SOLVANG, CA — The 102nd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide was commemorated in Solvang, California on Sunday, May 14, 2017. The event was organized by the “Friends of Maria Jacobsen” and was attended by the congregation of Bethania Lutheran Church and members of the Armenian community from Los Angeles, Fresno, and San Luis Obispo. On October 23, 2016, Maria Jacobson’s bust was unveiled in the courtyard of the Church in the presence of hundreds of her admirers, including her former orphans. Maria Jacobsen, an extraordinary Danish humanitarian and missionary, was a key witness to the Armenian Genocide. For her humanitarian efforts, she is known as “Mama” for having saved thousands of Armenian orphans during the Genocide. In 1922, she transferred many orphans to Beirut, Lebanon and through the efforts of Danish missionaries and the Women’s Missionary Workers, under Jacobsen’s leadership, an Armenian orphanage was established in Jbeil (Byblos), Lebanon, lnown as the Birds Nest.
In his opening remarks, Rev. Chris Brown, Pastor of the Bethania Lutheran Church, expressed his appreciation to the Armenian American community for establishing an exemplary partnership with the Church and the Danish American community. He exalted the virtues of Maria Jacobsen describing her as a courageous missionary who followed the principles of the Bible, which brought hope to thousands of Armenian orphans during the Genocide. He then invited Dr. Garbis Der-Yeghiayan, Chairman of “Friends of Maria Jacobsen Committee” and President of Mashdots College, for his remarks. Dr. Der-Yeghiayan thanked Pastor Brown and the Congregation for their cooperative spirit andsteadfast support, congratulating all mothers present at the event. “It is no coincidence that we are commemorating the 102nd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide on Mother’s Day honoring the memory of a brave missionary who is revered by the Armenian World, especially the orphans, who are eternally grateful to their beloved Mama” he said. .Dr. Der-Yeghiayan quoted Jacobsen’s diary entry regarding the deportation of Armenians on June 26, 1915 when she stated, “It is obvious that the purpose of their departure is the extermination of the Armenian people.” He concluded his remarks by emphasizing the fact that “one person, one humanitarian, one missionary, one truth-teller can make a difference.” He then invited Committee members to lay a wreath at the bust of Maria Jacobsen. It was a solemn occasion when Danish American and Armenian American community members holding hands togther expressed their gratitude to a great humanitaian and honored the memory of 1.5 million Armenian martyrs of the first Genocide of the 20th century.
Dr. Der-Yeghiayan announced the establishment of the “Maria Jacobsen Essay Contest” for high school students residing in Solvang, California. Winners will receive monetary awards and their names will be announced in Solvang in April of 2018.
A special luncheon hosted by the “Friends of Maria Jacobsen Committee” followed the ceremony in the Fellowship Hall of the Church.