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#EngageArmenia2024: A Resounding Success Across Europe
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Engage Armenia speakers, moderator Vaner Harutyunyan, partners Pascale Gostanian and Nicolas Avetissian [Lyon]
"Today is an opportunity to move away from a very emotional relationship with Armenia to one that is grounded in the practical, important work for Armenia’s success."  These words are straight from Sevan Kabakian's opening speech at every event of the Engage Armenia 2024 European tour, setting the tone for this unique series of gatherings.
Spanning eight European cities from March 6 to March 13, 2024, the tour successfully brought together Armenians from diverse backgrounds to focus on the future of the homeland, fostering a deep and practical engagement. With a remarkable total attendance of over 700 participants across London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Alfortville, Geneva, Lyon, and Marseille, the event underscored a strong, collective desire to connect and contribute meaningfully to Armenia’s future.
Nazareth Seferian presenting one of the opportunities to Brussels' audience
Vartan Marashlyan, director of Repat Armenia, set the tone for the tour by articulating its core purpose amidst these challenging times. He highlighted the tour's ambition to answer why Armenia holds a pivotal role for those living abroad and how they can engage in a mutually beneficial manner. "In a very difficult, uncertain, challenging time for the country and the Armenian nation, we aimed to find out why and how to have a connection to Armenia," Vartan explained. This reflection framed the subsequent discussions across the cities, each adding layers of depth to the conversation about diaspora engagement.
Vartan also emphasized the diversity of engagement avenues discussed during the tour, including volunteering, investing, and imparting expertise. These discussions underscored the array of opportunities available for diaspora Armenians to connect with their heritage and contribute to Armenia’s future.
As the tour commenced in London, the energy was palpable. The vibrant opening set a dynamic tone for the following events, with each city weaving its unique threads into the overarching narrative of connection and contribution. In Amsterdam, the enthusiasm was particularly striking. Haik Khanamiryan, a local partner, reflected on the profound impact of the tour, noting, "Engage Armenia proved to be an extraordinary traveling exhibition of remarkable people, embodying the incredible opportunities to forge tangible bridges between the diaspora and our homeland." His thoughts resonated deeply, emphasizing the tour's ability to reveal the vibrant spirit and potential within the collective endeavors of the diaspora.
Haik Khanamiryan opening Engage Armenia Forum in Amsterdam
In Geneva, Miganouche Lucy Baghramian of the Union Arménienne de Suisse echoed this sentiment, expressing deep appreciation for the tour's thoughtful structure. "It was truly a pleasure for our community in Geneva to support such a remarkable initiative," she noted, praising the representatives who shared "the positive energy with us and explained the tangible actions we can take for a stronger and better Armenia."
Sevan Kabakian's opening speech at Engage Armenia Geneva
From left to right: Hrayr Barsoumian, Nazareth Seferian, Gevorg Poghosyan, Meline Ghazaryan, Lerna Bagdjian, Sevan Kabakian, Shoushan Keshishian, Nelly Poliakov, Sisian Boghossian, Marina Ghazaryan, Vartan Marashlyan, Lou Terzian, Miganouche Lucy Baghramian, Samson Avetian [Geneva]

Honest about Uncertainties, Hopeful about the Future

The tour emphasized a broad approach to engagement. Marashlyan candidly addressed the challenges facing Armenia, stating, "We were honest about the uncertainties; however, we also presented the possibilities that engagement can bring." This honest dialogue helped to set realistic expectations among the attendees and encouraged a pragmatic approach to diaspora involvement.
Interestingly, about 25 percent of the attendees expressed plans to relocate to Armenia, with 10 percent planning to do so soon. This statistic highlights the deep-seated connection many participants feel towards Armenia. Despite this, Marashlyan pointed out a critical gap: "We have not reached those Armenians who are on the verge of assimilation or completely disengaged." This admission calls for a reflective consideration of outreach strategies to ensure that no part of the diaspora remains untouched by such initiatives.
"We haven't come to convince you one way or another; we haven't come to blame you for living abroad either," Vartan stated, challenging each participant to consider their relationship with Armenia. "Do you take ownership of Armenia? While we highly encourage it, moving here is not the only way to feel ownership,” he explained.
Engage Armenia Paris

Moving Toward Action

Each stop on the tour fostered discussions that transcended simple dialogue, pushing toward actionable insights and deeper connections. Vaner Harutyunyan, the moderator at the Lyon event, offered his insights on the unique aspects of the tour: "Engage Armenia 2024 succeeded in bringing together a diverse array of individuals and organizations. These participants, distinguished by their varied experiences and expertise, prioritized engagement and participation over dissent,” he explained.
According to Harutyunyan, this collective approach underscored the tour's ability to unite and mobilize the diaspora toward meaningful contributions. “The dedication and involvement of everyone present was a clear demonstration that Engage Armenia itself already calls for the constructive engagement of every Diaspora Armenian for the sake of Armenia, regardless of personal preferences,” he added.
Across all venues, the tour emphasized various themes such as volunteering, internships, expertise sharing, and integration into Armenian society. Vartan Kaprielian, moderating the event in Alfortville, highlighted the tour's broader significance: "Armenia is a reality beyond the politics–it is about experiences to share, challenges to face, successes to build, people to meet, devotion to fulfill, and an accomplishment to live. This event was an invitation to all of this."
Engage Armenia speakers, moderator Vartan Kaprielian, local speakers Narek Setrak and André Gumuchdjian in Alfortville (France)

Looking Forward

As Engage Armenia 2024 concluded in Marseille, the diaspora's commitment and enthusiasm were more evident than ever. The tour highlighted the diverse ways the diaspora could contribute to Armenia's development and reinforced the sense of a global Armenian community united by shared heritage and goals.
Throughout the tour, the discussions were not just about connecting with Armenia but also about taking ownership of its future. "Do you take ownership of Armenia?" Marashlyan asked, challenging participants to consider their role in the nation’s narrative beyond physical relocation. His remarks underscored the multifaceted ways in which one can "own" a part of Armenia, from cultural engagement to economic investment.

The inaugural Engage Armenia forum marks the beginning of a series of conversations with the Armenian diaspora. To build on these connections, we at Repat Armenia aim to strengthen ties with local institutions, enabling us to host more events in these same cities. Additionally, we're looking to expand into other countries to introduce more tangible ways of engaging with Armenia.
Panel discussion with Engage Armenia speakers and moderated by Tigrane Yegavian [Paris]

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