Special -- Armenian Martyrs’ Day

Background of the Armenian Genocide
To Accompany the Pastoral Prayer for Armenian Martyrs’ Day

Armenians have been remembered for three things:  Noah’s ark is said to have landed on Mt. Ararat; the country was the first to adopt Christianity as its national religion in 301 CE; and many remember collecting money for the “starving Armenians.” 

While folks collected money they really didn’t know why.  They knew children were starving but there was not much conversation about the cause.  1915 is marked as the year of the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Turkish Government. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk developed and implemented a pogrom to deport and exterminate ethnic minorities in Turkey in order to cleanse Turkey of its diversity  in order to create a universal state of Turkishness throughout the empire.  While there were other minorities in the area at the time Armenians were the largest non-Turkish group.  The first people to be killed were clergy, professors, artists and political leaders.  The rest of the population followed to their  demise through mass killings, death marches, rape and torture.  The total fatalities were about 1.5 million people, close to half of the Armenian population at that time.

To this day Turkey denies the Genocide, which was the prototype for the Holocaust of the Jews and today’s atrocity in Darfur.  When Hitler was asked if he was afraid that he would get caught it is recorded that he laughed and said, “Who remembers the Armenians?”   This denial continues today and if a person acknowledges the truth of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey it is considered an insult to Turkishness and can lead to incarceration.  In 2007 Hrant Dink was assassinated in broad daylight.  He was a Turkish Armenian Journalist who was “proud to be Turkish and proud to be Armenian”.  Hrant Dink loved his homeland and his people.  He said “All we want to do is mourn our grandparents like they do.  You can call it whatever you want but I will tell you what happened.”

Armenian Martyrs’ Day is the annual recognition that there is no “Armenian Question” (doubt that it happened).  It is a day of remembering and truth telling.  While current news has covered the recent conversations between Turkey and Armenia what continues to be missing in the conversation is Turkey’s acknowledgement of their actions of the Armenian Genocide. 

As an Armenian American who has been baptized, confirmed and ordained in the United Church of Christ I have learned well our understanding of being a confessional church.  In confessing we tell the truth and in telling truth we find healing.  Nayiri Karjian has said, “We are the resurrection because we were supposed to die and yet we are living”.  Our lives and our hope are based on the resurrection power of God that we understand as post-Easter people. 

Many Armenians celebrate our oneness in Christ as members and congregations in the United Church of Christ.  Our cultural experience  has been a part of the threads that have woven this denomination into a diverse community of God.  We thank you for joining us in remembering not only the pain and the tragedy we have survived…but also in celebrating our lives that are vibrant today even as we wait for justice and peace.


Background for Armenian Genocide was written by the Rev. Susan A. Minasian, Chaplain at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Copyright 2010 Local Church Ministries, Congregational Vitality and Discipleship Ministry Team, United Church of Christ, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH  44115-1100.  Permission granted to reproduce or adapt this material for use in services of worship or church education.  All publishing rights reserved. 



Rev. Susan A. Blain
Minister for Worship, Liturgy and Spiritual Formation
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, Ohio 44115