General Synod to speak on 100th anniversary of Armenian Genocide
The United Church of Christ General Synod will have an opportunity to collectively and publicly lament the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide with the consideration of a proposed resolution before the church’s governing body later this month. Just as important, this resolution will give the denomination a chance to condemn any violence based on race, ethnicity or religion—the type of violence happening in Syria, for example, where many Armenian refugees fled.
Sponsored by Wider Church Ministries, the resolution, “Commemorating 100 Years Since the Armenian Genocide,” would mark the anniversary by reiterating the church’s “acknowledgement of the events and re-asserting its concern for people and communities that are victims of violence, particularly when that violence is based on race, ethnicity, creed or any other aspect of identity.” General Synod 30 convenes from June 26 to 30 in Cleveland.
“It’s a recognition of the historical event, and the UCC has a long history with the Armenian community through both mission and partnership,” said Peter Makari, area executive for the Middle East and Europe. “It lifts up that relationship and expresses support and solidarity as we all commemorate and remember the genocide.”
“In addition, the resolution makes note of what is happening in Syria now, while reiterating the church’s abhorrence at any instance of discrimination that could lead to, and in some cases does lead to, killing on such a large scale,” Makari continued.
On April 24, 1915, in what is now Istanbul, Ottoman authorities arrested approximately 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders, beginning the systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenians, Syrian Orthodox and other minority communities, and the displacement of another 1 million people. Many of the refugees resettled in northern Syria. Today, however, many Armenians, as well as others Christians and Muslims, have fled the country fearing for their lives because of violence by radical ideologies and the self-proclaimed Islamic State, which has killed people who don’t follow or agree with their view.
The resolution also has the verbal support from UCC partner organizations. Two executives of the Armenian Missionary Association of America, Zaven Khanjian and Levon Filian, both praised the church’s witness and support of the Armenian Christian community through Global Ministries partnerships and the forthcoming proposal.
“I applaud the United Church of Christ for taking a stand for what is true, what is right,” Filian said. “That in itself is a statement we commend.”
“It takes courage to acknowledge the genocide,” Khanjian said. “Even though it is totally documented in the archives of the U.S. State Department, in churches in America, and universities all over the world, it puts organizations who acknowledge it above politics.”
If passed, the resolution could also move forward after General Synod, without requiring additional financial or staff support, to bolster the work already being done with Armenian partners. It would also serve as a basis for advocacy to the U.S. government, since it and the Turkish government have not recognized the event or considered it genocide. Since taking office, President Barack Obama has used the Armenian phrase “Meds Yeghern,” which in the Armenian language means “The Calamity” and refers to the genocide.
“In 15 years time after the calamity, every house in America knew about the genocide, and they raised $117 million,” Khanjian said. “Orphanages were built, hospitals were raised, schools were built. It injected life in Armenians. America knows the tragedy very well.”
“We’ve already sent a letter to Armenian partners in April lamenting the 100th anniversary of the event,” Makari said. “But, in a way, [the resolution] provides a basis for advocacy and it’s a statement to the world that we [condemn] violence based on acts of identity.”
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