ARMENIAN EVANGELICAL COMMUNITY IN URUGUAY
Expert, “Noravank” Foundation, Center for Armenian Studies
The Evangelical Armenians take special place in the Armenian community of 15 thousand1 in Uruguay.
Though the Armenian Evangelical community in Uruguay is smaller than the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic communities, but it is rather well organized and due to this it constitutes an integral part of the Armenian community in Uruguay. One of the indicators of a high level of organization of the community is the opening of the first Armenian Evangelical church in Montevideo immediately after the establishment of the community in the 1920s.
In general, the study of the Armenian Evangelical community in Uruguay is of both academic and practical significance. From the academic point of view the value of the study of the community is in generalization of the Armenological and, in particular, Diasporal researches. From the practical point of view it is important to assume and use the resources and possibilities of the Armenian community in Uruguay for the best of the entire Armeniancy.
The current condition of the Armenian Evangelical community in Uruguay can be described by means of the following factors:
- the community is restricted in terms of numbers and is centralized in the capital Montevideo;
- Despite the scantiness in terms of numbers it demonstrates tendency for growth;
- It is rather well organized which is proved by strong system of the community organizations;
- the community does not live isolated but it is integrated with both local Armeniancy and Protestants.
Size of the Community
The Armenian Evangelical community was formed in the consequence of migration of a considerable number of the Armenians, among which there were Evangelicals either, caused by the Armenian Genocide. There were two waves of the Armenian immigration to Uruguay. The first wave includes those who migrated immediately after the Genocide, and the second wave includes those who migrated later from the Middle East (to America and Europe). The second wave of migration resulted in the growth of the Armenian community in Uruguay, which in its turn caused the growth of the local Armenian Evangelical community. This is the reason why the tendency of growth of the number of the Armenian Evangelical community could be observed in Uruguay.
Thus, according to K. Atanalian, at the time of the establishment of the community in 1926 (the year of establishment of the first Armenian Evangelical church) it numbered about 6-8 families. In 1938 the community numbered 60 families. At that time the number of the pupils at Sunday school reached 30 children2.
There is no exact statistics on the number of the Armenian Evangelical community in Uruguay. But it is known that over the recent period the number of the Evangelical Armenians has grown sharply3 which, however, is conditioned by the growth of the Armenian community in general.
Nevertheless, it is a fact that Evangelical Armenians are the third after the Apostolic and Catholic Armenians in Uruguay in terms of number4.
The consolidated system of the organizations of the Armenian Evangelical community in Uruguay is the proof of its being well-organized. Today there are three organizations in the community. They fall into three groups – clerical, social and educational.
1. The only clerical organization is the First Armenian Evangelical Church in Uruguay which was founded in 1926 when the Armenian Evangelical community was newly formed. In fact the church is the first Armenian Evangelical organization in Uruguay. At first it was functioning in the building of the local Methodist church5.
The First Armenian Evangelical church has a board of trustees. Today the church is headed by Rev. Obed Boyadjian6.
This church has also undertaken community’s organizational and governing functions. Correspondingly, it can be mentioned that besides being a clerical organization, it is at the same time a governing body of the Armenian Evangelical community in Uruguay. And its head Obed Boyadjian can be considered a head of the community in general.
2. The only social organization is Uruguay branch of the Armenian Missionary Association of America – its District Committee. It was founded in 1954 and it mainly deals with beneficial (humanitarian) issues. Today the Armenian Missionary Association District Committee is headed by Jeremias Elmasian. The branch is situated in the building of the First Armenian Evangelical Church in Uruguay7.
3. The only educational organization is the Sunday school of the First Armenian Evangelical Church.
Taking into consideration scantiness of the community it can be stated that the availability of three organizational structures is rather considerable fact. And if it is added by an obvious diversity of the organizations in terms of types, a high organizational level of the Armenian Evangelical community in Uruguay becomes even more prominent.
Inter-Confessional and Inter-Community Relations
The Armenian Evangelical community is not isolated. It has active relations with both Armenian and non-Armenian communities. The Evangelical Armenians in Uruguay has dual community belonging – national and confessional.
