05, 2010

At Villa Empain President Sargsyan made a statement

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Dear representatives of Pogossian family,
Dear Guests,
Ladies and Gentelmen,

I am happy to be here, at one of Brussels historical and cultural sites - Villa Empain. First, allow me to start with the words of appreciation for the Pogossian Foundation, which has undertaken the task of restoring this marvelous monument of the first half of the 20th century.

Baron Louis Empain, a patron of arts intended to create here a center of arts and culture. But the 20th century was harsh and the start of WWII cancelled those plans. Today, thanks to Pogossian family, Villa Empain becomes what its founder wanted it to be – the center for East-West dialogue and arts.

We, the Armenians, due to ruthless whims of history, are spread all over the world. In the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century the chieftains of the Ottoman Empire failed to understand and appreciate the Armenians. They failed to understand those unique people, who learn foreign languages fast, establish relations with other nations and serve as mediators between East and West in trade, business, culture, and literature. They failed to comprehend why those strange Armenians self-organize, create cultural centers, and publish multilingual periodicals. And they had found the easiest solution to the problem: if there are no Armenians, there is no need to ponder over these questions.

The Genocide made the Armenians spread all over the world. Armenians live and thrive not only in Christian but also in many Muslim countries. It is hard to say whether those Armenians who had fled the horrors of the Genocide were received more warmly in Christian or in Muslim countries. Support and assistance provided to our nation in those dire times is immeasurable.

Today, here at Villa Empain, the Pogossian Foundation remains faithful to the Armenian tradition of being a mediator between East and West. In our difficult times, when there are certain attempts to supply conflicts with religious lining and speak about the clash of civilizations, we, the Armenians should continue with our long-established traditions of being a bridge between different cultures. As a nation scattered around the globe we know only too well how important tolerance is, as well as respect toward the other’s belief, language, and culture. For this very reason we are able to truly and sincerely appreciate the importance of dialogue between cultures.

We also know that problems of intolerance and discrimination are not to be solved through the statements, declarations, or manifestations of good will alone. In the end of the 20th century, the humanity witnessed yet another horrid crime – genocide in Rwanda. First, that genocide was carried out through words. The Armenians had passed the same road of sufferings. However, when the Armenian Genocide was committed there were neither radio, nor TV, while the ideologists of the crime in Rwanda injected their poison through that very means of communication.
Promulgation of hatred is not just neutral utilization of the freedom of speech: it misuses that freedom to plant hatred and trigger violence against one, targeted group of people. Whoever the members of that targeted group may be – a Jew or a Tutsi, an Arab or an Armenian - their chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime multiply.

Recently, Armenians have become a target of such promulgation of hatred. When the leader of a neighboring state says that the Armenians must be deported for the sole reason that they are Armenians, I cannot but help to remember what happened in 1915. However, I cannot also neglect the events in Rwanda, where similar statements were put on TV and radio to pave the way for violence.

When from another neighboring state we hear hate howls and constant threats of war, I once again recall the ruthless lessons of history. In Azerbaijan, just like in the Ottoman Empire, the Armenians were perceived as an alien entity - disturbing and useless, which must be get rid off through the massacres and atrocities. And after all this, Baku is trying once again to establish its rule over Nagorno Karabakh and its freedom-loving people, the very people they were craving to wipe out.

Armenophobia becomes mentality, and its dissemination – a state policy. Armenophobia today is one of the most basic manifestation of misanthropy. Humanism has withstood the battle but fight against misanthropy still goes on. Misanthropy has lost the battle but, regrettably, not the war. How many places are there in the world where children look up into the sky not to welcome the sun and admire the sky but to see if death and destruction are not rushing down.

The noble mission of Baron Empain was terminated by the World War II. The factual end of the war was heralded by the Nuremberg process, in which humanity defeated misanthropy. Today, Baron Empain’s vision becomes reality thanks to the Pogossian family, because we, the Armenians do not terrify other’s children with saber-rattling, because our goal is the dialogue of cultures and mutual enrichment.

And I am happy that Villa Empain – the center for East-West dialogue and arts opens its doors, and I cordially congratulate all of us on this occasion.

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