many Armenians lives perished for their escape from Ottoman turkey? What a bunch of WH***S.

  5. George said:

    I support advancing relationship among people. Governments I do not care. People will decide about their fate not gov’t.

  6. Grish Begian said:

    This is an old Persian proverb..

    This is what Mr. Davoodoghlu told in the news a years ago, he will deal with Diaspora Armenians differently!!

    This is one of the results… no Genocide recognition and Turkish wedding dance by an Armenian clergy!!

    It seems to me Turks gave him too much “halal raki” and he wants more of it!! I can see the Allah’s reflection from his eyes!!

  7. Norin Radd said:

    “How easily are people willing to become pawns of the Turkish propaganda machine? These Armenian-American businessmen may have personal gain—and profit—from their behavior. But, the Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America engaging in such blatant kowtowing is entirely UNacceptable on a moral basis, and, as a practical matter, falls far outside his clerical and spiritual mission.”

    Unless I understood the meaning of this article incorrectly, I’m guessing “acceptable” should have been “unacceptable” –> Type. Do not need this comment up, just pointing it out. The typo throws the article in a whole different direction.

  8. Onnik K. said:

    If these news are true, then shame to Khajak Barsamian, and to Karekin II who pander to the Turkish and International anti-Armenian plots in the guise of the so-called protocols and the business adventures with Turks, which trample upon our national rights and dignity. All rational and dignified Armenians should complain about this sad fact. It seems that the See of Etchmiadzin, and its dioceses in Diaspora lost their common sense and honour.

  9. Norin Radd said:

    If this is the case, then since these 26 individuals have taken it upon themselves to mess around with our national ethnic dignity, then by all means, their names should be made public to Armenians worldwide.

    That way when we see them on the street we will know who to spit on. By all means, do tell us who these elitist businessmen are, they trample on matters that affect us whole as a nation and as a nation, we should have their identities at the ready so that they can be dealt with and addressed by the world Armenian community properly.

  10. Sylva-MD-Poetry said:

    Ham Ziyarat …Ham Tidjarat
    Is Arabic words and never Turkish
    Ziyara without t means visit
    Tidjarah without t means business.
    So both words stolen from Arabic language
    You can continue the rest…
    Even the proverb is Arabic never Turkish…
    Mary Muneeb, the famous Egyptian actress use to imitate the Turks
    by adding letter t at the end of every Arabic word…

    • ahmet said:

      Its in Azeri Turkish: Hem Ziyaret, Hem Ticaret.
      even though the origin of words are in Arabic, “Hem” is a turkish word. FYI.

  11. Darwin Jamgochian said:

    Ara, what would “your leaders” have done? Will you people ever lighten up?

  12. Hamasdegh said:

    Is this the price to pay for hoping to become acceptable to Turks as the future patriarch of Istanbul Armenians? If it is so, I cry for you Armenians.

  13. Tsoghig said:

    Very good commentary. In a small way I can see how these people (capitalist Armenians) want to start establishing potential profitable relations with Turkey, but in the end you are right. Turks cannot be trusted. They have NEVER followed through with any promises to Armenians and all Armenians, capitalists especially, need to have it on the forefront of their mind that the Turks cannot be trusted and not only their lives but their capital is at stake.

    Instead of investing in Turkey, why don’t they invest in Armenia or Artsakh?

    Also it would interesting to know if they were trying to purchase property/land.

  14. Fredrick said:

    First of all there is nothing wrong with the clergy helping the Armenian community to do business, match potential couples, help with the marriage counseling etc. However, there should be a line drawn between a benevolent social activity and getting involved in politics, especially with Turkey. This takes away from the mission of the church and opens the door for Armenians doubting the church leaders and their motives. This is a clear example of this type of behavior making the church into a partner with the business oligarchy. The Armenian government and the administration of Mr. Sarkissian has grown a lot since coming into the office and has realized the political realities and learned about the Turkish government’s duplicity. It is a pity that the primate of the Eastern Diocese, himself raised in Turkey, and his council do not recognize or acknowledge this. Also this calls into question the wisdom of the Echmiadzin since this trip would not have been possible without its blessing. This is a very good article it is a pity that it will be dismissed as a Dashnak attack. I am not a Dashnak but it did struck a chord with me and I agree with it.