1. In the aspect of national belonging they are a part of the Armeniancy of Uruguay. Friendship and not adversity or intolerance prevails in the inter-confessional relations with the Armenian Catholic and Apostolic communities. Anyway there is no evidence of encounters on confessional ground. A high level of national self-consciousness, common Christian religion, as well as common problems (mixed marriages8, preserving of the Armenian traditions and culture, nationwide issues9) provide serious ground for inter-confessional friendship and cooperation. Inter-confessional friendship between three Armenian confessional communities is based on the common goals and directions of their activity, as “the Apostolic Armenians as well as Evangelical and Catholic churches have not restricted themselves to mainly clerical activity. They promote national education in all the communities by means of their schools, press and other cultural and educational organizations”10.
There are following indicators of integration of the Armenian Evangelical community with the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic communities:
- Living together – The Armenian Evangelical community is centralized in Montevideo where many Armenians live and this means that the Evangelical Armenians live and act side by side with the Apostolic and Catholic Armenians.
- Activity of the organizations – The activity of the Armenian Evangelical organizations are not restricted only to the Armenian Evangelical community. It covers the whole Armenian community, thus including Apostolic and Catholic Armenians either.
2. As for the confessional belonging the Armenian Evangelical community in Uruguay constitutes a part of the Evangelical community of that country. The later is the biggest confessional minority in Uruguay. According to different estimations 7-10% of population is Protestants11. They have many various organizations. So the cooperation of the Armenian Evangelical community of Uruguay with other Protestant churches in the country is important for both strengthening of the Armenian Evangelical community and increasing of the role of the Armeniancy in Uruguay in general12.
Being a part of the Protestant community of Uruguay, the Armenian Evangelicals are closely integrated with other protestant communities, and it is proved by the fact that the Armenian Evangelical community has become a member of the Federation of Evangelical Churches of Uruguay, established in 195613.
The Armenian Evangelical community is also a member of the Council of Christian Churches14 established in 1998 and this proves that the Armenian Evangelical community is integrated not only into the Protestant community of Uruguay but also into the Christian community in general.
Thus, despite its scantiness, the Armenian Evangelical community of Uruguay stands out for the high level of organization and viability due to the activity of its organizations, integration with the Apostolic Armenian, Catholic Armenian as well as other Protestant and Christian communities in general.
1 Հայ սփյուռք հանրագիտարան, Երևան, 2003, p. 613։
2 Կ.Պ. Ատանալեան, Յուշարձան հայ աւետարանականաց եւ աւետարանական եկեղեցւոյ, Ֆրեզնո, 1952, p. 463-465։
3 Арман Акопян, Армяне в Уругвае, "Ноев ковчег", 2010, март, № 3.
5 Կ.Պ. Ատանալեան, նշվ. աշխ., p. 463։
8 In the Armenian community of Uruguay, as well as in other Armenian communities in South America, mixed marriages are widespread. According to different estimations 60% of marriages in the Armenian community in Uruguay are mixed,
9 Uruguay was the first country to recognize the Armenian Genocide. The Armenian community in Uruguay greatly contributed to that.
11 See: Protestantism by country http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestantism_by_country; Екатерина Тесемникова, Мы идем по Уругваю http://www.vestikavkaza.ru/analytics/politika/42791.html
12 Տ.Ղանալանյան, Հարավային Ամերիկայի հայ բողոքական համայնքները, Գլոբուս Ազգային անվտանգություն, թիվ 2, 2011թ., p. 45:
13 See: Federation of Evangelical Churches of Uruguay http://www.oikoumene.org/en/member-churches/regions/latin-america/uruguay/fieu.html?print=1%22%20onfocus%3D%22blurLink%28this%29%3B%22%20onfocus%3D%22blurLink%28this%29%3Bprint%3D1%22%20onfocus%3D%22blurLink%28this%29%3B%22%20onfocus%3D%22blurLink%28this%29%3B
14 See: Council of Christian Churches of Uruguay http://www.oikoumene.org/en/member-churches/regions/latin-america/uruguay/cicu.html?print=1%22%20onfocus%3D%22blurLink%28this%29%3B%22%20onfocus%3D%22blurLink%28this%29%3Bprint%3D1%22%20onfocus%3D%22blurLink%28this%29%3B%22%20onfocus%3D%22blurLink%28this%29%3B
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