Armenian Community in Belgium
The meaningful Armenian presence in Belgium started from the beginning of the 20th century. The size of the community did not start growing considerably until the end of the First World War and the forced mass exodus of Armenians from Turkey following the 1915 Armenian Genocide. In 1920 more than one thousand survivors of the Armenian Genocide settled in Belgium. In 1940-50s the number of Armenian community increased by reaching almost 2.500 thousands. In 1970s the large group of Armenians came to Belgium especially from Syria, Lebanon, Iran as well as recently from Armenia. The exact number of Armenians in the country is unknown, but is unofficially estimated to be about 20,000.
The majority of Armenians live in Brussels and Antwerp. There is a small community of Armenians in the cities of Gent, Liege and Mechelen. Among lawyers, architectures and doctors there are many Armenians involved in trade and diamond industry. Especially those involved in diamond industry play a very important role in promoting the Armenian-Belgium trade relations.
Since 1922 the community is lead by the "Committee of Belgian Armenians". This body is officially recognized by the Belgian government.
The Armenian Church
An Armenian church, "Eglise Armenienne Apostolique Sainte Marie-Madeleine" is the main church of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox community. It is related to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin of Armenian Apostolic Church. The church structure was erected and consecrated in May 1990. The Reverend of the Church is Father Zadik Avedikian.
Social and cultural life of the Community
In different years various charity, youth and cultural organizations was created by the Armenians of Belgium and all with the same goal – to preserve the Armenian identity. There is also the Armenian "Hay tun" for community gatherings established in 1980. Since that time it has played an important role in organizing public life for the Armenians. The main Armenian organizations of Belgium are the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), "Arpak Mekhitarian", The Armenian Women Association of Antwerp, "Ardia", "Arax", "Hayk", "Progrès", "Leon Chant", "Union of Democrats", the Union of the Armenian Youth of Belgium, "Nuard", etc...
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) was the first Armenian traditional party established in Belgium in 1997. Some cultural and sports associations operate under its umbrella. From 1998, the Armenian Cause foundation began its work in collaboration with the Armenian Cause foundation of France.
Currently there are 16 Armenian educational institutions in Belgium, some schools depend on the traditional parties and cultural associations, the other ones are completely independent. Among the most popular Armenian periodicals are "Lragir", "Armenian World", "Science and knowledge", "Hay" news bulletin etc.