April 24 marks the 105th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Every year, Armenians around the world commemorate the anniversary in different ways to honor the estimated 1.5 million lives lost and to call on Turkey to recognize the genocide.
In Los Angeles, a large-scale demonstration is held annually where thousands take to the streets and march for justice. However, due to the onset of COVID-19, all in-person events to honor the lives lost were put on pause.
Armenians in San Diego usually commemorate the anniversary in various ways but most involve getting together. This year, St. John Garabed Armenian Apostolic Church still wanted to remember those lives. Levon Parsegian, a deacon at the church, decided to hold an online vigil where members of his church and the community could join on a meeting platform similar to Zoom and continue to recognize the anniversary in solidarity.
“We actually put together a virtual candlelight vigil,” Levon Parsegian says. “It’s the most that we could really do amid this coronavirus situation. We still want to commemorate the lives that were lost in the atrocities known as the Armenian Genocide.”
Parsegian says the idea behind it was simple but held a deeper meaning, “Light candles with one another, pray with one another, and share a message.”
St. John Garabed Armenian Apostolic Church was not the only one forced to seek alternatives in light of COVID-19 restrictions.
In Los Angeles, the United Armenian Council of Los Angeles, the Unified Young Armenians, and the Armenian Genocide Committee partnered with Feeding America to raise funds to provide 1,500,000 meals, matching the number of Armenians who perished in the genocide 105 years ago.
According to the latest post from the event's Facebook page, enough money has been raised to donate 4.7 million meals.
Steve Artinian, an Armenian Genocide Committee member, helped with the effort and says the community wanted to pay homage to an organization that helped Armenians in their time of need and pay it forward.
“The 1.5 million meals for 1.5 million lives were inspired by The Near East Relief efforts back in 1915 where they rescued a million Armenian refugees and 132,000 thousand children were put in orphanages,” Artinian says. “And today, we’re all products of that. And this was an American organization, and we thought what a better way to do this.”
The organization ended its fundraiser at midnight on Friday.