Religious leaders support call to recognise Armenian “genocide”

Heads of main Irish churches address service marking 100th anniversary of massacre

Tateav Hayrapetyan (8), Diana Hambrdzumyan (9) and David Sandukhchyan (12) from St Hripsime Armenian School , at the service of remembrance on the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Armenian genocide, at Taney Parish Church, Dundrum, Co Dublin, yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke

Tateav Hayrapetyan (8), Diana Hambrdzumyan (9) and David Sandukhchyan (12) from St Hripsime Armenian School , at the service of remembrance on the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Armenian genocide, at Taney Parish Church, Dundrum, Co Dublin, yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Tim O’Brien

A call to recognise the killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians as “genocide”, was supported by the leaders of the main churches on Sunday.

An ecumenical service of prayer, song and remembrance in Taney Parish Church, Dundrum, Dublin, heard Hayk Khemchyan consul with the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia say it was “time for our friends to recognise the killing as genocide”.

On April 24th 1915 the Ottoman Turk authorities arrested the intellectual and spiritual leaders of the minority Armenian population in Turkey and ultimately executed them.

It was the start of a programme which saw Armenian men rounded up and executed while women and children were sent on death marches, largely in to the Syrian desert where they were frequently robbed, raped and killed or ill-treated to death by their captors.

Roman Catholic auxiliary bishop of Dublin Raymond Field said Turkish authorities had always maintained that what happened was “the inevitable consequences of the war” in Europe at the time. But he said Pope Francis had defended the use of the word “genocide” at a recent mass in Rome to mark what the Roman Catholic Church referred to the martyrdom of the Armenians who died because of their membership of the Christian, Armenian Apostolic Church.

Representing Archbishop Diarmuid Martin he told the Armenians he was there “in solidarity with you, and we share your pain and sadness.” Bishop Field added he knew it was “difficult to forgive when successive governments deny the reality” of what happened.

Canon Patrick Thomas of the Church of Wales who has written a book Remembering the Armenian Genocide 1915 said women were ripped open by their captors on suspicion they had swallowed gold coins, and sometimes the women were burnt alive so coins might be secured from their ashes.

Yet, he said British and American Governments now resolutely recoil from the term genocide.

President of the Jewish Representative Council Leonard Abrahamson said the “genocide” resonated with Jewish people as it had happened and “happened again 25 years later” in the form of the Holocaust. “It is incomprehensible that human beings can stoop to such evil and it is happening again today, around the world,” he said.

The Rev Ken Lindsay past-president of the Methodist Churches in Ireland read from the Gospel according to Matthew, Christ’s lesson that what you do to the least of his brethren, you do to him.

Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Dr Michael Jackson also described the killing as a “genocide” which demanded “recognition and response”.

Dr Kristina Begoyan told the congregation her maternal grandfather had been killed and the family forced into hiding on three occasions in 1915, 1917 and 1918 – the last time being when her grandfather and many of the men did not come back. The women and children made it to what is now Armenia and she was born there, she said.