Posted on July. 6. 2019

BY Z. S. Andrew Demirdjian

As is the case with many old proverbs, the meaning and the origin of the proverbial expression that “speech is silver and silence is golden”, is lost in the mists of time. Some have reported that versions of it have been used in Ancient Egypt. So, it must date back to earlier times when mankind had begun to live a sedentary life in villages and towns, giving rise to the birthplace of civilization as was done first on the Armenian Highlands.

For the first time in its written form of the proverb, the English poet Thomas Carlyle, who translated the phrase from German in Sartor Resartus (1831), narrates how a character elaborates on the virtues of silence. Over the years, the complete version (i.e., speech is silver and silence is golden) is still sometimes used. Notwithstanding, the shorter form (i.e., silence is golden) is now more in common usage.

` Is “Silence” really “Golden” when it comes to civil and criminal matters in the court of law, let alone in the court of public opinion? Let us explore this interesting   question.

Contrary to “Silence is golden”, “Silence gives consent” states another ancient maxim of common law. From that maxim flows a widely applied legal principle: The Rule of Tacit Admission.  Central to this theory is the contention that an innocent man would loudly and clearly deny a serious charge made against him. The rule holds that a suspect being silent in the face of an accusation has tacitly admitted of the crime he is being charged with. Interestingly enough, such silence can be introduced at his trial as an “indicator of guilt”, an indictment of wrongdoing. In other words, “He who is silent is supposed to consent,” –to admit being guilty.  The California Supreme Court ruled that silence can be evidence of guilt in a recent case.

Now, let us apply this to a recent case of civil offense. For those who are new  to the controversy, let me summarize the issue: Based on objective evidence, Mr. Appo Jabarian,  the Executive Publisher and  the  Managing Editor  of USA Armenian Life Magazine, reported  (Issue Dec. 28-Jan. 3, 2019) the congenial relationship between  the Grey Wolf organization president and His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II. Then hell broke loose. Primate Hovnan Derderian took the misbegotten initiative unabashedly to muzzle Mr. Jabarian from publishing other damaging stories on our Pontiff.  This incident gave rise  to a long period during which many Armenians began  to air their complaints publicly about the misconduct of some of our high  ranking Armenian clergymen.  The incantation for a “New Armenia, New Patriarch” raged on unabatedly.

The death threat by the followers of Primate Hovnan Derderian intended to silence Mr. Jabarian for his editorial exposing Catholicos Karekin II’s warm relationship with the leader of the Turkish Grey Wolves’ organization which is known to be the fierce enemy of the Armenian nation. As we all know, the blood of Hrant Dink is still warm on their hands.

Instead of re-incrimination, counteraccusation, or outright denial of serious allegations of misconduct, Primate Derderian has launched three of his supporters/bodyguards to silence Mr. Appo Jabarian by threatening his life. Despite his and Catholicos Karekin II’s reputation being at stake, he took the sensless action to punish Mr. Jabarian instead of refuting the damaging allegations of corruption. What a primitive act, you would say! Incidentally, these three persons are now wanted by the Burbank Police Department for issuing death threats against an innocent journalist/publisher.

Unlike most of his colleagues, Mr. Jabarian came out of his comfort zone to report the wrongdoings of some of our clergymen in Holy Etchmiadzin as well as in its satellite centers — dioceses around the world, particularly in the Western USA and Russia. They tried to intimidate Mr. Jabarian to crawl under a rock and not to make waves anymore.

However, Mr. Jabarian stood his ground to exercise the First Amendment, Freedom of Speech and the Press. 

As the publisher of a highly successful member of the free press, Appo Jabarian has been reporting so far the unchallenged truth on Archbishop Hovnan Derderian since 2015. He has been doing so at great personal risks such as being targeted for character assassination by Arch. Hovnan Derderian and/or his agents. In 2016 Arch. Derderian has even attempted to get Jabarian stripped of Ellis Island Medal Of Honor. But his misguided and vindictive attempts were defeated by the prestigious American civic organization. 

It is a thousand pities to treat a person who is known in the community as having the highest standard character, a kinetic personality, and a sterling record of achievement in many of his professional fields over the years.  To crown all, whenever the opportunity presents itself, he puts the rights and interests of the Armenian community before any political considerations.

Back to our  topic of the Betrayal of Silence. Conspiracy of silence seems to be the case — for neither the Pontiff nor the Primate has yet spoken out in defense of him, no one has yet stated loud and clear of their innocence perhaps not to show to the public that they are stooping to the level of the accusers. This strategy backfires. As Dr. Martin Luther King once has astutely observed: “There comes a time when silence is betrayal”.

As we can see, anecdotally silence betrays (indicates) guilt, but how can we explain this phenomenon behaviorally. From a psychological perspective, when an innocent person is unjustly accused of a misdemeanor or a crime, he or she would be ready to deny the allegations with force. This can be illustrated by a model known as Psychological Reactance, the natural tendency to trigger a psychological reaction (a highly motivated force in an individual), to regain/restore or to stop one’s deprived or threatened right (e.g.. a stain on a person’s reputation brought on by an accuser). Since neither  the Pontiff nor the Primate could not consider themselves innocent of the allegations levied against them, they have kept their silence throughout the controversy without making an effort   to rebut or refute the false allegations.   If the clergymen in question decided not to engage in a dirty battle and if they were innocent of the charges, they could have asked their agents, representatives to speak out their innocence on their behalf.

Frankly, I have no evidence of the allegations being true or false, but I have come to know about them recently through numerous reports which had been published and circulated publicly.  Here is the crux of  the matter: Little did the accused clergymen in question know that silence would betray them, silence would indicate their guilt and that nothing would blow over in time once the people had stated their complaints uncontested. Instead, the accused chose to sweep the ugly issues pertaining to their character and personality, to their mismanagement of the affairs of the church for their own material benefits under the proverbial rug.

When all is said and done, when the dust settles on the controversy,  they will be consciously and subconsciously be tried in the court of public opinion as being guilty as charged for not vehemently denying those allegations of misconduct.

The treachery, the perfidy of silence has already judged these clergymen amply by now and the possible verdict is that people have become convinced  that they lack spirituality.  Therefore, the Armenian Church is no place for them to continue practicing their brand of religiosity based on kleiptocracy in the shadows for their own selfish interests.

That Armenians love their Church is a truism. The proof is in the pudding by remembering what Saint Vartan Mamigonian and his brave men had to face an outnumbered army in order to defend Armenia’s faith in the face of many odds–including being decimated by such superior Persian army to force them abandon Christianity. However, Armenians chose death over forsaking their faith. Likewise, Armenians rather have their churches run without dubious clergymen who lack spirituality and face empty alters and podiums for a while until reforms are completed for  the future.

Equal to Masis, if not more, Christianity is number one among the Armenian national treasures of their rich heritage. During the Genocide of  1915, many Armenians, especially women, chose to drown by jumping into the treacherous waters of the Euphrates River rather than become Islamasized to save their lives. A perusal over the history of the world would disclose the fact   that no nation on Earth has ever paid so dearly for remaining staunch Christians than our over four- thousand-year old Homeland Hayastan.

Unlike many other churches split into various denominations, the Armenian Church has stood the test of time for the millennia. It flourished unchanged, it served the faithful in thick and thin times, during war and pestilence by remaining on the bedrock of the earliest and purest Christianity principles and cannons. There is no crisis in the Armenian Church. If  the allegations are  true, then the problem would lie with some of the bedeviled clergymen in need of personal reform in order to be worthy of our forefathers’ sacred place of worship such as at our eternal Holy Etchmiadzin.


  1. Stepan says:

    An excellent commentary. The only area where I would slightly disagree is that there is crisis in the Armenian Church. If our leaders are tarnished by corruption, then the church’ credibility is harmed. In the diaspora where retaining our faith and identity is challenging, controversial leaders place the church in crisis.

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