This year, St. Sarkis Church in Texas, along with other Armenian churches around the world will remember the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. The church began planning the commemoration, which runs throughout the year, in 2013, the Dallas News reports.
On Thursday, author Peter Balakian spoke about the genocide at Southern Methodist University.
“We believe it’s an incomplete mourning. It never got resolved. It got forgotten,” said Sarokhanian, who is also chairperson of the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee of Dallas. “It’s been passed down from generations to generations. That is what keeps us unified.”
He remembers the stories his father told him about his two uncles who died after walking for days through the desert from Iran to Iraq. His father wasn’t born yet.
“We only know the history from our families,” he said. “It was chaos.”
On Sundays, members of St. Sarkis Armenian Orthodox Church gather to worship in a sanctuary — once an abandoned home — in a Carrollton neighborhood. There, the pews creak and incense and candles fill the room in a smoky haze.
The entrance to the church looks like that of any other home in the neighborhood, with a front door of wood and glass. Later, church members added a cultural hall with a large kitchen and classrooms. It’s where they gather to eat and mingle after the two-hour service.
More than two decades since converting the home on Random Road, the building remains the only Armenian church in North Texas, members said. Now, it’s a gathering post for the ethnic group, many of whom immigrated to the United States from Turkey, Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Armenia, among others.
“We have a belief that whenever there are two Armenians anywhere, together they build a little Armenia,” said Hamlet Sarokhanian, member of the church’s Parish Council and an immigrant from Iran.
The church opened its doors in the renovated home in 1991. Now, the church counts about 350 active families in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. People commute from around North Texas to attend Sunday services, and some even trek from Oklahoma.
Now, the church plans to build a new facility about three times larger than its current space in West Plano near Prestonwood Baptist Church. It plans to expand programs and offer athletics.
“The place we had was perfect for what could be accomplished at the time with limited funds and limited people. At this point, we’ve grown and it’s time to expand,” said Vahe Dayian, chairman of the church’s Parish Council. “What we’re trying to do now is reach more people who have not been part of the [church].”
Land was donated to the church about three years ago by a member. Now, leaders are working to raise funds to construct the building.
Dayian said they lack about 25 percent of the $1 million goal needed to begin construction.
They hope to begin building as soon as possible.
“It would be poetically perfect to build the church 100 years after we were suppose to be annihilated,” Dayian said.