April 24th has arrived. It’s today.
It is not a birthday nor a joyous occasion for me or for any Armenian around the world as it is a day that Armenians will forever know as a day of Genocide.
For all Armenians, we will always hold April 24th as the day we remember our family and our ancestors. We are able to look at our own children and know that the Ottoman Empire failed in their plans to completely annihilate an entire Christian race. We will mourn the dead and in Armenia, the martyred have become saints in eyes of the Armenian church. We are know descendants of sainthood.
In my lifetime, this will possibly be one of the most historic years we commemorate as we remember our families. For me personally, my emotions have been hyper-sensitive to this centennial year. I have great difficulty talking about it out loud or listening to certain Armenian songs without breaking down. Even now, it’s difficult to write this blog. I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day and found myself crying as we were discussing the past.
Much of this is due to all of what I have read and watched online. I have never seen as much written or talked about the Armenian Genocide as much as I have seen this past year. Certainly a 100th anniversary will draw out much attention, but I have become an almost news junkie to read everything and anything pertaining to the Genocide. I only wish this happened every year. I hope it never stops.
YouTube postings, radio, printed articles and finally, reading on social media the stories about family members that suffered the ultimate fate 100 years ago. I have seen and read similar stories in previous years, but this year is very different. The emotion in everything I have seen and read has been heightened and the non-Armenian community is paying more attention and also learning about the Genocide. A day doesn’t pass when someone asks me about the Armenian Genocide.
At times, I find myself proud to witness great acts of passion and courage by Armenians pouring their heart and soul into discussing our history. I am proud and amazed by the many non-Armenians around the world that sympathize and support us. Non-Armenians friends and world leaders like Pope Francis who was not afraid to call Genocide…a Genocide. Also, internationally renown journalist Robert Fisk who makes no excuses for what happened 100 years ago.
You also have to give credit to the Hollywood celebrities that have either made the pilgrimage to Armenia to honor the past such as the Kardashians and the Clooneys that are fighting for the injustice. The media attention they have amassed is invaluable.
At other times, I feel sad when I hear that my country, one I am proud to live in, wont recognize the massacres as Genocide. Read the recent TIME magazine article. This…leaves me speechless.
Even as Turkey continues denial of the Genocide, and the United States refuses to use the word “Genocide” in its yearly statements, I won’t let this deter or erase the unspeakable acts of violence 1.5 million Armenians endured by the hands of the Ottoman Empire. Every Armenian has been affected by the Armenian Genocide. We all have stories, we all know someone that was murdered. We also know those that escaped and survived. We are alive because of this courage.
As Armenians, we have survived for centuries and we will grow stronger with each year moving forward. We can not let a Genocide solely define our entire history.
Robert Fisk recently told a filled auditorium of Armenians in Detroit that he cared less about April 24th…but what we will do on April 25th. In the article I provided in a link above, Robert Fisk said “…I’m not terribly interested in what the Armenians say and do on this 100th anniversary. I want to know what they plan to do on the day after the day of the 100th anniversary”.
What will you do on the 25, 26, 27…and the days, weeks, and years ahead. How will you honor the memory of the 1.5 million Armenians killed? How will you use your time on Earth to further the education and awareness of the Genocide? How will you help promote the rich and wonderful culture of the Armenian people – our art, music, food, and values?
Let the Genocide and its 100th year teach us what we need to do to keep our heritage alive with our children and I ask that you reach out to a non-Armenian today and talk to them and educate them about the Genocide and the history of the Armenian people.
I plan to do just that.
Let me close by providing a link to one of my favorite liturgical (sharakans) hymns of the Armenian church – Der Voghormia. This was composed by Komitas Vardapet, an Armenian priest that was considered the father of Armenian music. During the Genocide, as the Turks were gathering up the intellectuals to deport and kill them, it has been written that Komitas began singing this hymn and the Turkish soldiers stopped as he sang and could only stare and listen, as they had never heard anything so beautiful.
Lord have mercy. (repeat four times)
All Holy Trinity, give peace to the world.
And healing to the sick, heaven to those who are asleep.