The Bristol Press – MAZADOORIAN: Commemorating the 1915 Armenian Genocide: Holiness for the Victims

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On April 24, the world will recognize and commemorate the tragedy of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, when more than 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children perished at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.

The horror and brutality of these unspeakable crimes have been documented by legions of eyewitnesses and meticulously chronicled by a growing number of genocide scholars. Former President Theodore Roosevelt called butchery the greatest war crime. The atrocities have been decried by figures as varied as US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Henry Morgenthau to Clara Barton to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who called it an “outrage on civilization without historical parallel in the world”.

Despite the unimaginable horror the world witnessed at that time and the outrage it aroused, there was no meaningful intervention to stem the brutality. Deportation, death marches, starvation and outright murder continued unabated. It was one of the darkest chapters humanity had ever seen.

Following the brutalities, however, a huge wave of humanitarian relief ensued to aid survivors and care for orphans. This was probably best illustrated by the creation of the Near East Relief Committee in the United States. Between 1915 and 1930, the Near East Relief organization raised some $117 million, or $1.6 billion in current currency. The outpouring of support, relief efforts and workers on the ground were inspiring. Orphanages and other institutions provided critical care for homeless orphans, including my mother. Other countries have taken action: my father was cared for in an orphanage created in Denmark.

Despite these Herculean efforts, the Armenian Genocide has not been universally recognized, mainly due to the aggressive and threatening denials of the Turkish government, successor to the Ottoman Empire. Those who survived the Genocide had to live not only with the horrors they had actually encountered further through the constant shrill cries of denial. It was particularly hurtful here in the United States, where so many members of the Armenian diaspora had come to settle and contributed so fully. The United States government, cautiously fearing recriminations from a NATO ally, used euphemisms and averted eyes to appease Turkey. While many countries have taken principled and high-level positions condemning the Genocide (as have the majority of US states), the official position of the US government has wavered.

That changed in 2020 when both houses of Congress passed virtually identical resolutions acknowledging and condemning the genocide. The words of the resolution were unequivocal and powerful. The United States of America would “commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance” and would “reject efforts to enlist, engage, or otherwise associate the United States government with denial of the Armenian Genocide or any other genocide “.

Later in 2021, on the 106th anniversary of the genocide, President Biden courageously acknowledged the genocide and the victims saying, “We honor their history. We see this pain. We affirm history. … The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide.

Despite these acknowledgments, Turkish threats and histrionics continue much to the dismay of the few remaining survivors and their descendants. He continues to call the genocide actions “reasonable” and hits what Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called a “new high in denial” (perhaps “new low” would have been a more apt description).

Historians are now refocusing on the 1915 genocide, as Azerbaijan, with substantial help from Turkey, is now inflicting death blows on the historic Armenian region of Artsakh and seeking to eradicate any memory of the presence, of Armenian culture and Christianity in the region. Armenians are cruelly considered “remnants of the sword”. Murder and desecration abound.

As Turkey’s inflammatory comments and actions sought to keep genocide denial alive, a shining and uplifting moment brought sacred relief to Armenians and their supporters everywhere. This event, which took place in 2015, during the 100th commemoration of the genocide, was the canonization of the martyrs of the genocide by the Armenian Church. The Synod of Bishops of the Armenian Apostolic Church, under the auspices of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch of All Armenians, as well as His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, officially recognized those who perished in the genocide as martyrs and canonized them as saints of the Armenian Church”.

In a brilliant monograph entitled “From Victims to Martyrs,” Bishop Daniel Findikyan, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America, prior to his ordination as Primate, wrote: “Never in the history of the Armenian Church have new saints had been proclaimed with greater splendor, effervescence or inclusiveness – all hierarchical jurisdictions of the Armenian Church were represented, as well as some sister churches around the world. … Unprecedented also, the readiness of the Armenian Church, after 100 years, to discern God’s redeeming grace in the darkness and evil of this great crime against humanity.

The canonization service was an event of monumental significance and made it the first time in some 500 years that the Armenian Church canonized a new saint. It would be the largest canonization service in history. The event was filled with sacred symbols. The canonization itself ended at 7:15 p.m. sharp, a number dating back to the year 1915, when the genocide began. Church bells rang 100 times representing the passage of that number of years since the Genocide.

The meaning of Holiness I has many ramifications. Significantly, the holy martyrs can now intercede for all of us: instead of praying for them, we now pray for them. It is something of incredible mystery and relevance.

It should further be noted that new martyrs are not listed by name, and a fixed number of martyrs has not been identified. They were “the holy martyrs who gave their lives for the faith and for the homeland during the Armenian Genocide”.

Along with the canonization of the martyrs, there was the consecration and anointing of a new icon representing the holy martyrs. Besides the remembrance of the Martyrs, the icon reminds the faithful of the Church who we are called to be.

So while secular, humanitarian and international recognition of the EXISTENCE of the Armenian Genocide brings great comfort to the few remaining survivors of those tragic times and their descendants, even greater and invaluable comfort comes from canonization and holiness. unprecedented of those whose faith continued in times of unbearable suffering.

The canonization of the Armenian martyrs serves as a shining beacon, especially in this time of Easter resurrection, pointing to hope and victory even for those who have suffered unimaginable suffering.

Even for those who experienced the anguish of the genocide.

Harry Mazadoorian, a Kensington lawyer, is a member of Connecticut’s Armenian Genocide Remembrance Committee

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