Recently, the Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Australia and New Zealand appeared on a Diasporan internet television program, where he characterised the founders of the Armenian-Australian community as an “unfortunately uneducated” flock from the Middle East, who only arrived to these shores because their limitations couldn’t earn them visas to the United States, Canada and Europe.
Condescension is not acceptable leadership.
In fact, this offensive, inaccurate and patronising description from our Archbishop is as unacceptable as it is ungrateful and unwelcome to Armenian-Australians, who have poured blood, sweat, tears… and intellect to ensure this community is one of the most thriving Armenian Diasporas in the world.
The reality is that this community’s founders arrived with very little, but gave so much.
It was their vision, foresight, morals and investment that ensured Armenian-Australians could remain Armenian by establishing the very institutions we rely on to maintain our 3,500 year identity today.
These heroes of the Armenian-Australian community founded our churches, our community organisations, our schools and our community centres. This is hardly the work of an uneducated flock who were rejected from North America and Europe.
They were community- and family-oriented women and men, who produced our leaders, exemplified by the Premier of New South Wales Gladys Berejiklian, who was brought up in those very churches, organisations, schools and community centres before becoming one of the country’s most respected legislators. She is now guiding her state of 8 million through the coronavirus pandemic. And Premier Berejiklian is not alone in achieving success – our community has many stories of success in business, academia and public service.
The work of maintaining and growing these institutions is not for the faint hearted. The generations that have followed the lead of the founders of this community have ensured that, against all odds, we have Armenian schools, advocacy groups fighting for Armenian causes, sporting clubs and dance troupes bringing Armenians together, establishments that were able to welcome refugee Armenians from Iraq and Syria during their time of need, and were able to build a new centre for the very Diocese, whose leader has decided this was all the work of an uneducated class who missed their boat to “greener” pastures.
The youth of our community took the leadership mantle during the coronavirus pandemic. With their intimate knowledge of technologies, they ensured Armenian-Australians were able to commemorate the Armenian Genocide and remember the Republic of Armenia’s First Independence despite being forced into isolation over past months. Today’s youth is advancing on the solid establishment that was passed down to them from our founder generation.
This community does not need leadership by condescension. We need leadership by appreciation. Leadership by inspiration. Leadership by investment. Leadership by example.
Armenian-Australians need spiritual leaders who don’t look down on them, rather those who kneel down and pray with them during their time of need. We don’t need spiritual leaders who criticise us for not showing up, rather those who come to us when we need their blessings and counsel. We don’t need pride as much as we need humility, hope and unity.
We demand a public correction.