This is my new friend, Reverend Father Zacharia Saribekyan. My wife (Amy) and I, along with our youngest son (Isaac, 4) walked onto the campus of the Armenian Apostolic Catholic Church and Cultural Center yesterday, impromptu, and he welcomed us and gave us his time, teaching us about his people and the perish he leads. Father Zacharia is the first Armenian Catholic priest in Arizona, who moved here over 6 years ago from Jerusalem. He probably leads the most culturally diverse church body in the state as well. The members of his parish come from over a dozen nations, of which Father Zacharia speaks most of their native languages.
What’s unique about the Armenian people is that they often seem to be a forgotten people group who the Ottoman Empire (which was ruled by the Turks) tried to wipe off the map in 1915, just on the eve of World War I. At that time there were two million Armenians in the declining Ottoman Empire, but by 1922, there were fewer than 400,000. The others, some 1.5 million Armenians, were killed in what historians rightly consider a genocide. As you can see, they are a small country that is sandwiched in between world powers. Today, there is an estimated 9-13 million Armenians world wide, and I’m thankful I was able to meet Father Zacharia.
In 2015, this local congregation, led by Father Zacharia will be celebrating the resurrection and the life that God has given the Armenian people. Father Zacharia and his parishoners love Jesus and have lived out the gospel while honoring their past, recognizing today, and defining the future; a very Trinitarian way to live (living in the past, present, and the future!).
Father Zacharia and the Armenian people have stories that needs to be told and re-told. My prayer is that the evangelical churches of Phoenix would be willing to come along side this parish in 2015 during their centennial remembrance of their tragic genocide.