Yesterday, Armenians around the world commemorated the 101st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, when 1.5 million Armenians were systematically murdered by the Ottoman Turkish Empire for refusing to renounce their Christian faith and Armenian culture.
There were marches of 100,000+ people over the weekend; performances of new music, films and plays; peaceful demonstrations at memorial monuments, lectures and sacred services; and a shining new tribute: the recently inaugurated Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, co-developed by Armenian and non-Armenian philanthropists, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel and George and Amal Clooney — “On behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors” — and awarded “to an individual whose actions have had an exceptional impact on preserving human life and advancing humanitarian causes.” The award was announced yesterday in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital (click here for announcement), and will be announced there each year.
These forward-looking, inspiring events help show that the Turks and their Genocide of Armenians did not succeed in eliminating Armenians — they show that the world is starting to understand and embrace the truth of our history. But whether the world ever fully accepts it or not, Armenians are stronger and freer than ever by faith in God, and by perseverance to the values that matter most: love, compassion, dignity, spiritual commitment, regardless of what lies or horrors swarm around us. Although Turkey’s recogition would go a long way in healing many hearts and souls, Armenians don’t have to wait for that reluctant recognition to accomplish all they were put on this earth to do.
But genocides continue, as we see in today’s news. Christians and other groups keep getting persecuted for their beliefs, particularly in the Muslim world. And countries, because of their power, allies or strategic connections and resources, continue to literally get away with murder. Even today, Turkey denies carrying out the Armenian Genocide 100 years ago.
On the PR battlefront, the current Turkish goverment is also trying to murder the truth of history by funding full-page ads in the New York Times and Washington Post, buying up billboards near Genocide recogition event sites, and even creating websites claiming to seek truth and peace about the 1915 genocide yet which only deny its realities.
So the fight continues to advocate for full recognition, to tell our own true stories, and to sustain our heritage, culture and faith in new ways. One theater organization, the Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance (ADAA), accomplishes this mission by encouraging Armenian stories and wider human-rights stories to be told onstage via playwriting contests and readings. As ADAA’s slogan reads: “It’s Time Our Stories Were Told.” We can never stop telling them.
For my husband and me, our day took place at the 31st Times Square Armenian Genocide Commemoration in New York, co-sponsored by the Armenian fraternal and charitable organizations we are deeply involved in, The Knights and Daughters of Vartan.
More than 3,000 people congregated in Times Square, to hear politicians, academics, advocates, clergy and community leaders (including my husband) speak the truth and to urge everyone to participate in local advocacy as much as possible — calling your congressman to get an Armenian Genocide resolution passed; writing your State Assemblyman to get the Armenian Genocide taught in the schools, building relationships and telling our stories as much as possible to raise awareness. It was an inspiring event.
And yet, just two days before, a pro-Turkish group hired a plane to skywrite messages of Armenian Genocide denial high in the New York skies, also paying a troupe of people to dance below as the messages appeared.
The mere presence of denial and antagonism does not mean that truth-tellers should stop telling the truth, or stop advocating for it. In fact, the presence of opposition affirms our need to get the truth out there even more. Not with hatred or closedmindedness, but with an honest view toward recognition, repararation and perhaps, even reconciliation. And I think only God can change people’s hearts, if they are open to it.
But even if those things never occur, the victory is won. We were not wiped out. We are still here. And as voices young and old rang out to the heavens yesterday, our sainted ancestors heard and smiled in glory.
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:38
For more information:
About the Armenian Genocide:
About The Aurora Prize: https://auroraprize.com/en/prize
About the Knights and Daughters of Vartan: www.kofv.org
About the Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance: www.armeniandrama.org