The following is a directive from Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), which was sent to local parish leaders on August 31, 2005.
This past week, the world has once again witnessed the horrors of a natural disaster. This time the victims are our fellow citizens living on the southern edge of the United States. Our hearts and prayers go out to them all.
In spite of the warnings which came in the days preceding the disaster, the wrath of Hurricane Katrina seems to have exceeded most people’s expectations. Certainly, the cost in human death, dislocation, and misery is a pitiful spectacle. Even as we observe, from the safety of our homes, the images of devastation, it is hard to believe we are witnessing the sorrow and loss of our fellow Americans in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi.
Our people should be aware that among those affected by the hurricane are the parishioners of our own mission parish in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We have been in touch with Fr. Nersess Jebejian, the visiting pastor to that vibrant community. From his home in Florida, Fr. Jebejian has contacted families in the Baton Rouge area. He reports that the Armenians in Baton Rouge are still in their homes, but have lost power and (in some cases) water, although they expect some service to return.
The Armenians in New Orleans have all been evacuated from the city; they are safe, but will not know the status of their homes and property until they return to the city. Fr. Jebejian says that of the 100 or so Armenian families living in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and surrounding areas, none are residents of the hardest-hit areas, although as of today he has been unable to contact several families in Shreveport, LA. For the duration of the crisis, he will remain in regular contact with the parish council chairman, and will provide frequent updates to the Diocesan offices.
In the weeks to come, we will have more information on the status of these people in our Baton Rouge parish. But for the immediate term, I am sending this directive to alert our parishes that our Diocese will undertake a drive to raise funds for the general relief effort for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. As in the past, we will work with Church World Service, the humanitarian relief arm of the National Council of Churches (NCC), whose officers are presently in the disaster region assessing the damage. Please feel free to consult their website, www.churchworldservice.org, for details.
I appeal to all our parish leaders to urge your parishioners to contribute to the Diocesan Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund. The most efficient way to donate is through our Diocesan website, www.armenianchurch.net , where you can click on the “Donate” link and make a credit-card donation on our secure server.
Naturally, individuals and parishes can also send checks via mail to the Diocesan headquarters in New York (please write “Hurricane Katrina Relief” in the memo).
Finally, I hereby direct our parishes to hold a special collection for this cause during badarak on Sunday, September 11—itself a date which reminds us of the fragility of life, and the need for solidarity in times of crisis. All funds collected should be sent to the Diocesan headquarters by Friday, September 16.
May God bless you and your parishioners. And may He answer the prayers of all people who call out to Him from the depths of their suffering.
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian