Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Between Life and Identity: To the General Assembly on the Armenian Genocide

What follows is the text of the speech I gave at the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in support of Resolution 1519, my denomination’s recognition of the Armenian Holocaust as a genocide and a lament of the steadfast and stubborn refusal of the governments of the United States of America and the republic of Turkey to likewise recognize the Armenian Holocaust as a genocide. 

I am very grateful to Dr. Peter Makari of the Division of Overseas Ministries, the sponsor of 1519, for graciously encouraging me to speak in favor of a cause I have devoted a significant amount of time and energy to championing. Although my great-grandfather Krikor Mouradian died well before I was born, I remember visiting my great-grandmother Satenig as a small child, and it is my hope that in heaven, she and Krikor are proud of their eldest great-grandchild. ~E.A.

My name is Rev. Eric Atcheson, and I am the pastor of First Christian Church in Longview, Washington.  But it is my name wherein lies the question that sits before us now. I am a fourth-generation Armenian Congregationalist, and yet both my given name and my surname are Anglo. Having a name that is not Armenian in origin is now not uncommon for many of us in what now numbers in the millions of souls who make up the worldwide Armenian diaspora.

And it is not uncommon because 100 years ago, our families were forced into the most wrenching of decisions, one that no person, no child of God, should ever have to make: to have to choose between life and identity.

There is a pain attendant with having your identity be less than whole because of the reality that my entire existence, from the moment I entered into this world until the moment I leave it for the greater kingdom of God, is an extended consequence of a genocide. Had my family not needed to flee their ancestral homeland a century ago, had they been able to remain where their family had been for years and years, and their children’s children would simply have been Armenian, not Armenian-American, or Armenian-French, or Armenian-anything. Their identity would have been secure, able live on without the need for a new homeland.

And so I am a product of a genocide, which means that when the genocide is denied, year after year, I am denied. Who I am, how I came to be here, why I even exist, all of it is denied in favor of the convenient lie.

I emphasize that word, “convenient."  Because what we are saying to the world is, give us that which is convenient rather than that which is right.  Give us the military bases, give us the airspace, give us the strategic convenience of forgetting what we have done and what we have left undone.

But who cares?  It is only a memory of 100 years ago...and yet It is so much more.

It will always be so much more for we who are calling out to you, mightily, with one voice, to say, "Not in my name."

And so I ask for a yea vote for 1519. Thank you.

Columbus, Ohio
July 21, 2015

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