Still Remembering, Still Demanding
Armenian Martyrs’ Day Article
by Rev. L. Nishan Bakalian*
“Isn’t a hundred years long enough to hold on to this? Can’t you Armenians just put this behind you?” People may wonder why the Armenian Genocide has to be a topic for discussion 101 years after the fact. Each year on April 24th, Armenians throughout the world continue to hold commemorations. Even the UCC includes this date in its calendar. But why is it so important?
No serious scholar contests the fact that the Ottoman Turkish government and its successors carried out a premeditated plan of race extermination against its Christian minorities (Armenian, Assyrian, Greek) from 1915-1923. But today’s Turkish government spares no effort to cast doubts on it, steadfastly refusing to allow any recognition of the Armenian Genocide as a crime committed in its borders, and therefore allowing no restoration or reparation to be made. It remains a blight on the Turkish soul, as well as a wound on the Armenian soul, preventing much-needed healing to take place.
Over a century of impunity for this crime has merely encouraged others to show the same inhumanity to others. Adolf Hitler understood this reality very well as he justified his onslaught on Poland in 1939, asking ironically, “Who nowadays speaks of the annihilation of the Armenians?” Crime upon crime, genocide upon genocide continues to plague this world that God so loved, and for which he gave his only-begotten Son (Jn. 3.16-17). It continues to this day, whether in the barbaric acts of the “Islamic State”, or in the recent dehumanizing speech and bombardment of Nagorno-Karabagh.
The symbol used for the Armenian Genocide Centennial was the forget-me-not flower, along with the slogan, “I Remember and Demand”. As people of faith and good conscience, we need to remember in our regular prayers the suffering of many, including our fellow Christians, just as if we ourselves were suffering (Heb. 13.3). Yet our remembering must also lead us to action, through providing relief and shelter to the suffering, and by raising our voices, as Jesus did in the Garden to those who took up the sword, saying “Enough!” (Lk. 22.51)
*Rev. L. Nishan Bakalian is pastor of the Armenian Martyrs’ Congregational Church in Havertown, PA. He is an ordained United Church of Christ pastor.