  15. bigmoustache said:

    we dont need to do business with turkey and give them more of our money (as if they didnt steal enough during and after the genocide)
    instead we need to establish ties with Kurds, business, diplomatic, cultural and humanitarian.
    its the kurds who opened the church, kurds who acknowledge and repent the armenian genocide, and its kurds (majority) living on our lands. if we are to ever live there again we need good relations with kurds.

    • Dennis R. Papazian said:

      When you do business, it is presume that both sides make money. You are not being exploited when you make money. Of course we must deal with the Kurds, they need Armenians to help them develop their own society and economy.

      • Raffikian said:

        It is true that both sidesmake money, however the invested capital is in Turkey and more you earn the more you invest and still it is in Turkey.

  16. Hovmelk said:

    This is another painful example of the disorganized state of affairs in the Armenian Diaspora.In the absence of a central authority on issues of Pan-Armenian importance every Tom,Dick and Harry initiates and pursues schemes that are contradictory to a line of strategic thinking and plan that make our purpose and goal more viable in the long run. I cringe with pain when I come across such uni-dimensional displays of ” confidence” building inititiaves with party or parties who have a better view of their interests. On such occasions my father used to repeat a Trukish saying from Adana: “eshek khoshafdan ne aghnar”.

  17. manooshag said:

    Well, what an interesting development… the Church leader and his cohorts, even 1990s Hrair Hovnanian’s pursuit with then President Levon Ter Petrossian… and, all about money – even then… With such patriots as are these – who needs enemies!!

  18. Dennis R. Papazian said:

    The Hovnanian-Alaton deal inspired by former US ambassador Abramovitz to build an Armenian port in Trbezon would have been extremely beneficial to Armenia, giving it access to the sea and aiding its economy tremendously. Landlocked Armenia is in dire economic shape. It needs open borders for open trade.

    In the final analysis, it is Turkey itself which must accept the Genocide. Outside force has not helped much. New ideas are necessary to face contemporary reality.

  19. Darwin Jamgochian said:

    I’m old enough to remember when Glendale was a friendly place. Today, its become the Pepto Bismol capital of the world with all the bellyaching thats going on. Count this native son out! Sewing the seeds of discord cannot give you nourishment.

  20. Haladjian said:

    Isn’t it a shame to denigrate one another ins such an article? Isn’t it enough to throw stones on each other? and then we are surprised or mildly speaking unhappy that the Armenian nation as such both as an ethnic group and State will never prosper. Why are the young and talented Armenians fleeing away from everything that is Armenian, especially in the Diaspora? Fleeing away from whatever is partisan…! You should understand what I mean… It is really shame to play to the benefit of our neighbour. Don’t they have eyes and ears to see and hear what is happening here among us – Armenians? We have never been and will never be diplomats…

  21. Fredrick said:

    With all due respect to Dennis and the misguided good intentions of our Diyarbiker visiting oligarchs that are trying to make life better for Armenia (LOL), this is an imaginary carrot that everybody uses to justify giving up the historical rights and political capital of Armenia and make money for themselves. The Armenian republic has survived twenty years of hardship and endured a successful war with Azeris. It is thriving without the borders being open or getting any financial benefits from Turkey. Granted it is not at the level of Europe, but compare it with 15 years ago. Why are we using this stupid argument to justify giving away the farm?

  22. The Truth said:

    this when we have oligarchy officials who do act more and more like charlatans!‎ charlatans says everthing!

  23. Garen said:

    I am glad someone cares about the Armenian churches and the Armenian cultural heritage by preserving the churches and teaching who Armenians are to the Turkish republic. This can only be done through hard work and dialog. I wonder what these responders have done other then talk.

