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Habitat for Humanity and Armenia Apostolic Church join forces to serve people in need

AMERICUS, Ga. (April 21, 2006) – Habitat for Humanity and the Armenia Apostolic Church announced a partnership today aimed to combat poverty housing in Armenia and worldwide. The partnership highlights the common goals shared between Habitat for Humanity and the Armenian Church.

“Habitat for Humanity and the Armenia Apostolic Church share a commitment to help those in need, to advocate for the poor and to transform dehumanizing conditions that perpetuate poverty,” said Jonathan Reckford, chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity International. “This new partnership is a blessing that will allow us to serve more families in need both in Armenia and worldwide.”

The agreement puts an official stamp on the already existing and flourishing relationship between the Armenian Church, the Armenian people and Habitat for Humanity.

“Through this partnership, we are ‘putting our faith into action,’” said Bishop Vicken Aykazian. “Morally and spiritually, we share common values with Habitat for Humanity, above all, to help people in need. We believe that all people are equal under God’s eyes, and this partnership is a demonstration of our resolve and commitment to strengthen our faith. We are excited to share this wonderful news with our parishioners. Armenians are known to share their time, their talents, and their treasures – we are happy to be the catalyst to engage their involvement with this worthy cause.”

The agreement is signed by The Rev. Dr. Kenneth W. Bensen, representing Habitat for Humanity International, and Bishop Arshak Khachatryan, Chancellor, Catholicosate of All Armenians, Armenia Apostolic Church.

The agreement launches an annual home-building event, entitled “Catholicos Karekin II Work Project: An Armenian Building on Faith Project”. The first event will take place in Armenia, Sept. 5-9, 2006. Thirty-seven homes will be built with families in need - symbolizing 36 worldwide Dioceses, plus the Holy See, representing the Catholicos of all Armenians - near the Armenian capital city, Yerevan. Armenian churches are encouraged to galvanize teams to fundraise and to join the build.

To date, numerous Armenian Church teams from the United States have traveled to Armenia, volunteering to build homes alongside families in need, and Habitat for Humanity affiliates in the United States have designated tithes to help combat poverty housing in Armenia. In 2005, the Catholicos participated in the annual Jimmy Carter Work Project in Michigan. Habitat for Humanity arranged a simultaneous build in Armenia with volunteers from the Armenian Church, led by Very Rev. Father Torgom Monk Tonikyan, vicar of the Aragatsotn Diocese.

After JCWP, the Catholicos has given His blessing for a home-building event to be created and held in Armenia.

Like this upcoming historic event, the partnership aims to mobilize Armenian churches and other groups to respond to the need for adequate housing through greater involvement in Habitat for Humanity activities. The partnership commitment strives to “create awareness of the enormous need for simple decent shelter worldwide, in particular, to join together to build houses and communities for families in Armenia living in abject conditions, so that families can live, socialize, celebrate life, and grow into all that God intended.”

In Armenia, a country of three million nestled in the southern Caucasus, 45 percent of the population in poverty, according to the Council of Europe. Over the past decade, the country has suffered a devastating 1988 earthquake which left 500,000 homeless; the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which hampered rebuilding; the collapse of the Soviet regime, and a newfound independence. All have led to economic crisis. Thousands live in metal “domiks,” iron shacks erected for temporary earthquake relief, which act like refrigerators in the winter and boilers in the summer.

Habitat for Humanity Armenia has been working with families in need since 2000 and provided homes for more than 1,000 people.

For more information about the “Catholicos Karekin II Work Project”, visit:
www.habitateurope.org

About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International is an ecumenical Christian ministry that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in Americus, Ga., in 1976, Habitat has built more than 200,000 houses in nearly 100 countries, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than one million people. For more information, visit www.habitat.org .