YEREVAN (ArmRadio)—The 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide will be commemorated at the 2015 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., with the attendance of the U.S. President and other high ranking officials. An American delegation is in Armenia to invite Armenian political and religious leaders to participate in the event. The annual event has been held since 1953 and is hosted by the United States Congress and organized by the Fellowship Foundation, an American conservative church group.
Ben Smith, a US Attorney who currently consults with businesses and churches, is engaged in the organization of the event.
“We’ve brought greetings and letters from our leaders in the U.S. to encourage the leadership in Armenia to participate in the commemorations set up Washington,” Smith said in an interview with Public Radio of Armenia.
The National Prayer Breakfast is a yearly event held in Washington, D.C., on the first Thursday of February each year. Every U.S. president since Dwight D. Eisenhower has participated in the annual event, which brings together over 2,500 people from around the world in addition to business leaders and Congressmen.
“The national Prayer Breakfast was started by our President Dwight D. Eisenhower in an effort to bring leaders from both parties together at least for one day to focus on prayer and the principles of Jesus so that they could dispel their different points of view and their arguments. And they actually focus one day on spiritual principles,” Smith explained.
He said they are working with various Armenian communities in the US and also the National Prayer Breakfast to recognize and commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Genocide.
“Three years ago I was part of the commemoration in Aleppo, Syria, and it was really powerful,” Smith said.
As for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the U.S., he said he has no power to deal with the political side of the issue. “I think most people in the U.S. recognize and want it recognized. I can’t say to what extend and when President Obama will do that, but I’m confident most of the Americans are aware of the Genocide,” he said.
As part of the visit to Armenia members of the American delegation met with His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, to discussed the invitation to join President Obama in February for the National Prayer Breakfast.
“And then we talked about our interest in helping children and he gave us some overviews of the schools, the orphanages, as well as the youth centers, and we were fortunate to visit one in Yerevan. We got to see the students doing their art, their sculpture. What they are doing is very impressive,” Ben Smith said.
On his first visit to Armenia, Smith said to be impressed by the people, the country, the history and culture. He regrets that people in his country do not know much about Armenia. “I think Armenia is really a well-kept secret. This would be a great place for tourism. And if American people knew more about it, and knew about the beauty of the country, they would be interested.”
The American delegates visited a number of historical sites and museums in Armenia. “American museums go back to 17th century at most, and they think that’s old. Museums in Armenia go back to 6500 B.C., and it’s fabulous. And I think that more Americans should know about Armenia,” he said.
Ben Smith said he was impressed by the loyalty of Armenians to Armenia and the Armenian culture, as well as the commitment to family. He said people are very hospitable and positive, despite all the things they’ve gone through.
“I’m very grateful to the leadership and the church, we were graciously received. And we intend to come back as soon as we can,” he concluded.
Ben Smith is a US Attorney and was corporate officer of American Express Company and an executive with Wells Fargo Bank. He consults today with businesses and churches.