  24. Harut said:


    • Arman said:

      You’re absolutely right. This is a false pretext and politicians will exploit it saying “see these Armenians and Turks are getting along.”

  25. Darwin Jamgochian said:

    Frederick, I’ll bet you won’t see a Hayastansi attack the Armenian mission to Turkey. For your information, the border crossing closures have placed undue hardships on Armenia. Most people on this board that are disgruntled have political aspirations and not economic. Every time a ray of hope comes through, the antangonists pop up! Why not give it a chance instead of killing an effort before it can get off the mark? Think about our unfortunate brothers in Armenia who have to leave the country to support their families. Wouldn’t it be the right thing to give Armenia the opportunity to expand its economic base? It’s a no brainer.

  26. Garo Avedis said:

    Re-opening of the Church,it Ok,babtism,ok too,but what business got to do with worship?

    • Arman said:

      The answer is nothing…..and this shows you that these shameless clerics worship money, not God.

  27. Hairo said:

    The title of this article captures it all. You have to be an Arabic or Turkish speaker to get the full impact of the meaning. The true meaning is lost in English translation.
    At any rate, this is what happens when people go beyond their job descriptions. The bishops’ job responsibly is clearly defined in the By-Laws of the Eastern Diocese. Nowhere it indicates that the bishop should concern himself in international business and politics.
    Businesspeople do not invest anywhere if they cannot make money. Had these 26 people could have made money in Armenia they would have invested there already. The bishop would have taken them to Armenia. But there is no money in Armenia. These people care neither for Armenia nor for Turkey nor for the bishops nor for the church. They’re in it for the money. That’s how it is. They’re investors. I do not blame the businessmen. I blame the bishops who (mis)lead them there.
    The bishops apparently had prearranged these meetings with high ranking Turkish government officials prior to leaving the USA.
    But then one wonders, what’s in it for the bishops to arrange these meetings. How much is their cut?
    The only suggestion I have to the Diocesan bishop and their Chairman is “do not go beyond your job descriptions”.
    Lastly, who paid for the Bishop’s airfare and lodging to go to Turkey during this trip? Most likely an average Joe did who worked hard for his money and sent in his donation to the church to be put for a good use.

  28. Tigran said:

    Ever since we allowed ourselves to fall into this “made in Israel religion” we had nothing but defeat after defeat.

    • HArut said:

      Tigran jan u right brother and it is whats kiling us unfortunately
      when some one wanne get married church said ok u wanne get married in my church it will cost you $ 1.000.00 and if you want the the chandeliers in the middle of the church lit ohit will cost you about $ 250.00 and have u ever been to the Armenian church on saturdays u will see th eline of limos waiting to drop off their bride and groom to get married looks like the line i used to see long time ago in former soviet union at a bread shop.

  29. HB said:

    What is so surprising in this article? This is the Armenian Church at its best! Shame!

  30. Mardiros said:

    I am confused and let me tell you why. When is it OK for the diaspora to communicate with Turks and Turkey, officially and unofficially and on what topics? Who is it authorized to speak on behalf of the diaspora , engaging in dialogue with Turkey if/when necessary, or minimizing contacts when it becomes obvious that the Turkish party is pursuing purely narrow interests and singing a “lullaby” to put us to sleep. Who sees the danger , the trap or the gimmick and says so to the rest of us? Who is in charge of the Armenian strategy vis a vis our past or present problems with Turkey? Should we attend the opening of renovated Churches in large numbers,and on such occasions shed tears for land and country lost,while slowly being induced to like this enemy called Turkey and letting our guards down? Who is the real owner of these historical monuments in Turkey and who ought ot follow aggressively their return to the Armenian community , the Diaspora or the Armenians in Turkey? The more we leave such things to chance, the more we will see amateurish people riding on the empty stage to occupy the narrative. Wake up friends!

