Yesterday morning I had the privilege of facilitating a live video call between Father Vazken Movsesian and In His Shoes in Glendale, CA and Gabriel, Achta, and her children in eastern Chad. Every year around the anniversary of the Armenian genocide, Father V (as we call him!) and his community fast for 30 hours in honor of survivors of genocide: to remember, honor, and empower all of us to act today.
This year is even more personal (and I’ve found emotional) as it is the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. Father Vazken and Gabriel have known each other for several years, and Father V has even helped put up Camp Darfur! So when he took us to an Armenian restaurant to share his idea, we couldn’t say no.
This year he wanted to honor the survivors of Armenia by connecting their grandchildren and great grandchildren with a mother and her family from Darfur to share and acknowledge their shared experienced of surviving genocide. He wanted to encourage Achta to believe that her children and their children have a chance to experience life, while also connecting Armenian youth with survivors of modern day genocide who benefit from them taking action. The Armenian community has not only existed since the genocide of 1915, but it thrives today and even feeds most of California from their own farms in Fresno, CA. The community who was once starved by walking on death marches is now providing almonds, milk, poultry, grapes, tomatoes, and more to hundreds of thousands in the United States. From surviving, to existing, to thriving.
Check out the video from this mornings call. The students had poignant questions, but also shared in the refugee and survivor experience:
At the beginning of the call, I was able to hold it together. Towards the end, when Achta and I had the chance to speak to each other, after so many years of video messages and exchanging little gifts through Gabriel and our team, I didn’t have the power to hold back tears. I know that forever and ever she will have a special place in my heart. I can’t wait to one day embrace her in my arms and tell her how much I respect her courage, strength, and determination.
To learn more about Achta and her family, please watch This is Darfur: Guisma’s Story: