On Wednesday, January 12, 2011 an interfaith prayer service was held in Montreal to commemorate the first anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. The Mayor of Montreal, Mr. Gerald Tremblay, with the participation of interfaith church leaders held a vigil of Hope Prayer Service, at the La TOHU Circus Arts Center, with the public in attendance.

Montreal City Councilor Franz Benjamin opened the service with greetings, welcomed the leaders and acknowledged the presence of the Mayor of Montreal and the Primate of the Armenian Church Diocese of Canada. Mr. Benjamin then invited Srpazan Galstanian to the podium. The Primate conveyed his sentiments upon this solemn occasion.- “At this moment of pain and grief, our thoughts and prayers go to the people of Haiti, to men and women who suffered through the terrible calamity and today, continue to endure the aftermath of the effects of the earthquake. Armenians have also experienced and lived through a similar tragedy which took place on December 7, 1988 in the region of Spitak, Republic of Armenia. We truly understand and share in your ongoing pain and grief.” His Eminence continued.- “it is my humble honor to participate in this service today, in remembrance of the lives lost and to offer my prayers for the courageous citizens of Haiti who today are working to rebuild a better future for their families and for their country.” Srpazan Galstanian concluded his remarks with “Bahbanitch” prayer, in Armenian.

Following the service, His Eminence had the opportunity to meet with a number of Haitians in Montreal and share in their personal tales of the effects of the earthquake. Accompanying the Primate was Dn. Hagop Arslanian.

The official opening of the Haitian photo exhibition was also held, on this occasion. The historical photos of the Haitian capital, along with the shocking images captured throughout the 24 hours aftermath, brought the ravages of the January 12, 2010 earthquakes into perspective. Pictures of the survivors in need of medical care who were brought to Quebec complete the story portrayed in the photo exhibit. These moving images reveal the extreme vulnerability but also the enormous resilience of the people of Port-au-Prince

Before a crowd of mostly Haitian immigrants, this event was part prayer service and part Haitian pride rally, intermingling messages of faith and rebirth with fiery history lessons of contributions the island nation had made. Among the first independent nations in the Western Hemisphere, the former slave colony successfully fought Napoleon III’s armies for independence from France and assisted in South America’s independence from Spain. Today, as one of the Caribbean’s poorest nations, it has been mired in political unrest coupled with other natural disasters such as hurricanes.