Armenian Genocide Centennial Commemoration
Ecumenical prayer service to mark the centennial of the Armenian genocide held at Trinity Church in Boston April 23, 2015. (Pilot photos by Gregory L. Tracy)
Metropolitan Methodios’ Remarks on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide
Trinity Church, Boston, MA
April 23, 2015
We gather this evening at Trinity Church to honor the memories of our Armenian brothers and sisters who perished 100 years ago in the genocide. We join the citizens of the world to commemorate this horrific tragedy which began on April 24, 1915, when 300 (and subsequently countless more) Armenian leaders – writers, thinkers and professors in Constantinople were rounded up and killed.
Tonight, we re-read that shameful chapter of history and promise ourselves never to forget those who endured that most barbaric and savage massacre. In a single year, 1915, the Armenian people were robbed of their 3000-year-old heritage. The desecration of churches, the burning of libraries, the destruction of towns and villages, were systematic attempts to erase an ancient civilization. With the disappearance from their homeland, most of the symbols of Armenian culture --- schools, monasteries, artistic monuments, historical sites --- were destroyed. The Armenian spirit, however, could not be destroyed. While our Armenian brethren lost their homes---their very lives --- they were not about to surrender their most precious treasures--their language, their songs, their poetry, their dreams, their visions, their Faith, their resolve to survive.
Henry Morganthaw, United States Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1913 to 1926 wrote, “I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this. The great massacres and persecutions of the past seem almost insignificant when compared with the sufferings of the Armenian race in 1915.”
Tonight at this memorial service, we bow our heads in respectful remembrance of the innocent victims….. the million and a half brethren who perished at the hands of Ottoman and Turkish military and paramilitary forces. We remember those who suffered unspeakable atrocities intentionally inflicted to eliminate the Armenian demographic presence in Turkey. In the process, the population of historic Armenia at the eastern extremity of Anatolia was wiped off the map. With their disappearance, an ancient people which had inhabited the Armenian highlands for three thousand years lost their historic homeland, and were forced into exile. The surviving refugees fled throughout the world, eventually settling on all five continents. Triumphant in its total annihilation of the Armenian people, and relieved of any obligations to the victims and survivors, those responsible adopted a policy of dismissing the charge of genocide, and denying that the deportations and atrocities had constituted part of a deliberate plan of extermination.
Turkish entry into World War I facilitated this process. Shamefully, no outside powers intervened on behalf of the victims. Their silence was deafening. Over 2000 towns and villages were emptied of Armenian inhabitants who were subsequently killed. Some were killed at the outset of the so called “deportation.” Others died from disease and malnutrition in concentration camps in the deserts of Zor in Syria. Survivors of these camps were murdered outright at the end of 1916. There were no Armenians left to speak of in what became modern Turkey in 1923.
The fate of the Greeks, as you know, was similar. The decimation of Greeks living in Pontus on the Black Sea came first, followed by the forced exodus of the remaining Greeks of Asia Minor. Countless were “ethnically cleansed” from their ancestral homeland between 1918 and 1923. The city of Smyrna was torched to force the exodus of both Greek and Armenian populations. The common denominator in the Armenian, Greek and later Kurdish genocides was the intention to create an exclusively “Turkish” state with no minority population. The Greek American community feels a special bond with our Armenian brethren.
I commend the Mass Council of Churches and the Armenian Community for organizing the centennial commemoration. The memories of the victims of 1915 must never be forgotten, not only by their descendents, but by people of good will throughout the world.
Every day we learn about people’s suffering. It is easy to become desensitized to the oppression and violence against our fellow human beings, irrespective of racial origin, ethnic background, or religious conviction.
What happened in 1915 is being repeated today throughout the Middle East and Africa. We are appalled by the brutality inflicted upon people of every religion. Many turn a blind eye, but we must not remain silent before such ongoing, horrific acts of brutality. To do so would be disrespectful to the memory of our Armenian brethren. We must raise our voices in solidarity and prayer. As St. Paul reminds us, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Cor 12:26)
My brothers and sisters in the household of God,
We believe that God’s appearance as man, as Christ in history, offers all of us the possibility for repentance, reconciliation, and redemption. The Holy Resurrection is proof of the triumph of good over evil, of hope over despair. The memorial service this evening manifests our belief in the power of truth to change the future. As we respectfully remember our Armenian brethren, let us pray that Almighty God may embrace their souls in His loving bosom, granting them eternal rest. And, to quote St. Paul, “may the Lord of peace Himself give you (us) peace at all times and in every way.” (2Thess 3:16)
Visit the Official Armenian Genocide Centennial Commemoration Website at: www.NERemembers1915.org