Your Holiness, Dear Delegates, Members and Friends of AGBU
Thank you all for being here. It is a privilege and an honor to address you again as President of this remarkable organization.
AGBU’s General Assembly, held every two years, is a valuable opportunity to recognize our achievements, individually and collectively; assess the impact we have made through our various programs around the globe; and share with AGBU family members and all of our friends our plans going forward. This year is particularly significant. And I believe you all share this feeling as reflected in the record turnout, not just for last night’s excellent performance and tonight’s gala, but also for our business meetings Thursday; our open, interactive discussions yesterday; and for this, our General Assembly.
I’m sure you will all agree we are living at a critical time. It is a critical time for AGBU. It is a critical time for Armenia. It is a critical time for our diaspora. And it is a critical time for our Church. As a global organization, AGBU, through the support of its members, volunteers, donors, and the Armenian people, has successfully served Armenians across the diaspora and in the homeland for more than a century. But AGBU’s strength lies not just in running its programs; it lies in its being an agent of impact, inspired by a unique spirit of generosity, openness and long-term perspective.
Throughout its history, AGBU’s many global initiatives have impacted geopolitical and socioeconomic aspects of the Armenian nation. AGBU has launched and directed dozens of educational, cultural, and humanitarian programs and institutions, each profoundly responsive to the needs of Armenian communities in Armenia and throughout the world. Since its inception, its leadership has boldly championed initiatives to address current needs and to face challenges ahead. Being forward-thinking and groundbreaking is not new to AGBU.
Today, AGBU can confidently respond again to the needs of the global Armenian nation, which is facing the greatest of opportunities yet also the greatest of threats. With a vulnerable economic and geopolitical situation in Armenia and an increasingly disengaged diaspora, we can no longer view these two elements as separate. Rather, a vibrant homeland and an engaged diaspora are interdependent and must be viewed as one.
For AGBU this means realigning its priorities – where it puts its energies and resources – and rethinking how it measures its impact and success in contributing to the prosperity of the global Armenian nation. We remain truer than ever to the aspirations and ideals of AGBU’s founders. These brave and visionary individuals were committed to building a strong homeland under the most difficult of circumstances.
Now, AGBU should realign its mission to address current realities, including to prioritize advancing social and economic prosperity in Armenia as it continues and strengthens its many successful initiatives that promote identity through culture and education in the diaspora. AGBU should strive to deliver this ambitious platform by securing new human capital, financial resources, and strong partnerships that will ensure a sustainable future for the global Armenian nation amidst a rapidly evolving landscape. There is no shortage of work in the months and years to come; many of these ideas were discussed yesterday in the various breakouts groups.
AGBU must engage in strategic alliances as a unifying entity; strengthen its volunteer network; reinforce collaboration with the Armenian Church; initiate relationships within the Armenian world, such as the ones already in place with IDeA Foundation and TUMO, among others; and establish relationships with international multilateral institutions such as the European Union and the International Finance Corporation, just to name a few. To achieve all this, AGBU must rebalance its platform to support its overarching goals of both bolstering identity and creating prosperity for the global Armenian nation. These aspirations are grand but reflect the equally significant challenges we are facing. Based on its past record of action, AGBU is entirely capable of meeting them. As our forefathers did so brilliantly 110 years ago and throughout our history, we will confront our challenges not in a vacuum but with a healthy regard for current events and current realities, with a look towards the global nation. Our greatest challenge in the diaspora resides in the fact that the majority of diasporan Armenians are disconnected from our Armenian identity.
Regarding Armenia, our forefathers saw their dream for an independent Armenia come true. We celebrated the 25th anniversary of our current republic with great pride. This milestone proves dreams do come true. Our hope now is to have an Armenia of which we can all be proud – for its political, economic, justice and social systems. We must be ambitious enough to dream a little bigger, and help our homeland achieve our dream.
As to our Church, many wonder why we remain so committed: because this institution has been in existence for more than 1700 years. Uninterrupted. It has faced many challenges over the centuries; most we know nothing about. And whether independent, oppressed or persecuted as a people, throughout our history, our Church has seen us through. How has a single institution remained the core of our global identity? Why has this mattered? Yet many Armenians have lost their connection with the Church. The challenges are to get Armenians re-engaged and for the Church to attend more efficiently to the spiritual needs of the people.
What all this brings me to is what I mentioned before. We can no longer look at our homeland, our diaspora, or our Church – alone. Rather they must be viewed as part of a new single entity – the global Armenian nation. This is the premise on which AGBU is building its future. And each and every one of us has to strive to be global Armenians, understanding, appreciating, and respecting the enormously important global nation we represent. Yesterday’s interactive discussions were aimed at “Empowering Global Armenians.” This is how AGBU views each of you. To achieve this goal, our chapters and communities must broaden their horizons beyond the city limits and borders of their respective locations. A failure to join the global view will, in the end, bring their local communities to complete isolation where being Armenian will lose its attraction.
Some look at the various crises on the world stage with panic. We look at them as unfortunate but as opportunities to, again, prove AGBU’s ability to adapt as an organization. And we also look at all that is happening as an opportunity for our small nation to have a potentially significant impact in this era of technology and communications. So we are at a critical point. Either we seize the opportunities that inevitably come during times like this, commit to taking bold steps and clarify our areas of focus. Or we get left behind. The leadership of AGBU has never allowed this organization to be left behind; neither will I.
We will achieve what we set out to do because we have our members, our friends, our communities around the world, our generous donors – we are entirely committed to a successful future for our organization that is grounded in the values of our founders. Together we will achieve it.
President Berge Setrakian
October 29th, 2016, New York
To view the press release in Armenian, click here.