Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar

We, Armenians have mixed Politics, Religion and the Society in the same pot. Our “political” party leaders command Church leaders, our Church leaders give voting recommendations, while these, striving to lead the People, are missing the most important obligation: to provide community stewardship.

Vahe, the chair of the Armenian Students Associations Confederation in the West Coast (All-ASA) asked “How could we intrinsically motivate individuals who are not engaged?”
There is a way; by responding to the student’s needs; by letting them know that the community cares and supports them.

Surprisingly, we, the first Christian Nation, have not heard the message “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s”  while our Jewish brothers have not only heard but also implemented it. This is how:
The Jewish community of France encompasses the Consistoire, CRIF and FSJU, which respectively handle the religious, political and social affairs of the community.
We, Armenians have put all in the same pot. Our “political” party leaders command our church leaders, our church leaders give voting recommendations both in Armenian and local political elections, while those striving to be leaders are missing the most important obligation, to provide global community stewardship.
Thus, in the last 50 years and with similar community sizes, the number of students in Jewish schools in France has risen from 500 to 32 000, vs 500 to 1400 in Armenian schools.

We notice however some resurgence among intellectuals and activists who have the vision of establishing such councils. Several organisations are already blossoming in different countries.
The Armenian Assembly (AA) president, Mr. Vahe Engibarian proudly flaunts that his non-profit organization is apolitical. AA supports initiatives in the spheres of culture, education, science  in Armenia, the Diaspora and have taken ownership of their community. It has among others sponsored 18-year-old pianist and future star Eva Grigoryan.

Things are not that smooth everywhere.
In Athens, two distinct 24 April commemoration events were organized by two opposed “parties” last year. A Greek official asked our Reverend which one he should attend…
In France, Mr. Ara Toranian, co-president of CCAF (the counsel of Armenian associations) has addressed the Prime Minister Pashinyan in an open letter dated of 14/02/2022, mentioning that the condition for their hosting of Mr. Sinanyan during his February visit to France was that he does not meet any other groups than “his” CCAF; and since Mr. Sinanyan met the “others” the CCAF declined the hosting it has proposed.
Mr. Toranian was referring to “Mouvement Arménien”, an initiative which advocates for a grassroots council, (whereas CCAF is a confederation of organizations) and the French Armenian Counsel (CFA) has a serious project taking over the social, educational, cultural and economic life of the community.
The CCAF has recorded great political accomplishment in two decades; thanks to its activism, the last four French presidents have visited Armenia, some of them several times, a unique achievement in the Diaspora. It is obvious that the specter of emerging new organizations has driven CCAF leaders nervous; dirty laundry has been exposed to the external of the community, throwing damaging discredit on the organizations and harming the community vis a vis of the French authorities.

In this context, it is essential to gather the respected, selfless, non-engaged thinkers of the community to establish an ethical authority, setting rules and red lines not to cross; indeed, we cannot imagine the president of CRIF, the Jewish equivalent of CCAF, qualifying publicly the Israeli Prime Minister as corrupt, even if the latter has been in court for corruption.
In the above thought process, having in mind that “No one can serve two masters” let our ecclesiastics preach the Word in God’s temple, meanwhile the educators and social workers accomplish their mission in the nation’s temple and those who are engaged in politics, run their campaigns in the frame of French political parties for French and within the Armenian borders for Armenian campaigns, clearing God’s and the Nation’s temples from the disputes which have been poisoning the Diaspora.

The Advisors’ Councils primary objective will be bringing peace to the community. It should also evaluate the needs of the community, establish a fund, transparent, managed by a trustworthy board, where donors have their say; set an agenda and a timetable.

Far from the majestic halls of the Hôtel Collectionneur, where the CCAF dinner took place on 02/08/2022, the only Armenian “institution” in the city of Lille in northern France and which counts 500 Armenian households, was the Arev grocery store which closed down recently.
What will be the destiny of the Armenian teenagers in Lille and all other communities dispersed all around France, whose parents have migrated from Armenia since the 1990’s and are often not well integrated?
We had one (1) influential politician in France, Mr. Patrick Devedjian, the late Minister of Finance. How many such politicians will we have in 20 years and what will be their real influence in France?
In France, will we also sponsor future stars as the AA does in Russia?
“How could we intrinsically motivate individuals who are not engaged?”
The above are questions which could be on our agenda.

Hovel Chenorhokian
Le Raincy, France

March 1, 2022

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