WCC commemorates Armenian genocide and affirms our common humanity
The World Council of Churches (WCC) remembers today, 24 April, the 1.5 million Armenian victims—children, women and men—who died 100 years ago.
Representatives from the World Council of Churches are joining political and spiritual leaders and representatives from genocide-surviving nations in public commemorations of the Armenian genocide 22-24 April in Yerevan, Armenia.
The 10th WCC assembly in Busan, Republic of Korea, in 2013 asked member churches to observe the centenary of the Armenian genocide in appropriate ways.
A special Service of Canonization of the Victims of the Armenian Genocide, led by H.H. Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, President of the WCC in the Middle East, and H.H. Aram I, Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia, took place at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin on 23 April.
Members of the WCC executive committee participated in the procession, including Archbishop Dr Vicken Aykazian, Armenian Apostolic Church (Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin), and Archbishop Dr Nareg Alemezian, Armenian Apostolic Church (Holy See of Cilicia). Also present at the service were WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit; WCC presidents Archbishop emeritus Dr Anders Wejryd, Church of Sweden and H.B. John X, Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East; and many representatives of WCC member churches.
The church bells rang 100 times in virtually all Armenian Churches on Thursday night at the end of the ceremony at Holy Etchmiadzin canonizing the victims of the genocide – the first such rite conducted by the Armenian Apostolic Church in 400 years.
Many other churches around the world joined the bell-ringing, among them the Notre Dame cathedrals of Paris and Strasbourg, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, the Buenos Aires cathedral, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, and others.
The WCC general secretary was also one of the invited speakers at the Commemoration of the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide in Yerevan, Armenia, on 23 April.
“We remember today first of all the 1.5 million victims, Armenian children, women and men. We remember also the other hundreds of thousands of Christians of Aramean, Chaldean, Assyrian, Syrian and Greek descent, and all others – many of them from other living faiths such as the Muslim faith – who died in that time of brutal violence and war,” said Tveit in his address.
Tveit emphasized: “Those who deny or attack the life and dignity of a sister or brother undermine and destroy the humanity of both the victim and themselves. Today we are made conscious of this mutually destructive reality. We remember together and pay due respect to innocent victims. We also remember together that these inhuman actions really happened. Both are steps that can and should lead to reconciliation and healing of memories based in the hostilities of the past. We need, as one humanity, both justice and peace.”
Tveit continued, ““Our life and our death are with our neighbour” – this is a spiritual affirmation from the Christian tradition which we owe to Saint Anthony, a monk from Egypt of the third and fourth century. This is our common legacy from the early years of Armenia and its Christian history.”
During the 1979 Session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the World Council of Churches called publicly for recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the UN.
Tveit also recalled, “In 1983, the 6th Assembly of the WCC in Vancouver supported this request, emphasizing ‘the silence of the world community and deliberate efforts to deny even historical facts that have been consistent sources of anguish and growing despair to the Armenian people, the Armenian churches and many others.’”
Tveit reminded listeners, “Christian churches recently celebrated the resurrection of Christ. In the joyful Easter period, we remember in our prayers the victims of the genocide, participating in the death and resurrection of Christ. In our creeds we confess our hope, as the one community of saints, of forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the dead to eternal life. Injustice, violence, sin and death will not have the last word.”
“He concluded, “Today the memory of the victims moves us to take pro-active measures to stop all attacks against humanity and our dignity.”
The World Council of Churches organized a special prayer service on April 24 in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva. The WCC general secretary will preach in the Cathedral of Washington, DC, at the National Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide Centennial on 7 May.