Rev. Vazken Movsesian from California “will leave for Rwanda on Friday [March 4, 2006] to chronicle the African country's 1994 genocide and to bring attention to the ongoing mass killings in the Darfur region of Sudan.”

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Father Vazken has been very active in collecting donations for Sudanese survivors. On April 24, the day when Armenians commemorate the Genocide, he organizes “Blood for Blood” campaign, where Armenians are asked to donate blood in honor of their killed ancestors.

When Fr. Vazken visited Colorado in 2004, I assisted him during a Solemn Divine Liturgy, since there was no deacon. I will never forget his face during “Ter Voghormea,” when he was singing, “Give my people love and union.” He almost cried while uttering these words.

Fr. Vazken suggested me to have “Simon’s Corner” at his church’s website and send articles once a while.

Pastor hopes to spotlight genocide

By Alex Dobuzinskis, Staff Writer
LA Daily News

GLENDALE – The Rev. Vazken Movsesian sees grim similarities between recent genocides around the world and the stories he heard from his grandmothers about their escapes from death more than 90 years ago in the Ottoman Empire.

Movsesian, senior pastor at St. Peter Armenian Church Youth Ministry Center in Glendale, will leave for Rwanda on Friday to chronicle the African country's 1994 genocide and to bring attention to the ongoing mass killings in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Movsesian, 49, said survivors' accounts from Rwanda and Darfur resemble what Movsesian's grandmothers told him about escaping the Ottoman Empire around 1915: the men being separated from the women, the women being raped and the children growing up as orphans, with acts of barbarism along the way, he said.

In 1915, it marked the start of eight years of mass killings that resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians.

"It's exactly, exactly the story of 1915," Movsesian said. "It's basically (that) we haven't evolved as a species. It's an incredible story, and … as a religious leader, that's what I want to point out."

Movsesian will join the Rev. Cecil L. "Chip" Murray, the retired pastor from First AME Church, on the Rwandan trip.

Also in the 10-person delegation are Rabbi Susan Laemmle, USC's dean of religious life, USC professor Donald Miller and his wife, Lorna Touryan Miller.

The Millers have previously visited Rwanda, which lost nearly 1 million people in a 1994 genocide that grew out of conflict between two ethnic groups. The Millers have written two books about Armenia, including "Survivors: An Oral History of the Armenian Genocide."

When Movsesian attended the graduate studies program in religion at USC, Donald Miller was one of his professors.

"He was deeply affected, personally, by his grandmothers," Donald Miller said of Movsesian. "Both his grandmothers are survivors of the genocide and he himself in his own ministry has really attempted to communicate, particularly to young people, the tragedy of genocide."

Movsesian said all members of the delegation to Rwanda have varying reasons for going, and there is no single group mission.

But Movsesian and the Millers plan to talk to orphan survivors who raised their siblings, and they both plan to observe how charities in Africa operate.

Movsesian will describe his 10-day trip to Rwanda – as it happens – with either a Podcast or a blog on his church Web site, at

He also wants to bring back photos and video of the experience.

"Whatever we can get our hands on, just anything to make people aware of the tragedy," he said.

Last weekend, young people at Movsesian's church fasted for 30 hours and raised money for famine relief in the developing world.

Alex Dobuzinskis, (818) 546-3304