Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Armenia Remembered

Though this is first and foremost a “Christian” blog, I hope you will permit me this brief moment of advocacy outside any of the usual topics of conversation that we have here.

I am Armenian-American from my mother’s side of the family—my great-grandparents immigrated here from the Ottoman Empire during the First World War as refugees from the Armenian Holocaust that began in 1915. My grandmother was full-blooded Armenian, and I am proud to be a third-generation American from her.

April 24 marks the 97th anniversary of the arrest and deportation of the Armenians in Istanbul that began the Armenian Holocaust, and it today serves for us as Genocide Remembrance Day (or, “Genocide Memorial Day” in Armenian).

As of this writing, 20 different countries and 42 different American states have officially recognized the Armenian Holocaust as genocide, per the recommendations of most genocide historians and scholars.

The Republic of Turkey—the country established from the Ottoman Empire in the wake of the end of WWI—and the United States of America are not among those 20 countries.

Indeed, figures who have argued that the Armenian Holocaust was genocide have been prosecuted as criminals in Turkey under Article 301 of their penal code.

The US Congress has had resolutions made to recognize the Armenian Holocaust as genocide, and they have never made it to the floor for a full vote.

Yet, chronologically, from the Armenian Holocaust we arrive at the Jewish Holocaust (as well as the many non-Jewish victims), and the genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Darfur, and ethnic cleansing in places like Kosovo. We say "Never again," but have never followed through with that resolve.

In past years, I have written poetry or told stories to commemorate this day.

But today, I would simply say that memory is one of the most powerful abilities we have—and one of the most fragile. It can inspire and be warped; it can fuel reconciliation as well as animosity; it can create a person’s identity and erase it.

Not many other things can claim to be that powerful.

Love is one.

But they are also dependent on another. Love must be remembered in order to maintain its power. So...remember your love for one another. Remember the power that it has.

May that love one day finally overrule whatever need we feel to inflict violence upon one another.

In memory of the 1.5 million men, women, and children murdered in the Armenian Holocaust.

Yours in Christ,

“Do you know what still causes so much pain? It’s not the people we lost, or the land. It’s to know that we could be so hated.” –Charles Aznavour, in the film Ararat

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