Green is Good: Echmiadzin added to sites of “Green Pilgrimage”

Echmiadzin has joined the network of ten Green Pilgrimage sites of the world. The title was awarded to the town of Echmiadzin and Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin during the Sacred Land Celebration in Assisi, Italy that launched on October 31 and continued through November 2 and was organized by Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) in association with World Wildlife Federation.

“The Green Movement is not new, however, the Green Pilgrimage Network is just now being established, so this was the first founding assembly,” says Samvel Madoyan, heading the foreign relations department of Echmiadzin municipality, who returned from Assisi late last week.

The sites included in the network have to meet the criteria of a Green Pilgrimage site – they have to make their pilgrim and sacred sites as environmentally sustainable as possible, according to their own theologies and understanding of the natural world. The sites have to be clean and green; visitors should be able to taste locally grown organic food.

Among the countries included in the network are Israel, Egypt, the UK, Norway, Nigeria, India, China, Scotland, Japan, and Italy.

World Council of Churches Armenia Roundtable representatives visiting Assisi presented their plan for Echmiadzin to the ARC, according to which the Nersisyan forest will be restored and the seminary will have solar panels installed as its source of energy.

Madoyan says that the municipality and Holy Echmiadzin will try to do joint projects within the Green Pilgrimage framework.

“Keep the town clean and green, assist economic and business development. We might even apply to and receive assistance from the Network in case of certain projects,” he says.

Ehcmiadzin mayor Karen Grigoryan says due to this the town will acquire a new and more attractive look: cleaner and greener.

“Being part of Green Pilgrimage Network will spur tourism to Echmiadzin, which is an important precondition for the future development of our town. Even now we already have newly-built parks and green zones in different parts of the town,” he says.

Karine Baghdasaryan, World Council of Churches Armenia Roundtable representative, says organic food has to be locally grown, national and affordable. Up to 80 percent of it has to be of domestic production, and 40 percent served fresh.

The Cross of Armenian Unity (CAU) organization hosting tourists to the now Green Pilgrimage site Echmiadzin not only treats its guests to national Armenian cuisine, but also has them participate in the cooking and preparation process.

Last week in its courtyard CAU organized an event called Green Hospitality. Apricot tree branches in the yard were decorated with red and green peppers and yellow corns. Traditional Armenian atmosphere was completed with home-made preserves, clay vessels filled with rosehip, haw and peshat; clay jars were full of home-made vodka and wine. The official flag of Green Hospitality added even more festivity to the event.

During the event students of Armenian cuisine prepared tolma – wrapping ground beans and wheat in vine leaves, barbeque, eggs with tarragon. Guests could sample Armenian wine in a special way: served in red bell-peppers as cups.

At the wine-press in a corner of the courtyard young women were stomping bunches of red grapes. CAU leader Grigor Babakhanyan says that tourists usually take part in this annual procedure, as well as representatives of international organizations working in Armenia.

“To watch and participate in this process is more interesting and exciting to them than to get a bottle of wine as a present,” he says.

Baghdasaryan says that the Green Hospitality event confirmed once again that Echmiadzin has earned the right to be among the ten sites “standing beside such cities as Jerusalem, Trondheim, Edinburg…”

( For the details of the celebration in Assisi and the network in general see