What’s Happening in Armenia?

By Melanie Kesner
Director of Public Policy, Interfaith Alliance of Colorado

This past legislative session, I had the privilege of working closely with the Western Region of the Armenian National Committee of America (among other communities as well as the bill sponsors Representative Dafna Michaelson Jenet, Representative Emily Sirota, Senator Steve Fenberg, and Senator Dennis Hisey) to pass HB20-1336: Holocaust And Genocide Studies In Public Schools. 

The passage of this historic bill ensures that Holocaust and genocide education studies are taught as part of an existing course in Colorado’s public school system. In addition to learning about the Holocaust, Colorado students will learn about other genocides, including the Armernian and Tibetan genocides. They will also learn universal lessons of world history such as fascism, extremism, the fragility of democracy, and the role and impact of individual choices. Moreover, these lessons will teach the importance of empathy and diversity, and the importance of working towards justice and ensuring the inclusion of all people.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis signs the Genocide Education Bill into law on July 8, 2020.

This bill is historic for Colorado not only because of the content that it covers but also because of the way it passed. The legislative session of 2020 was a year marked by a global pandemic that caused severe state budget shortfalls. Because of the budget cuts, nearly every bill with any sort of fiscal impact that wasn’t an emergency relief bill was not likely to pass. Knowing this, many communities came together with private donations to make sure HB20-1336 would survive. This mosaic of  communities included JEWISH Colorado, Jewish Family Services of Colorado, the Armenians of Colorado, ANCA Western Region, Colorado Council of Churches, Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning, and the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, among many others. 

The way that people from diverse backgrounds, religions, and races came together to prioritize our children’s education and work towards a peaceful future was remarkable, and was indicative of the very content of the bill we were all working to pass. The joining together of our communities is something that needs to happen again to protect the Armenian homeland. We are being called once more to join in unity and solidarity in light of recent atrocities in the Armenian homeland. In the words of our close friend and community activist, Simon Maghakyan:

“Since September 27th of this year, the dictatorships of Turkey and Azerbaijan, aided by terrorist mercenaries, have been waging a war on the eastern frontiers of the already tiny Armenian homeland – the de facto Republic of Artsakh. On a daily basis, Azerbaijan has been shelling the largest towns in Artsakh with cluster bombs. If Armenians lose this war, the nation will be wiped out and Turkey will finish off what they started in 1915 – the year of the Armenian Genocide’s commencement.”

Simon maghakyan

Recent reports of the conflict say that nearly 500 people, including more than 60 civilians, have been killed. And about 70,000 people have been displaced in renewed fighting which escalated last month.

A dear friend of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, Lhoppen Rinpoche said in his testimony on the Holocaust and Genocide bill that:

“True history 

can not be carried away by rivers,

can not be buried by dirt,

can not be burned by fire,

can not be blown away by winds,

and can not disappeared in space,

it will remain forever.”

The diasporan community across Colorado is gathering and marching for their right to remain. You can follow the Armenians of Colorado here.

I ask that in the same way the Armenian community came together to ensure that this bill would pass, that we as come together to support them. You can make a donation here to support the Armenian Community and ensure that our actions create true history.