“I should like to see any power of the world try to destroy this race…for when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” William Saroyan (1908-1981).
Strength through Diversity
The fate of the Armenian race is bound by an unwavering sense of community and an age-old drive to survive. It is our strong identity that helps us adapt easily to new environments, without ever forgetting our heritage. The trials and tribulations of our difficult history have forged our endurance. Armenians have suffered invasions and subjugation by foreign powers, driving our people to seek peace and opportunity worldwide. 450 times larger in area than Singapore, Armenia proper has a population of less than 3 million. Our global Diaspora of over 5 million is present in nearly every country. Within this diversity lies our strength.
On settling in a foreign land, we seek solace in holy ground: the Armenian Church is central to our sense of community; a place to share and reinforce a common sense of belonging. The Church is a home away from home for the weary traveler and settler. And in Singapore, not a day passes without at least one Armenian from the world over visiting the historic Church.
Armenian Churches span the Asian continent from India to China – all built by small, prominent trading communities. These early settlers were not transient, but strove to establish a foundation for generations to come; a platform where members could engage in a symbiotic relationship with their host country by actively integrating with, and contributing to the societies in which they live.
The contributions abound, as evidenced by how Armenians lay at the heart of the four most prominent icons in Singapore: the ﬁrst Church, the landmark Rafﬂes Hotel (the Sarkies brothers), the National Flower (Agnes Joaquim) and the national newspaper, The Straits Times (Moses).
A Beacon of Hope
The founding fathers of the Armenian communities across Asia were attracted to the region by the prospects of trade and fortune. The foundations they laid serve as a basis for the re-emergence of the Armenian communities in the region – and trade is once again the catalyst.
Like Singapore, Armenia lacks substantial natural resources and relies on talent and innovation for economic survival. Armenia can draw from the successes of the Singaporean model as regional economic facilitator. A world-class infrastructure, strong rule of law, ﬁscal incentives, talented labour pool and proximity to large, high-growth markets create a foundation for vibrant economic activity.
Therein lies the unique opportunity for Armenia and our diaspora to engage with Asia, via Singapore. Economic engagement will ultimately lead to deeper engagement across multiple levels, political and cultural. Leveraging our integrated global network is fundamental to re-energizing the communities in Asia. Singapore, with its strategic geographic location, may well just be the economic, cultural and social lighthouse for Armenians around the region.