Recalling days of horror

Armenian Episcopalian risks opening old wounds to tell a tragic tale
June 30, 2005

I would like to acquaint my fellow Episcopalians with a genocide that occurred 90 years ago, perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks. Armenians throughout the world again observed the anniversary of this tragic event on April 24.

The year 1915 was a terrible year for 2.5 million Christian-Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire. By the end of that year, only a handful of them were spared the deadly scourge that swept over every Armenian community throughout the country and took its toll of more than 2 million Armenian lives -- men, women and children. By the time the massacres were over, Turkey could congratulate itself for ridding itself of the Armenian question.

Millions of Armenians were uprooted from their homes -- some deported to distant places to find slow death in sun-scorched deserts, some butchered (by spearing) in cold blood, others sold into slavery to Arabs and Kurds. Still others were enslaved in Turkish homes and harems. This systematic and planned genocide nearly destroyed an entire nation. Armenians were massacred because they were Christian. My people would not give up their faith.

The events I describe open fresh wounds in the hearts of the world’s 10 million Armenians. We recall these days of horror when, as very young children, so many of us watched helplessly as fathers breathed their last breath and mothers were violated. We recall the agonies that drove mothers to hurl their infants and themselves into swollen rivers. The blue waters turned red with the blood of the thousands either thrown to their deaths or who decided to end their lives rather than to give up their faith and belief in the Lord Jesus.

As a third-generation Armenian-American Episcopalian, I do not call for vengeance on the Turkish people. Vengeance can only prove meaningless and futile. It is contrary to Armenian/Episcopal Church teaching and best left to the Lord. But the elimination of vengeance does not nullify a need to document these events -- events that pass all too quickly from the memories of people and nations.

I call upon all civilized societies, all the governments and peoples of the world, to learn more about this atrocity. I call upon my fellow Episcopalians to question what happened, to pressure the American government to recognize this genocide, to learn why it happened and to pray that something like this will never happen again.

I ask the present-day Turkish government and peoples to acknowledge what happened and, before God, to apologize for the actions of their forefathers. I ask every Episcopalian to say a special prayer for the souls of those martyred. Maybe if we had cared, maybe if we did something then, Hitler wouldn’t have asked, “Who remembers the Armenian Genocide?” on the eve of the Holocaust.

I say to my forbearers: I promise to bring my children and grandchildren up to know the truth about the first genocide of the 20th century and to educate my neighbor, my fellow Episcopalian, my fellow Christian, my co-worker about this atrocity.

Anyone interested in knowing more about this genocide may write to me at the Armenian-American Education Association, PO Box 1373, Bellmore, NY 11710.

God rest the souls of the victims of the Armenian Genocide.

To respond to this column, write to Episcopal Life or personally@episcopal-life.org. We welcome your own “Personally” columns.

Related Topics: