By Maksim Hacak
Araqsya Avchieva and Lilit Melkonyan, of the Ecumenical Forum of Christian Women in Armenia, are two of the stewards at the General Assembly of the Conference of European Churches in Novi Sad (Serbia). They participate in the organization and holding of plenary sessions: they count votes, help the delegates to find their places and make speeches.
In Armenia, they work every summer in an ecumenical charity camp for children from disadvantaged families. Lilit, who represents the Armenian Apostolic Church there, teaches physical education, and Araqsya, from the Assyrian Church, introduces her church, the history and culture of the Assyrians to the children. Even in Armenia not everyone knows that the Assyrians are also Christians, she says.
Last year, the girls were invited to apply for the steward program at the General Assembly of the CEC. They took a chance, went through an intensive course in English, church history, and here they are. “We were told today that if we were not there, they would be lost,” Lilit smiles.
“We are here for the first time, we do not know much about other churches, so everything is interesting for us. And the fact that we are praised helps us to work even more and even better,” Araqsya adds.
They do not plan to limit their participation to the Assembly and intend to share the experience gained here at home. At the end of June, another ecumenical camp is planned in Armenia, where believers from different churches will gather again. “And it will be very interesting for us to share the experiences we gathered here with our students,” Araqsya says.
The stewards were impressed most of all with the presence in Novi Sad of representatives of different countries and denominations who speak a variety of languages. “It is very interesting for us how different nations and confessions meet, as each takes something new from others,” Lilit notes.
“Here you understand that it does not matter what kind of nation you are, we have one goal: Christianity. And the feelings that we have got here, as we began to look at the world from the outside, are simply inexplicable,” Araqsya emphasizes.
In general, the delegation from Armenia to the Assembly is significant. On Saturday, June 2, its delegates held a morning prayer in the Armenian rite, during which the Protoarchimandrite of the Armenian Apostolic Church Father Shahe Ananyan preached. “Light, Creator of light, the first light dwelling in unapproachable light, heavenly Father, blessed by the choirs of the luminaries. At the rising of this light this morning shine your knowable light upon our souls,” the participants prayed.
And on Sunday a prayer service for the victims of the Armenian Genocide in 1915 took place in Novi Sad.