Armenian Martyrs Day
The following two pieces were written by the Rev. Susan A. Minasian for the UCC’s Worship Ways. She is currently the pastor at Sojourners UCC.
Background of the Armenian Genocide
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.
Pastoral Prayer for Armenian Martyrs’ Day
Out of the depths Oh God, we call to you.
As your gathered people we come to worship you and
to remember your presence in our lives.
You have been with all humanity throughout time.
When each one of us was born your spirit danced within us. Your breath gave us life.
As we age and travel on our journeys
you continue to breathe the power of resurrection life in us.
In this season of Easter we celebrate the many ways you have conquered death.
You gave Tabitha a transforming moment.
In this reminder of your own power over death we come trusting in you:
in your forgiveness, your mercy and your love.
As your global church we are mindful
of all the sisters and brothers who make up the body of Christ.
Today we are especially mindful of Armenians throughout the world
as they remember the Genocide of their people and
continued oppression by the Turkish Government.
We know that on your Good Friday you entered all of our Good Fridays.
Whenever your children have been harmed
out of greed, abuse of power and hate
you are crucified again.
May your comforting presence be with the survivors who are still living
and with their loved ones.
May your confidence and hope be with them
as they continue to seek justice for wounds not yet healed.
In your power of resurrection hope may healing be realized this Eastertide.
We are also mindful of those who bring harm to your creation.
They are also in your heart.
We pray that they may receive your love and compassion
in the midst of their own repentance.
May their acknowledgement of harmful actions be a step toward justice
that can transform them into whole people of God.
We know that being brave and being called to truth telling can lead to death.
Protect those who have the courage and loving heart for justice and truth.
May this day be a day when our solidarity with all of your hurting people
becomes a day of life-giving acts of love, hope, joy and peace.
May the power of the resurrection become a living energy within each of us
so that your kin-dom on earth will grow into that beloved garden of paradise promised.
In the name of Jesus the Christ we pray. Amen.