As many of you are aware our Church formally recognised the Armenian Genocide in 2015, and wrote to the various governments around our country asking them, if they hadn’t already, to do the same.
We were humbled last year to receive a Freedom award from the Armenian National Committee.
In Australia at the moment, freedom of speech – or freedom from hate speech – depending on which side of the argument you’re on, is quite a hot topic.
For some of us it’s a break from the freedom of religion or freedom from religion conversation.
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.
Followers of Jesus always live in hope.
Ten years on, the prospects for basic human rights, let alone freedom of speech, in the Middle East seem even bleaker.
In a two-month period last year, the Turkish government detained more than 100 journalists and closed down 100 news outlets.
According to the International Committee to Protect Journalists, the deadliest country in the world for journalists for the last five years has been Syria, Armenia’s near neighbour beyond Mount Ararat.
Sadly we know too well how deadly this conflict has been.
Every week our minister at Bankstown Uniting Church welcomes more refugee families and tries to help them settle into their new lives in Australia.
From our Church’s engagement with our Armenian members like Rev. Krikor I also understand that the humanitarian disaster in Syria is likely to have had a significant toll on members of the Armenian diaspora spread across that region.
This is where churches, and all organisations and people of goodwill have a job to do.
We must stand alongside those who are suffering and those who are vulnerable.
We must stand together for justice, for peace and for human rights.
That is our Christian calling. We’ve done it before and we will do it again.
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.
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.
In 2017, we need to respond together to another humanitarian disaster and call out the injustices that fuel these conflicts.
A much-celebrated American Christian famously observed: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Thank you to the Armenian National Committee of Australia and the Armenian Missionary Association of Australia for your work and the opportunity to speak today.
Rakel, I wish you and your family peace, happiness and fulfilment as you continue Hrant Dink’s journey for justice. God bless you all.