Last year, the Forty Days of Musa Dagh association in Fresno celebrated its 103rd commemoration of Musa Dagh in Fresno. During the event, speaker Ari Jon Filian delivered a message to our young generation. This year, we are celebrating the 104th commemoration and 80th anniversary of the relocation Mousa Dagh residents in Ainjar. The event will take place from August 30 to 31 at 7633 N. Webber Ave., Fresno.
Below is the message delivered by Ari Jon Filian in 2018.
Dear Reverend clergy and fellow Musa Lertsis:
On Friday, I arrived in Fresno like I have every Labor Day weekend for as long as I can remember. I want to thank the Musa Ler Committee and, my uncle, Nishan Keraryr, as I call him, for giving me the opportunity to speak here today. I was asked why I believe this Musa Ler celebration is important, specifically, why it’s important for my generation and the youth.
You know why I come here? Of course, there’s the heriseh and shoorch-bars. But more importantly, it’s to remember and draw inspiration. It’s a beautiful site to see: everyone coming together from all over California and beyond to eat, dance, catch up, and have a great time. It’s the essence of what a community should be. We celebrate and commemorate the amazing journey of our ancestors, from barely surviving to living and thriving in this great country and all over the world.
Taking this weekend to be with family and reflecting on the immensity of the challenges that our people have overcome, to accomplish so much, makes me realize that if our forefathers can get us here today, my generation and future generations can, and must, do more. My generation doesn’t get enough opportunities to reflect and remember. We’ve grown up with the advent of Google and the internet, with all of the world’s information at our fingertips, a quick glance at our phones away. This is amazing and a blessing, of course! But, because of this, we have forgotten how to remember. We have forgotten to remember.
Speaking of remembering, I had the pleasure of celebrating William Saroyan’s 110th birthday and the opening of his museum on Friday, and I once again was inspired by his famous quote: “I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia. See if you can do it…Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.”
We must remember, after the Genocide our grandparents and great grandparents had nothing! But then there was hope, there was faith, and there was tenacity. And I’m reminded of that old proverb: “They tried to bury us, but they did not know we were seeds.” Our ancestors were scattered in the wind, but wherever they landed, they sprouted roots and grew. We must remember, our grandparents created new Armenias all over the world: Ainjar, Syria, France, Los Angeles, and of course, Fresno. They established churches, schools, community centers, businesses, and became leaders in our communities.
Now, Saroyan would be proud. Our prayers are answered, we have an independent Armenia, our structures are rebuilt, our literature is read, music is heard worldwide, and even Obama talked about Armenian weddings! If our forefathers were the seeds, these New Armenias are the trees, and it is my generation’s responsibility to continue to nurture their growth, to branch out and bear fruit for our communities, and to provide shade for all those seeking refuge.
Today, Armenians are more united than ever before, and we have to continue that work. We have the power of the internet and all the Armenian schools, foundations, and institutions that our parents and grandparents created for us. I challenge our generation to volunteer, to participate, to go to these events. Go join an Armenian group, any group: Homenetmen, AGBU, AYF, ARF, AMAA, ANCA, ASA, all the A’s. Grow the community here and let’s connect all our trees together. Travel to Armenia. Go with Birthright to volunteer working there. Join the AMAA’s mission trips to help Armenia’s churches and camps. Participate in the Pan-Armenia games. Work to connect your businesses with Armenian businesses. Hire Armenia’s developers and software engineers. Let’s create a Great Global Armenian Orchard for the world to enjoy our fruits. Make like a tree and branch out. Leaf your comfort zone. Be a leader. Bear fruit for your communities—not just your Armenian community, but for all your neighbors.
Remember your roots. That’s why we are here. Let what our people have accomplished be the source of inspiration and a source of strength for what we set out to do. When in doubt, look back and see your ancestors, see what they accomplished, see them proud of you and urging you onward. That’s why this Musa Ler celebration is important to me and my generation. To remember. To keep traditions alive. To inspire and to unite.