ISTANBUL — “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” Psalm 127:1 NIV.
With this Bible verse His Beatitude Archbishop Sahag II Mashalian, Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, addressed the attendees with his congratulatory remarks and prayers during a consecration ceremony of the rebuilding of Camp ARMEN located in the Tuzla district of Istanbul, Turkey on Saturday, November 4, 2023. Many guests participated in the ceremony including Rev. Krikor Ağabaloğlu, Pastor of the Armenian Evangelical Church of Gedikpaşa, Archbishop Levon Zekiyan, the Apostolic Administrator of Armenian Archeparchy of Istanbul, and the students of Hrant Dink School.
Hrant Guzelian had a vision, in 1962, to save and educate orphaned Armenian children.
The most well-known among them was Hrant Dink and his spouse Rakel Dink, who were forced to live in a foreign society and follow a different faith. Today, the Armenian Missionary Association of America strives to help revitalize this vision by helping to restore and rebuild Camp ARMEN, and to remember Hrant’s legacy, and the impact he had on children who he helped save.
Guzelian, a fearless hero who searched for and rescued hundreds of Armenian children left without family, identity, church, or schools in the decades following the Armenian Genocide in 1915, first opened the Youth Home and later built Camp ARMEN of Istanbul to provide these children with shelter and love, and to teach them how to honor and keep their Christian faith and Armenian heritage.
In the late 1970s, Camp ARMEN was confiscated by the local authorities and many attempts to take it back were rejected. In May 2015, resistance began when attempts were made to demolish the Camp. Nor Zartonk and Kamp Armen Solidarity guarded the camp for 180 days and prevented its destruction. As a result of a negotiation process which included representatives of the Armenian community and politicians, and within the framework of the reforms made for the minorities, the property right of “Camp Armen” was returned to the Gedikpaşa Armenian Evangelical Church on October 27, 2015. Since then, consistent efforts have been made within the Turkish-Armenian national-ecclesiastical life to rebuild the camp. Camp ARMEN will now be rebuilt to suit the current needs of the new generation. This initiative is carried out by a joint Armenian Apostolic, Armenian Catholic, and Armenian Evangelical program.
The goal is to raise $2.5 million so that the new Camp ARMEN will be the first and only Camp in Turkey to function as a development center serving the Armenian Evangelical, Catholic, and Apostolic communities every day throughout the year with much-needed social, cultural, and religious development activities for the youth with help from trained volunteers.
The AMAA encourages everyone who believes in the vision of Hrant Guzelian to participate and become a part of this unique time of rebuilding Camp ARMEN.
Camp ARMEN will be rebuilt to once again embrace Armenian children living in Turkey and connect them to their heritage and faith, and to inspire them to make a difference in the world around them.
Since its founding, The Youth Home/Camp ARMEN and Guzelian’s work has been generously supported by the AMAA.