Centennial of the Armenians and Syrians... and the Golgotha of the Christians of the East

Centennial of the Armenians and Syrians... and the Golgotha of the Christians of the East

By Fr. Rif'at Bader

A few days before Easter celebrations, I participated in a seminar titled, ''Jerusalem speaks''. We usually hold discussions in the presence of ministers, MPs, academics and poets. However, the organizers of this activity chose this time to invite new people to the "Royal Cultural Center", namely school students which reflected their views as intellectuals and clergymen do. They recited poems of their own or by renowned poets.

Armenian student Naroud Zakaryan, from the Orthodox School in Jabal Ashrafiyeh which is located in a quarter called "the Armenian Quarter", drew my attention as she recited a poem on Jerusalem by Haron Hashim Rashid of Gaza.

She received applause for her eloquence and for being Armenian. I said to her after I taking a picture with her:"This year you mark the centennial of the massacres.'' She replied in a sad voice: "Yes, but the world has abandoned us." This girl, who is still under 15 years of age, says that the world has abandoned the Armenian issue, while this anniversary is marked in several countries, most notably in the Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at the Vatican Square amidst Easter celebrations.

But, what does Narod await from the world?

She wants the world to be enlightened about what happened, and to realize that a million-and-a-half people were martyred at the start of the 20th century marking one of the worst bloody events in the last century.

Secondly, she awaits recognition of what happened without coming under the impression of shame and fright or rather calling for retaliation, but from the point of view that "admission of erring is divine.'' I discern that governments abstain from doing so, so as not provoke certain embassies or countries under the impression of shyness and fear.

Apart from the massacres committed against the Armenians, which is merely a "genocide'' constituting an ethnic cleansing of the religion and people, massacres were also committed against the Syriacs using the "sword'' whose victims were estimated at half a million people. These people died in line with perfidious, brutal and unjust deeds which have already been replicated in Mosul and other cities and villages of the Nineveh Plain in fraternal Iraq.

Thirdly, the Armenian girl Narod who learned from her grandfather, quoting his father and grandfather, about the tragedies that befell the Armenians, realized that the international community should be fair and abstain from adopting double-standard positions, by recognizing the rights of the oppressed peoples and not wasting them under the pretext of appeasing certain states.

Fourthly, this girl is aware, as the Armenians around the world are, that this commemoration will not bring the victims back to life. Yet, the suffering--which Pope Francis referred to during his meeting last year with Catholicos Aram I regarding the immigration, persecution and martyrdom which many faithful have experienced and have left deep scars in the hearts of all Armenians--necessitates that ''we view these scars as those on the body of Lord Jesus Christ." They do represent the scars of "the Christians of the East". This is the term that was used by the Synod of the Church in the East which was held in 2010 in the Vatican. The term ''Arab Christians'' was not used rather ''the Christians of the East'' out of respect for pluralism, not only from the religious or sectarian aspects, but rather from the ethnic, racial and linguistic aspects as well.

By reviewing the Christian history in Turkey, one can find over that over the past century (i.e. since the start of World War I throughout the massacres of the year 1914, that are marked by the world, until the year 2014), the Christians in Turkey, according to Italian newspaper Avvenire, had numbered 2,990,000 while their number is currently merely 100,000 people only living Turkey--the country from which the Gospel of Christianity emerged to the whole world where the apostles, especially St. Paul, established the first churches ever and wrote his epistles which became part of the Bible.

Thank you, Narod, and thank you for your poem on Jerusalem, which ewitnessed several massacres and havocs as Armenia did, but this city will remain to be named, unlike other cities, namely the City of Peace.

How bitter you feel when you realize that the world has forgotten you. But you do believe that beyond these events, these centennials, and these layers of ice there is one Lord who created the universe in seven days. This Lord does tell you today as He had told Prophet Isaiah 3,000 years ago: "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee." (Isaiah 49:15)

My conclusion includes the words of Pope Francis, who said last June: "The wounds of the Armenians serve as a source of hope that cannot not be undermined, and of confidence in the compassion of the Lord Father."

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