    • HArut said:

      Mardiros u r 100% right my brother our people need towake up instead just being critic on every subject that ever comes up

  31. Panos said:

    I know that Archbishop Barsamian’s family was murdered during the Genocide in Western Armenia and that he is a very nationalistic and religious man. I’m sure he will not do anything to harm Armenian interests or to benefit Turkish interests.

  32. Stepan said:

    Any dialogue between Turkish parties and our people evokes emotional responses. Out of respect to the individuals involved, I would like to see clarifying statements…. what were the nature of the discussions?…. the outcome of this is for the benefit of whom?….. what was the role of the church leaders? In dealing with current Armenian/Turkish relations, it is important to always weigh the personal benefit against the impact to the issues between our nations, people and cultures. It is an especially sensitive issue for dialogue involving diaspora Armenians given the reason how the diaspora was created.
    Thank you for reporting the news items. Now we need follow up clarification.

  33. Arman said:

    The Bible says in Second Corinthians 6:14-16 “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Baal? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?”
    I ask, what does he who worships God have to do with those who worship mammon (mammon being money)? What’s an Archbishop doing with 26 traitorous businessmen?
    If they want to invest, let them invest in today’s Eastern Armenia, which is our springboard to Western Armenia. Only a fool would invest in Armenian Churches or other things, so long as they are all in Turkish hands. Let them start installing wind turbines. Armenia is the first country in the Caucasus that uses wind power. Thanks to a partnership with Iran, Armenia barely has 4 fledgling wind turbines, and they have already shown good electricity generation each year. Or let Diaspora investors start raising money for important genocide films which are sorely lacking.

  34. arto said:

    My dear brothers and sisters, no need to go to far. To get the whole picture of Armenian history one merely needs to read Raffi’s books to the full picture of the church’s role in the gradual destruction of our homeland over the centuries which finally led to the Genocide (Read “Kaytser”). I believe there is a reason why these clergy are called Primates, because the are Monkeys who will dance for personal gain and profit, as well as their organization’s prestige. There is only ONE Armenian State with one President. Like it or not, this is the only channel which we should be working politically with any country. If we diasporans don’t like the government of Armenia then we should be participating more actively in the political, social and economic development of Armenia so that all Armenians can be proud of their national government and President. There are many problems now but they can be fixed. The church should stick to baptism, marriage, funerals, building more multi-million dollar churches in America… etc. The diasporan community should only be working on social/humanitarian level with other countries ONLY IF it agrees with the Armenian national government’s agenda. So all these diasporan political organizations should write that into their constitutions if they are sincere about nation building.

  35. Ankakh said:

    So a few petty business people got together to talk about possibly doing trade in harmless products. What are they going to do that will harm Armenian interests? Receive shipments of Turkish fruit juice in exchange for promises that can never be fulfilled? “Give us apricot juice, and we’ll drop the genocide claims, along with the property claims!” I think not. The author, Mr. Khachatourian, seems to have a deep seated hostility toward Khajag Barsamian. I suspect that it is caused by a certain political divide within the diaspora, you know, the one that runs right through the Armenian Apostolic Church as well? No, wait! We are NOT divided, right Mr. Khachatourian? What was I thinking!?

  36. Darwin Jamgochian said:

    According to the players on this board, It’s wrong for a religious leader to be an intermediary to bring business leaders together and try to bridge the discussion. It has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with breaking down barriers. Then again, if a certain religious leader should attack a legitimate government agreement, not his own, by moving himself into a political arena, well then that’s alright! Pure hypocrisy. It’s the same mentality that saw some of our Armenian clergy killed by our own during WW I and the murder in New York in 1933. Let’s face it. Most people on this board have no love for Etchmiadzin or the government of Armenia. Long live anarchists! To what level will they go to “execute” their manifesto? Do these people brain wash the next generation to follow the same traditions? Long live Armenia with or without these malcontents.