Students on campus have brought another rich culture into the diversity conversation with the addition of APU’s Armenian Student Association (ASA).
On April 24, 1915, Turkey initiated a genocide against Armenia and killed over 50 percent of Armenians. On the 100th anniversary of the genocide, students formed the ASA in remembrance of those lives lost. One of the club’s many missions is to educate others about this historical event that is often omitted from history courses.
“A few Armenians and I got together, and we wanted to do something for [the remembrance], so that’s where the idea for a club originated,” Hovsep Chaparian said, founder of ASA and a senior business economics major. “We want APU as an organization to accept the fact that it did happen, and we’re working with administration to get that done.”
Chaparian said the club was also formed to spread awareness of Armenian culture.
Armenia was the first country to accept Christianity as its national religion in 301 A.D., and ASA members believe it is important, not just to the Christian faith, but also as a deep part of individuality, to engage with their organization’s mission.
“Our agenda is to spread general understanding of who we are as people,” Chaparian said. “Most people don’t know where Armenia is on the map, so we’re just trying to educate the public on that.”
ASA originally began with four students, although seven is the minimum number of members required for campus clubs. Chaparian began recruiting more students to join the association by simply asking people if they were Armenian.
“This semester, we started off with about 10 people,” Chaparian said. “Now we are at about 22.”
Vice president of ASA and sophomore psychology major Elijah Hakobian said he believes it is important for students to know about the rich cultural history of Armenia.
“I was born and raised [in America], but I attended a school where we would be taught the Armenian language and history [so we would not] forget who we were and where we came from,” Hakobian said. “One of our goals as an ethnic organization is to provide an avenue for others to learn, enjoy and experience all things Armenian.”
ASA social media representative and freshman business marketing major Sophia Kitabijan also reflected on her personal appreciation for her culture.
“Growing up Armenian has taught me to speak the language and cook the delicious Mediterranean cuisine, but deep down, I’ve learned that being Armenian is a gift and a blessing,” Kitabijan said.
Kitabijan said that coming to APU and being involved with ASA has heightened her experience on campus, and that she now considers the organization a piece of her home.
“I’ve been blessed meeting over 20 fellow Armenians,” Kitabijan said. “I feel like I’m at home with them, and something I wanted to do [at APU] was be able to feel at home. Having a part of my culture be represented on campus does that for me.”
ASA’s first event of the semester will be “Kebab Night” on Feb. 26. ASA members will be teaching guests how to make their own kebabs and other famous Mediterranean dishes.
“We want to create a relationship between our club and the general population,” Chaparian said about the event. “That will be a good platform for later on in the semester when we’ll be having fundraising events on campus.”
ASA hopes to raise enough money to buy a Khachkar—an Armenian cross that will be placed in the prayer garden on West campus. The group also hopes to implement mission trips to Armenia through fundraising.
Chaparian believes these accomplishments will add to the conversation of diversity on campus. “Diversity isn’t just about noticing that people are different,” Chaparian said. “It’s about taking part in that difference.”
ASA is open to all students who want to become members. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/asa.azusapacifc/.