Thursday, 20 April 2017

Remembering Armenia

Written by Shane Gillard

Australians will pause on 25 April to remember the sacrifice of the ANZACs in the First World War.

One day before ANZAC Day, Armenians remember the martyrs of their nation, victims of a Genocide which took the lives of 1.5 million people in 1915. They also remember the ANZACs who saw the injustice suffered by victims of the Armenian Genocide and stopped to help them.

The Turkish government still denies the Armenian Genocide, punishing anyone that speaks out.

Late Turkish journalist Hrant Dink was one of many who were prosecuted for insulting Turkey and its government institutions. Dink was assassinated in Istanbul by a young nationalist in 2007 after appearing in a genocide documentary questioning the Turkish government’s denial.

His funeral service turned into a 100,000-strong demonstration, with Turks and Armenians marching together in protest against his murder.

Hrant Dink’s widow Rakel established the Hrant Dink Foundation to continue his legacy through programs dedicated to protecting human rights and preserving the minority cultures in Turkey.

Last month Mrs Dink spoke about her late husband in an address to the Armenian Missionary Association of Australia.

“Every year on 19 January we gather at the very place where he was gunned down,” Mrs Dink said.

“The strongest arm that he trusted was his voice that called out the conscience of peoples.

“The true life stories and experiences that he used to tell impressed his listeners are were encouraging them to question.

“We are mourning together for thousands of innocent people whose lives have been ripped from their hands.”

The Uniting Church in Australia formally acknowledged the Armenian Genocide at its 14th Assembly meeting in 2015.

Assembly General Secretary Colleen Geyer also addressed the Commemoration event.

“In 1915, the Reverend John Ferguson of St Stephens Church in Macquarie Street heard disturbing reports of the atrocities being committed against Armenians that we know today was a genocide,” Ms Geyer said.

“Ferguson’s response was to set up the Armenian Relief Fund”

“It was a deeply moving experience last year when I saw descendants of Genocide survivors meet members of the St Stephens’ congregation at Ferguson Hall, and saw the lifesaving results of an act of charity over a century ago”

“I remember the news coverage of Hrant Dink’s murder, and the flood of public emotion at his funeral”

“It seemed to me at the time that the shame of this senseless and brutal act might spark a public mood for reconciliation that would sweep across Turkey… sadly not”

“Ten years on, the prospects for basic human rights, let alone freedom of speech, in the Middle East seem even bleaker.”

Please keep the people of Armenia and Turkey in your prayers this week.

Turkey’s commitment to religious and ethnic diversity is under close scrutiny after a divisive referendum result granting more constitutional powers to President Erdoğan. Turkey has been governed under a state of emergency since a failed coup attempt in July 2016.