Upon the invitation of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I, Armenian Lebanese intellectuals gathered at the hall of the Veharan, the Catholicosal residence, on Jan. 14 for a conference on the proclamation of 2022 as the “Year of the Diaspora.”

His Holiness blessed the meeting and thanked attendees for accepting the invitation in the dire circumstances the country is experiencing. He referred to the now decades-old tradition of dedicating every new year to a theme.

“We continued the tradition, but the proclamation of the ‘Year of the Diaspora’ is of a different nature,” he said, given the magnitude of the issue. “The Diaspora is in crisis.”

The overwhelming majority of Armenians now live in the Diaspora, he noted. “The Diaspora has begun to wear out and fade,” the Catholicos said. “The Diaspora has begun to be indifferent towards itself.” This is accompanied by disappointment with Armenia, especially in the last few years and after the war of Artsakh.

Youth is quitting Armenian community life and organizations.  “We have not been able to keep pace with the changes that are happening around us.”

“We must not, however, be satisfied with publishing a proclamation,” His Holiness said. The issue of the Diaspora must become the focus of our thoughts… words, and our organizational life.”

The participating intellectuals expressed their concerns, offered general reflections, and made proposals. They praised the Catholicos’ proclamation and welcomed the meeting as a productive step towards more specialized work in the future.

In his closing remarks, His Holiness repeated his appreciation for the attendees’ willingness to take part in the conference and their efforts to address this collective crisis. This should be the year to run a diagnosis of the Diaspora’s situation, he said. These problems cannot be solved overnight in view of their complexity, especially as each community faces its own set of challenges. Hence, a comprehensive and realistic approach is needed, His Holiness said.

As we deal with a wide range of challenges, we must abandon fossilized ideas and stereotypes, the Catholicos said. Without forgetting its foundations, we must renew the Diaspora. Our work and structures must be modernized if we do not want a chasm to open between our structures and the young people, he said.