Armenians commemorate genocide victims at ceremony in Solvang

Members of the Friends of Maria Jacobsen Committee returned to Solvang, along with members of the Armenian communities in San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles and Fresno, on Mother’s Day to commemorate the 102nd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, Santa Maria Times reports.

The event was held May 14 at Bethania Lutheran Church, whose members also attended the ceremony that included laying a wreath before the bust of Maria Jacobsen, which the committee unveiled last October in the church garden.

Jacobsen was a Danish humanitarian, missionary who saved thousands of Armenian children left orphans by the slaughter of their parents, earning her the nickname of “Mama” among Armenians.

In 1922, she transferred many orphans to Beirut, Lebanon. Under her leadership and through the effort of Danish missionaries and the Women’s Missionary Workers, an Armenian orphanage known as the Birds Nest was established in Jbeil, or Byblos, Lebanon.

Several of the orphans she saved were among the hundreds of admirers who attended the unveiling of her bust.

In his opening remarks, the Rev. Chris Brown, pastor of the Bethania Lutheran Church, expressed his appreciation to the Armenian American community for establishing a partnership with the church and the Danish American community.

He described Jacobsen as a courageous missionary who followed the principles of the Bible and brought hope to thousands of Armenian orphans.

Dr. Garbis Der-Yeghiayan, chairman of Friends of Maria Jacobsen Committee and president of Mashdots College, thanked Brown and the Bethania congregation for their cooperative spirit and steadfast support.

He also congratulated all mothers present at the event.

He also quoted Jacobsen’s diary entry regarding the deportation of Armenians on June 26, 1915: “It is obvious that the purpose of their departure is the extermination of the Armenian people.”

In conclusion, he emphasized that “one person, one humanitarian, one missionary, one truth-teller can make a difference.”

Committee members then laid the wreath at the bust of Jacobsen as members of the Danish American and Armenian American communities held hands.

Der-Yeghiayan also announced the establishment of the Maria Jacobsen Essay Contest for high school students residing in Solvang and all students attending Armenian, public or private high schools in Southern California.

The essay theme is: “In the more than 100 years that have passed since the first genocide of the 20th century — the Armenian Genocide of bigotry, prejudice, intolerance, persecution, deportations and heinous plans to annihilate a nation — what do you believe your generation can do to make ‘never again’ a reality?”

Winners will receive monetary awards, and their names will be announced in April 2018 in Solvang.

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