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Bayside shrine pays tribute to victims of 1915 genocide

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Armenians looking for a peaceful place to pay tribute to the victims of the genocide that killed 1.5 million of their countrymen now have a shrine for that purpose in Bayside.

The Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs at Oceania Street and the Horace Harding Expressway dedicated its new indoor memorial April 24, the day Armenians traditionally remember the genocide of 1915 in which the ruling Muslim Turks killed and deported the minority Christian Armenians in the final years of the Ottoman Empire.

The shrine was dedicated by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, primate of the diocese, along with the church’s pastor, Father Vahan Hovanessian, in a ceremony following a requiem service.

The church, which is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, is the only one in its diocese named in memory of the genocide victims, said Deacon Frank Kabarajian, executive director of the church.

Members of the 600-family congregation from eastern Queens and Long Island “can come and pray in here and light a candle and stay a while,” he said of the new $30,000 shrine.

The centerpiece of the religious memorial, which features stained glass windows on two sides, is a display case of human bones recovered from the Syrian desert where many deported Armenians met their death, said Kabarajian.

Above the case of bones, which were flown in from a museum in Syria, is the passage from Ezekiel: “‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you...and put breath in you that may come alive.’”

Two walls of the shrine are lined with rows of golden candle holders so that dozens of churchgoers can remember the fate of their ancestors.

“Like we say for the Holocaust, ‘we shall never forget,’” said the deacon.

On the wall and ceiling of the shrine are scenes reprinted from holy books and transferred onto canvas in bright colors. The scene above the bones shows three empty crucifixion crosses, symbolizing worshipers’ belief that “when we die, one day we can all be together,” said Kabarajian.

“Every Armenian family has been touched by the genocide,” said Kabarajian.

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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